April 30, 2009

Get Your Dancing Shoes On

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Dig bright, catchy, Beatles-esque lyrics? Groove out to ELO’s symphonic prog rock? How’s a virtually private show sound? Right, so get to the Slope early.
Long before the Pussycat Dolls showcase their ample assets and Asher Roth confesses his inclination towards America’s university system, the Apples in Stereo, ripe with tight, riveting, relevant tunes, will rock the Slope’s punctual arrivals with a premium blend of neo-classic rock and power pop. The American rockers, veterans of six LPs, notched a spot on Rolling Stone’s Top 50 of 2007 with New Magnetic Wonder, a 14 track album linked seamlessly by 10 musical segues.
Earlier this year, lead vocalist / guitarist Robert Schneider revealed that his band was recording an LP of “early ’70s R&B as played by a UFO” for release in 2009. With a strong chance of hearing some virgin tracks, audiophiles ought to think twice about nonchalantly savoring that last can of PBR before storming the Slope. As the huddled masses surely won’t make it down until well into the second act, vinyl collectors should have an easy time staking out some prime real estate on East Hill.
Together with contemporary rock icons Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control, the Apples in Stereo are counted among ranks of the Elephant Six Recording Company, a collective of influential American musicians that spawned several critically successful bands throughout the late ’90s. Despite the gradual deterioration of the troupe in the early ’00s as its core members joined forces with various major labels, New Magnetic Wonder showcases the Elephant 6 logo, its first appearance on a major release in half a decade.
In the interest of parity, we move on to the suburban-raised, Caucasian, 23-year-old hip-hop sensation, Asher Roth. The rapper’s hit single “I Love College,” which busted onto Top 20 Rap, Pop and Hot 100 charts, was just our first taste of Roth’s mega-label debut, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, released April 20th on Universal Records.
Claiming Mos Def, The Roots, Outkast and The Notorious B.I.G. as his major hip-hop influences, Roth fuses an old school sound with massive commercial appeal. Unfortunately, the critical response to Asleep in the Bread Aisle suggests that although the LP shows promise, Roth has a ways to go. Hindered by its severely narrow subject matter and insipid lyrical delivery, the album comes off as bland, lazy and uninspired. Influential website HipHop DX even went so far as to ridicule Roth for his failure to produce “anything remotely close to creativity or humor.”
Sounding off in favor of the emerging rapper, however, is Rolling Stone, contending that “Roth’s tight, witty debut lives up to the Internet hype that has swirled around him for months … He keeps the nerd-boy self-deprecation to a minimum and acts, you know, like a rapper.” Regardless of whether Roth is in the twilight of his 15 minutes, he’s well equipped to hurl the Cornell crowd into motion. As far as Slope Day goes, that’s more than half the battle. At worst, the budding hip-hop star should be able to get us singing along to his lyrics of beer pong, cheap pizza and the merits of double bagging.
Closing out a physically demanding morning and afternoon of festivities, the last group to take the stage will be Slope Day 2009’s headlining act, former L.A. burlesque dance ensemble The Pussycat Dolls. With lead singer Nicole Scherzinger belting out nearly all of the vocals, the group’s 2005 debut album PCD was a smash success, selling over 7 million copies worldwide. Among the LP’s seven singles is the eloquently titled single “Don’t Cha, ” a cover of the ditty written by Sir Mix-a-Lot and Busta Rhymes, which reached the #1 position in several countries.
Having toured with both Christiana Aguilera and Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls may or may not be for you. The troupe’s blatantly sexual imagery and raunchy routines have attracted considerable criticism. Then again, I’m never one to discount the entertainment value of five fit women doing splits and dancing provocatively on stage. With Cornell facing harsh budget constraints over the next few years, I just hope we didn’t overpay.
So here’s the scoop for the Slope: For elite indie rock, don’t be tardy; the Apples in Stereo are up first. And if the journey to the East Hill has been delayed by your valiant effort to sink that last cup? Better just forfeit, because anthemic rapper Asher Roth will be second to take the stage. Wrapping up Slope Day 2009, The Pussycat Dolls are going to jump around and sing some tracks for which millions upon millions of people paid actual money. I can’t remember the last time I purchased music, so I suppose 7 million in sales has to count for something. To me, the lineup screams “declining marginal returns,” but that’s a call everyone has to make for himself. Come, listen and judge.