a riff I wrote about Brooklyn bubblegum pop band Tralala
This get drunk and play your best “just for fun” power-bubblegum type band Tralala almost begs to be called a put-on. Check the line-up: current and former Other Music record store clerks, industry people, the guy from that band The Hong Kong, and tight/fit female voxxers who, in the words of fellow singer Stella, aren’t “too fussy, too vocal-y, or too terribly talented.” Even the label guy, Audika Records‘ Steve Knutson, openly bills Tralala as a guilty pleasure act, at least next to his quote more serious end-quote reissue work for the overlooked Arthur Russell. Guitarist Chris pipes in: “I don’t know. For a while there we were like, we just want to sound like the theme song to Meatballs.”
Well OK, but there’s a little more going on here, I think. For two, the band’s pretty damn fun, and my sniffer dogs don’t smell a smirk. For one, Tralala–sheerly by being a less-than-perfect, low-maintenance, leaderless rock band–are screwing with bubblegum’s top-down producer-centric cookiecutter steez: easy and unconfrontational about-love music for cowboys and poodle(skirt)s, spit out when the flavor’s lack’d. This was music, as Chris notes, that’s “a dictatorship; the producer is God.” So there’s the tension: a rock band in love with a sound that’s, to some degree, not wholly transferrable to their configuration. Chris goes on: “It’s kind of a hard thing to do collectively, because the model for it historically– obviously we don’t sound like the Ikettes. We love that kind of music, it’s definitely the feel, definitely what we’re going for.”
So Tralala shoot for Ikettes, and come out sounding like…any number of things. Chuck Eddy said he thought the guitars sounded like Jesus & Mary Chain (the band does do a cover of “Never Understand”, incidentally), and I’ve seen Langley Schools pop up as a good and good-intentioned comparison too. The no-nonsense rock&roll rhythm section foils the straight bubblegum sound of the clap yr hands say girl group frontline, and vice versa–the deception’s fresh. This isn’t openly revolutionary stuff, in other words, which is good, cuz NYC streets can take only so much self-affirming revolution. Crush the liberation, they say. “Reaction has been pretty polarized, love or hatred,” says Chris. “I haven’t felt a lot of hatred,” says Stella. So, love.