Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Requiem for a Band (The Death of Talent) - Nakatomi Plaza - Ghosts

             What will you steal when there is nothing left of any value?

GhostsOn September 12th, 2009, post-hardcore, indy rockers, Nakatomi Plaza, finished a sweat-soaked performance at Brooklyn's Shea Stadium, thanked their fans, put down their instruments, and walked away from a career that spanned 10 years, four albums, a handful of EP's and a pocketful of singles.  In leaving, the band held their collective heads high, choosing to walk away from the band they loved, rather than continue to watch the industry idolize the talentless, posers around them while supposed "fans" found it always justifiable to download -- "not steal" -- Nakatomi's music without paying for it.

To be honest, I'd never heard of Nakatomi Plaza before their final disc, Ghosts, arrived at my doorstep.  And let's be more honest.  I'm not a punk rocker.  I'm not "hip to the underground." I'm not some infinitely cool music-insider scratching out a living while I suck up all the marrow that the punk rock world has to offer.  Many of you would be repulsed, others would laugh, if you knew what my day job was.  The point is, I'm not a part of the scene that spawned and then slowly and silently killed the spirit of Nakatomi Plaza.

But I feel their pain.


               What will you steal, when there is nothing left of any value?


Nakatomi Plaza drove their beat-up van thousands of miles, on their own dime, over hundreds of allnighters, just to play a gig.  They reached out to the "music industry" only to be courted, lied to, spat upon, and promise-broken, while they sat by and watched some mercilessly untalented collection of mascara-wearing posers gobble up the media and the money.  Nakatomi Plaza wasn't hoping to make it rich, but a living would've been nice.  Some exposure by the industry that supposedly supported them would've been nice.  But did Nakatomi Plaza ever appear on the cover of AP or was that space reserved only for the pretty ones?  Was it the fact that Nakatomi Plaza was a trio consisting of a short lead-singing/guitar wielding Asian guy, a chick singer/bassist and a Latino drummer, that made the band so seemingly "unmarketable" to the mainstream/alternative press?  To the record labels?

In the end, does it really matter?  New bands come and go every day, new songs are always available to steal from a myriad of download sites.  Any shithead with a blog can link up a rapidshare or megaupload of a band's hard-created music, and shield himself from any guilt by placing a disclaimer, "this music is for illustrative purposes only. If you object to your copyright being violated in this way, please contact the blog author."

Well, you know what, I object.


                 What will you steal, when there is nothing left of any value?


I've heard the crap that the mainstream media continues to ram down our throats, like a Nazi thought reconditioning camp, trying to mold our minds into what's good and what's commercial.  At the Ripple, we tend to only write about the bands we love, but when I was writing for another site, I was told to be brutally honest about everything I heard.  One Band I heard, was so horrible, so pathetically, blindly, vacantly untalented, that I had no choice but to write the most scathing review of my career.  (you can read that here.) That Crappy Band, boosted by a big budget, is continuing to pump out gorgeously packaged, horribly vacuous music, counting their sponsorship agreements like poker winnings, and arguing about which eyeliner looks best at which photoshoot.  That Crappy Band has another new album out, a merchandise store, a couple of new endorsements, and a US and UK tour on the books.

Nakatomi Plaza have called it quits.

This wouldn't chafe me so much, if Nakatomi Plaza weren't so fucking good.  Take the time, really take the time, to listen to Ghosts.  Lose yourself in the passion and the infinite groove of "Bomb Shelter."   Punk rock?  Maybe.  Punky rocky that's for sure.  Dynamic and energetic, fricking explosive, sung with real, convincing passion, played with sensitivity and aggression.  "The Ghost Intrigue," blows everything off that Crappy Band's album away.  And I mean hurricane force devastating winds, blown away.   How can that Crappy Band get a moment's recognition when real talent is hanging there, withering on the vine, slowly dying from starvation and lack of attention?  Listen to the vocal interplay of Oscar and the female tones of Al.  Let your heart quicken to the thundering drums.  Allow the more ambient, spacey passages to wrap around you, engulf you.  Don't miss that chance!

"Artificial Light," is pissed and angry, from the first moment of throat-wrenching vocals to the dissonance of the guitar rampage that follows.  Music for mass consumption?  Hell no, but that's not the point.  It's the music that the Alternative Press is supposed to champion, if they cared about the principles of their craft, not the dollars fed to them by the advertising.   "It Came From Outside," champions post-punk ethic, bridling with vim and vigor, bass heavy-breakdowns, chattering drums, darkness in themes.  While "Words," hints at the subtlety and beauty of their songwriting craft and sensitivity. 


In the CD's liner notes, Nakatomi Plaza say goodbye to their fans and followers, closing the book on their career.  They speak of the frustration of being an oil slick on the music industry highway.  They speak to the prejudice that smacked them in the face as a band that dared to be fronted by an Asian and featuring a woman and a Hispanic, instead of pretty, perfectly-combed white boys.  And they speak of the hypocrisy of the underground that smirks with a self-satisfied smile as it pats itself on the back for being so "inclusive" while it remains completely blind to the multitude of "-isms" that still fester in its ranks.

I don't know about all that.  Again, I'm not part of any underground.  I'm not cool.   I just run a fun little website with my like-minded brethren, writing about the music I love, trying to shine one tiny photon of light on the bands that are going criminally unnoticed.

But there is one thing I do know.  If you like a band, support them.  Buy their albums, the product of their labor, don't steal them.  Don't pay to download one track, buy them all.  See them play.  Pick up the t-shirt.  Tell your friends, your family.  Write about em on your facebook or myspace or whatever.  Just don't take it for granted that they will always be there, slaving away, creating the music you love.  The music that has become the soundtrack to your own, individual life

Because I know one more thing.  Unless you do support the bands you love, and buy (not steal) their product, then one day they too will put down their instruments and walk away, and Crappy Corporate Bands will be all that you have left.   Don't let that happen.  Don't let the passing of Nakatomi Plaza not raise an alarm in your mid-brain.  Buy Ghosts, it really is good.  It may be too late to save the band, but they can still earn some gas money from it.  Maybe rent.  Isn't your ten bucks worth that?

Otherwise, one after the next, they will all just fade away.


              What will you steal when there is nothing left of any value?

--Racer

Buy here: Ghosts

www.nakatomiplaza.com/



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazing article about an amazing band.

Sargent House said...

Never heard this band but I have a huge long list of bands that you could substitute their names and it would be the same tragic story. Bravo to you for writing so passionately what I have tried to explain to others for so long. Stealing music does fuck bands and in order for honest and good music it depends on all of us.

thanks
Cathy Pellow / Sargent House
www.sargenthouse.com

The Ripple Effect said...

Thanks guys, for the comments. There's an interesting thread about this article running over at absolutepunk.com.

While most people seem to agree with my point of view, several feel that if a band really is "about the music" they shouldn't be worried or not if they make money at it.

While I can respect that "D.I.Y." ethic in that sentence, those folks are missing the points

1) The choice of whether they want to give away their music for free or try to make a living at it should be the decision of the band, not any one else. Fans can always decide if they want to pay for it or not,that's there choice. They can vote with their $$$. But downloading something illegally is stealing from the band. There is no if's or but's about it.

2) Trying to make a living at your music in no way cheapens the "artistic integrity" of the musician. Giving everything away for free in no way makes you "more pure."

3) Recording/gigging etc costs money. What in the world could ever be wrong with a musician wanting to cover those costs and make a living doing what he/she loves?

4) And finally, I agree, not all bands will make it. Most won't. But stealing music from a band doesn't even give them the chance to try.

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