Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TRS-80 - Fantasy Football is Stupid/Me and My Skills

TRS-80 - "Fantasy Football is Stupid"/"Me and My Skills""

I opened this entry with a 2,000+ word account of the time I was assigned to interview this band and the various misfortunes and setbacks I suffered as I struggled to complete this relatively simple task. But as I looked ahead to the end of this troubling recollection, it was clear that there wasn't going to be any real payoff for the reader or much of a point in sharing this story at all.

So then... TRS-80, IDM/breakbeat trio from Chicago formed in the late 90s, a few albums on local labels with good distribution, some good word of mouth online, reputation for interesting live shows with lots of video and other visuals... all that and $5.00 will get you a foot-long sandwich at Subway this summer! TRS-80's sample-heavy downtempo grooves, dusty found-sound samples and nostalgic and sometimes pastoral passages between tracks was a recipe that could have appealed to a wide group of listeners but never really caught on. Blame it on bad luck, the lack of any "Chicago scene" to grow in, or being signed to indie labels that either failed to generate any precious Internet buzz (File13, One Cell) or labels that catered to listeners of somewhat different interests (the industrial havens Underground Inc. and Invisible). The band was prominently hyped and promoted on the late, great, though the site never quite capitalized on the indie music goldrush of the early 00s and was eventually rendered obsolete by the rise of link-farming blogs and message boards. Its home page (presumably the rest of its content as well) remains forever trapped in the early months of 2006.

Longtime members Kent Rayhill and Deb Schimmel left the band within a year following their finest album, Shake Hands With Danger. This left drummer Jay Rajeck on his own, maybe hooking up with other musicians, maybe moving to Los Angeles... things get a little unclear after that. I comply with a request from someone at their new label to take down an old promo picture from the band's page that I'd uploaded years ago. Unfortunately, further "updating" of their web presence on their part also involved removing the old but brilliant "Community College" music video from their Youtube account. Most of the band's videos are still viewable, including many by associate Eric Fensler, best known for the now-legendary G.I. Joe PSA parodies, predating Youtube by several years but continually rediscovered by new viewers every day.

Here's a pair of tracks from their 2002 album Mr. Kickass, which wasn't necessarily their best work, but it's as good a place to start as any. If you like this then you might love their later albums. Or you could listen to Merriweather Post Pavilion for the 93rd time instead. It's up to you.

I can't help but think that the band could have used their talents to connect with (or exploit) the Adult Swim-viewing populace in the same way that MF Doom and Flying Lotus did. You've got to grab the bull by the horns if you want to get any attention these days. At least open an indie rock hot dog stand, start a blog about your own feces or talk shit about celebrities on your Twitter account, maybe then will run a feature on you.

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