September 16, 2002

I Am The World Trade Center "The Tight Connection"

I have a major bone of contention with I Am the World Trade Center. After that one day one year ago last week, everything "changed." Some shallow-minded people became so obsessed with the idea of not being "offensive" that any kind of mention of the World Trade Center should be censored. About the only justified self-censorship that happened was the Coup's decision to change their artwork--simply because it eerily LOOKED like what had just happened. Other forms--such as removing scenes that included the former twin towers, and let's not talk about the whole Anthrax thing--seemed absurd.

Then there was the case of I Am the World Trade Center. What to do about the name? Certainly, it would be understood why the twosome would have reservations about their name now. So, out of respect to the tragedy, they shortened their name to I Am The World. Okay, I could accept that. They did not tour, and released only one minor, obscure 7" under that name. Then, a few months after the band made what seemed to be ALL the newspapers, they changed the name BACK, and issued a statement of how keeping the name the same would be a testament to the former glory of the building.

Why does this bother me, though? Because it smacks of opportunism. Sure, with a name that included the former World Trade Center in it, the then-obsessed popular-culture eyes of the country would be watching this little band. Of course, changing the name would get them in all the papers, and it did. All those previous records--including loss leaders like vinyl--quickly sold out, I'm sure, driven by this perverse collector's attitude that, hey, this little band who did something...these releases will be worth money some day. Now that they actually released an album, they've got the little story that will most assuredly get them reviewed. I'll be fair to say that not being in their shoes in such an odd, tragic situation, maybe I'm missing something here--but as far as I see this issue, I can't let it go, because it seems like the tragedy of that fateful day last year seems to be the surefire angle a band needs to "make it big."

To be slightly fair to the band, it must have been a tough name to live with at the time. The world became obsessed, it seems, with this event and everything that the building used to be. My major contention, now that I think about it, is that the band's name change seems so...stupid. If you named your band in honor of something well BEFORE its destruction--and I do recall pre-9/11 discussion in interviews about their name being a tribute--then why change it? Okay, I can understand why they would change it...but to use the "we wanted to pay tribute to the former glory that was the World Trade Center" argument is not only short-sighted, but it also smells of something else...especially when the world is already altering the past in order to be less "offensive."

Let's set this argument aside, though. The Tight Connection...*sigh*. If only it could have been as grand as the buildings used to be, things might be different. "The Postcard" kicks off the album, and it's a rather good dance song. Not terribly original, mind you, but rather pleasant in a 90s techno meets 80s synth-pop kind of way. Too bad it goes downhill from there. "Big Star" follows, and it's okay, but from there...The Tight Connection turns into one big, indistinguishable record of synth-pop. Two covers, of the Stone Roses' "Shoot you Down" and Blondie's "Call Me," aren't bad, but they betray more about the band than they probably should, and instead of paying tribute, merely make the band seem even more derivative.

These arguments--they wouldn't be an issue if a., the record had been slated for release at least a month or two after that sad day, and b. the music wasn't so non-descript and downright boring. It's one of the longest less-than-40 minute records I've heard in a while. I've heard that they're a good band to see at a club, and maybe that's true--but The Tight Connection fails to make a connection. I just hope that the publicity that they generated from the saga of their name is worth it.

---Joseph Kyle

No comments: