Spun: The Waking Eyes

By Peter Hemminger

Take three press quotes:

“A freakishly brilliant pop opus that engages the listener from the first minute to the very last.”

“…share an intense curiosity about uncharted musical territory, but draw heavily from other artists and styles of the past. The result is a winding post-modernist pastiche of layered vocals, instrumental passages and sampled sounds sure to provide something for everyone.”

“Boasting a brand of ferocious rock music that brings to mind the halcyon days of The Stooges and MC5…”

The first two quotes emphasize the unconventional nature of the bands, their genre-hopping attitudes and how generally unpredictable they are. The third description could apply to any of a few dozen bands, from Jet to the Hives to Tangiers or any of the other scruffy rockers walking the margins between the major and minor labels. But the part leading to complaints, either about the band selling out or the reviewer being elitist, all three quotes are about the same band.

The first quote is from The Pets’ press kit, a band from Steinbach, Manitoba that played five shows, released a CD-R to a local college station and managed to get national acclaim after they broke up. Half the group then reformed as the Waking Eyes, leading to that second quote. Both groups put out clever and unique pop consistently defying listeners’ expectations. Then, the Waking Eyes signed to Warner, allowed Our Lady Peace producer Svengali to co-write every song on the album and suddenly the third quote applies.

They still write catchy songs, but their charm and creativity have been replaced with fuzz, cliche and commercialism. Video Sound is ultimately a disappointing release where a once promising band is sacrificed to the dark gods of commercial radio.

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