Known Johnson

May 30, 2006

New Building Keneallying Down

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 9:27 pm

Having had the day off today, due to Amanda having her 9-month doctor check-up, and due to it being a whole lot easier to just take the whole day off work than to figure out how to juggle getting to and fro parents/doctor/etc., I had some time to catch up on DVDs I hadn’t gotten to watch yet.

So when Amanda went down for a nap this morning, I grabbed Einsturzende Neubauten’s On Tour With and quickly found out the title isn’t misleading – they aren’t kidding when they emphasize the website address, because the band hardly factors into this official release. I’m so disappointed in this thing that I really don’t feel like putting much effort into it at this point except to sum it up like the 1-star review on Amazon does: it’s just a bunch of fans talking about the concept of a band letting the fans get involved in the funding of new music. For 90 minutes. In the right hands, this should have been a fascinating glimpse into the amazing amount of life that goes on between people on the internet, but here it just falls completely flat on all counts.

Completely deflated after that, I didn’t feel like turning to the afternoon talk shows or burying my head in a pillow and crying, and that’s when it hit me – after nearly two years, I still haven’t gotten around to watching the DVD that accompanies the special edition of Mike Keneally‘s half killer-rockin’/half-weird-experimental album, Dog. I quickly ran and grabbed that and sat, thrilled, as two small concert sets entertained me and then a surprisingly fascinating “making of” piece on one song, and then a segment of various studio tidbits that I guess didn’t fit anywhere else. All the while I kept thinking how there had to have been similar markets – two very small, niche pockets of fans, yet one group really made out like bandits and the others got a rather crappy souvenir that isn’t worth thinking about again. I think what it comes down to is really come at the projects from the perspective of having been a fan, but now being a professional – and wanting pros to put them together for the fans. That’s where Neubauten has stumbled each time. I’m a huge fan of the band and I fully support them – I’m involved in their “support” campaign for a third time for a reason: because the end results have been spectacular – but they haven’t pulled these things off very smoothly, and I think that’s because they’ve put a lot of this stuff in the hands of other fans. That’s fine if the fans happen to be extremely adept at particular tasks that are in need, but that, so far, has not been the case.

Case in point: “phase 2” of Einsturzende Neubauten’s fan-supported initiative was offered as either a CD, a DVD, or a CD and DVD, but the way it was worded from the beginning was confusing so some people wrongly assumed that you could add the DVD at a later time when you could afford it (me included.) This was righted and those who wanted the DVD ordered it. When it came time for the project to be shipped, it turned out that most of the people who ordered the DVD had somehow now only ordered the DVD and would not be getting the CD – a CD of completely separate, brand new music! It was a complete mess – but it did eventually get sorted out.

Mike Keneally has made an effort at each turn in his career to keep stepping it up, even if it’s just a little bit at a time – and yet he’s managed to keep his fans close. It’s really amazing, in fact. For a while I feared that Keneally was on the verge of mega-success and therefore losing that “homey” feel that I like so much about him – the man is absolute genius on guitar, but there’s something about him that makes you feel at ease. I just had a feeling that he was on the cusp of something really big a couple years back, and perhaps he was – and he simply chose not to go that route.

And to think it was 11 years ago that I picked up Boil that Dust Speck on a whim because I’d read a review in a guitar magazine that mentioned a goofy send-up of damn-near every significant riff associated with Yes. It’s hard to believe, in some ways, that this is the same musician.

By the way, that special edition of Dog? It’s still available!


1 Comment »

  1. Agreed on everything you wrote about Keneally. The man is an absolute gem – both as an artist and a human being. He has this amazing ability to be insanely creative and non-commercial, yet strangely accessible. I didn’t start listening to his music until 2000, but he – along with Wilco, Glenn Gould and Brad Mehldau – is one of my most rewarding musical discoveries of the last decade.

    Now when is that Guitar Therapy CD/DVD going to appear in my mailbox?

    Comment by Chris — May 31, 2006 @ 6:46 am | Reply

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