Each week, dozens of songs and albums from up-and-coming (or just plain unknown) bands debut on the pop charts. Some of these bands will never be heard from again; some may become the next little thing. That’s why every two weeks Chuck Eddy will be exploring the world beyond the Billboard 200, where he’ll look for diamonds in the MySpace rough. This week, his roster of up-and-comers includes Loch Ness-inspired folkies, accordion-assisted cantina polkas, a Brooklyn MC who needs a rhyming dictionary, some internationally known Detroit rockers, jumpy Christian teenpop, and a 161-year-old Mormon institution.
Year of the Flood: Live at Loch Ness by these Scottish folk-rockers entered Denmark’s album chart at No. 4 last week, but their not-very-updated MySpace page still says their “new” album is 2007′s Everything Thing You See, which apparently went No. 1 in Denmark, and a picture of it shows a guy playing field hockey on the cover. Confusing, but who cares–they recorded an album live at Loch Ness! How bloody cool is that? I wonder if they saw the monster! (Though Plesiosaurus or no, how advisable is it to record at a loch in a flood year? Just a thought.) Anyway, said cryptozooligists have been around for a while; Wikipedia says they formed in 1973, and their lineup once featured a future member of Parliament for the “centre-left” Scottish National Party who previously used to play in Big Country–and actually, the excellent “Clash of the Ash” on the band’s MySpace gloriously rocks the pub in a fraternal Big Country meets Graham Parker meets Richard Thompson meets Clash meets Ash manner, with manly working-on-chain-gang grunts punctuating exhortations about “For every fighting highland man/Stand by your brother, die for the clan.” Dropkick Murphys should totally cover it, and I could imagine it on Rescue Me in a bar scene following a firefight. The video, naturally, features yet more field hockey. More trivia from the band’s Wiki entry: Runrig hit No. 86 in the U.K. with a song called “Loch Lomond” in 1983, then went No. 9 in the U.K. last year with a new version of the song featuring the Tartan Army. So maybe they just like lochs a lot.
LOS CARDENALES DE NUEVO LEÓN Y DINORA
Like the far less lengthily monikered Runrig, these veterans employ accordion for middle-aged drinking men and women to shake their hips to. But rather than jigs, Los Cardenales fill the dancefloor with highly mustachioed and cowboy-hatted midtempo cantina polkas. They formed as a “traditional norteño fivesome” in Monterrey in 1982, explains Ramiro Burr in his Billboard Guide To Tejano and Regional Mexican Music. Their logo features an actual redbird, just like St. Louis’ baseball team, and their “Flor De Las Flores” holds tight at No. 42 on Hot Latin Songs after entering at No. 39 last week. In a strangely minimalist video, somebody’s car radio plays the song while driving in the rain on what may or may not be the Jersey Turnpike, so we get to look out the windshield, and watch both plenty of traffic–mostly headed in the other direction–and the windshield wipers. Also, Los Cardenales’ MySpace friend George put some “You Know You’re Mexican If…” jokes on their page, such as: “You have ever been hit by a chancla”; “You can play any sport wearing your chanclas”; “You know a Chola known as L.A. Shy Girl who is loud and obnoxious”, “You not only know who Don Francisco is, but you tell people he’s your Tio.” Some of those are probably funny!
Brooklyn MC briefly hit No. 98 on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs last week with “Hi Hater”: a dinky, burbling electrobeat under a vocal that manages to accentuate the rhythm despite its typically monotonous hardness. Rhymes “dollar bill y’all” with “lotta bills y’all”–boy, a lot of thought went into that one. Might be interesting if it was about paying bills, but if it is, he never expands on the thought. Plus he says “bitch and “motherfucker” a whole lot. His second MySpace song has him keeping it gangsta since the side of his face has been cut by a razor, with guest spots by Lil Kim and Busta Rhymes, both sounding every bit as tedious as usual. A snippet from “All In Need,” Maino’s token sensitive number: “What I need is my dogs to trust me/A good dog who likes to suck me/And I don’t care if the bitch is ugly.” Why does crap like this still exist? Strange MySpace comment from That Diamond Diva Girl: “Hey MAINO, I just bought you as my pet. Click here to find out how much I think you’re worth.” I didn’t, but then I’m a hater.
WALLS OF JERICHO
Female-fronted and fairly well-played “Hardcore/Metal/Rock” from Detroit, with a name and album titles (With Devils Amongst Us All, From Hell, etc.) that suggest some nutty hybrid of Satanism, Christianity, and Palestinian history. Their new one, an acoustic EP called Redemption, entered Heatseekers at No. 49 last week, assisted at least in part by its $5.99 retail price; this week, it slips 99 places, to 148. Ozzfest and Family Values tour spots and a connection with Slipknot/Stone Sour dude Corey Taylor, who produced the new release and sings a duet on it, probably haven’t hurt. Also, their bassist is reportedly a well-known straightedge tattoo artist, and they’re real globe-trotters: June gigs scheduled in Indonesia and Singapore; an imminent DVD of live performances from South America; MySpace comments this month from fans in Japan and Sweden and Antarctica–hey, anything to get out of Detroit, right? What’s most impressive about their “A Trigger Full of Promises” video, though, isn’t so much how feral and enraged Candace Kusculain’s by-the-book moshpit tantrum sounds as how normal she looks.
Certain concerned readers always start whining whenever I include Christian acts on this countdown, as if Christian pop doesn’t deserve to made fun of just as much as every other genre (and as if I always make fun of it anyway), but I can’t let that scare me away. PureNRG is made up of a 15-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl, and 12-year-old girl from Nashville whose Here We Go Again bounced onto the Christian album chart at No. 4 last week, though this week it tumbles to No. 28. Their MySpace page lists their only “influence” as Jump5, which I sure hope doesn’t cause kids at Jordan Yates’ high school to tease him. But even if they do, he might not mind–plenty of girls who write YouTube comments clearly think he’s “soooo hot =D” regardless. PureNRG’s jumpy CD cover really does resemble the cover of Jump5′s 2001 debut, but what it looks even more like is the cover of B*Witched’s far preferable debut from 1998. “Here We Go Again” has the kind of bubblegum funk-rock riffs and sunshine-pop bah-bah-bahs that have enlivened teen-pop since the Osmonds and Partridge Family, and the trio also cover “Footloose,” from a movie that I guarantee somebody somewhere still believes is anti-Christian. “What If” is about how, with Jesus’ love, you can grow up to be a fashion model or Super Bowl quarterback or cheerleader or discover the cure for cancer. Here’s a fan called NADteam, commenting on a YouTube video: “At church, the class I’m in has to pay 10 cents for using a euphemism, such as ‘heck’”… I was mostly saying gee and geez cause I have been raised not to say gosh.” Which is kind of weird, since PureNRG also have a MySpace friend known as “Tex ASS.” A sign of the mobile times, from MySpace pal Kay-Kay: “I got your album the 1st day it came out and immeadiatly put it on my phone and I listen to it consantly, it’s amazing.” Hey, I have nothing against Christian pop, I swear on a stack of King James bibles. But I definitely have something against people who listen to albums on phones.
THE MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR
Nothing I say about Salt Lake City’s 161-year-old-and-counting vocal ensemble is going to change your opinion about them, assuming you have one (I don’t, personally), so here are some raw facts instead: (1) Their new album Called To Serve scanned more than 4,100 copies this week, enough to let it check in at No. 181 on the Billboard 200. (2) “In total they have appeared and sang at 13 world fair expositions. Five of the choir’s recordings quickly reached ‘gold’ and ‘platinum’ record status. The most popular being of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ that was released in 1959. No other choir can compare in contrast with that of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The 360 members represent a very different array of professions.” (3) As of Thursday, they had 864 friends on their MySpace page, including “Negateevo,” “FemaleDorito,” “im 18 yeah,” 97-year-old “Gordon B. Hinckley” (who also lists Vivaldi, Clay Aiken, and Orrin Hatch among his favorite music), and “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” (4) Their music is also available on Last.fm. (5) “It truly is a God given gift to have such an amazing choir on the face of the earth.”