Thursday, January 28, 2010

Buyer's Disappointment

We have all heard of buyer's remorse. Hell, we've all experienced it. You walk from the store, and the post-purchase euphoria fades quickly and you ask yourself: Did I really need this? Or: Should I have spent that much on this?

But there is something worse. Buyer's disappointment. We all know it. The movie you really looked forward to seeing that sucks. The book everyone is raving about that you cannot get into. The cd that you read about that fails to match the reviews.

We all live with buyer's remorse because it's our own damned fault. But buyer's disappointment? Well, that's someone else's fault. The director, the author, the musician: They disappointed you. Worse, they fooled you, or the hype machine fooled you.

I think I might be a victim of the hype machine. A while back I bought an ep by a South African quarter whose buzz was enormous. Blk Jks are supposed to be everything I like about music: A little bit indie, a little bit rock, a little jazzy. They play to my work by being South African, and to my curiosity by transcending the provincial South African music scene (hell, it seems they surpassed the South African music scene -- I had never seen or even heard of them until the past fall, well after my last trip to South Africa.

So I spent the ten bucks on their ep, Mystery. The ep aspect may be part of the problem. Four songs is not enough to get a feel for a band, especially one with eclectic influences. And to be fair, I did not know what to expect. Would I hear standard South African rock (which more often than not is pretty derivative)? Would there be Kwaito influences? Hip hop? Mbaqanga? I had no idea.

I still am not sure exactly how to describe Blk Jks. But if I had to come up with a sonic parallel, I would say that they sound an awful lot like TV on the Radio, a much hyped band that I like, but whose sonic experimentation can go awry and veer toward the atonal. But it did not grab me, and I continue to feel disappointed, if not in them (they promised me nothing, really) then in myself for not quite feeling gripped, which is always how one wants to feel when taking in new music (or for that matter books or movies).

But I'm going to give Blk Jks another chance. They have a full album that came out last fall, After Robots, and I'm going to hope that a full disc of songs will capture me in a way that Mystery's small handful did not. So, Blk Jks, maybe it was not you, it was me. But if After Robots disappoints? Then I think maybe it will have been you.

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