Rockin’ in ‘The O.C.’

Ben Breier

Show offers little to viewers except chance to see indie bands

By now, most of you have probably heard of “The O.C.” – Fox’s latest attempt to get a new generation of viewers to watch unused “90210” plotlines.”The O.C.” (short for Orange County) is the television equivalent of Chinese water torture – viewers are subjected to Hollywood 20-somethings attempting to act like high school juniors. Are audiences expected to believe that Benjamin McKenzie (as Ryan, a 17-year old convict, no less) is still going through high school? The man was born in 1978, for Christ’s sake.

Plot threads in the show are oftentimes advanced through the Bait Shop – Orange County’s trendiest bar and music venue. Indie rock bands, which include The Thrills, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie and The Walkmen, have all performed at the Bait Shop, lamely lip-synching and strumming along on unplugged instruments while the show advances its plot. The whole thing looks boring – I could’ve sworn I saw Brandon Flowers of The Killers fall asleep on stage while moving his lips to “Smile Like You Mean It.”

On one hand, it’s great to see that indie bands are getting some notice in mainstream media – there’s certainly enough crap floating around in the music industry, including, but certainly not limited to, emo-punk garbage (Coheed and Cambria, anybody?), overproduced bubblegum pop (Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears) and the majority of mainstream rap (how many times can you rap about 20-inch rims and “bling-bling” in any given song? Seriously.) “The O.C.” is allowing some great bands to get much-needed publicity, which is a great thing.

However, there’s a downside to what “The O.C.” is doing to indie rock: It’s attempting to come up with its own definition of the genre. Upon closer examination of many bands featured on the show, it’s blatantly obvious that they share a lot of the same stylistic symptoms: Laid back, slowcore, down-tempo music. There’s no doubt in my mind that newcomers to the genre will frequently categorize all indie rock into this group of relaxed alternative music.

For those who are ignorant of the genre, independent music varies more than Fox would want you to believe. Indie rock features bands such as The Faint – who elect to rock out via synthesizers and overdrive guitars in the band’s interpretation of dance-punk. You’ll probably never see a band like Grand Buffet on “The O.C.” – surely a duo of rapping white dudes who perform with the energy of a pair of baboons on crack is too controversial for Fox. Or, God forbid, Fox experiments a little bit and includes some of indie rock’s ambient bands like Sigur Ros – a dynamic outfit out of Iceland who produces beautiful, sprawling (sometimes lyricless) epics unrivaled by any band out there.

Terrible acting aside, “The O.C.” already has taken one step towards improving the quality of music in mainstream society by including some slowcore indie acts. In order to avoid a complete bastardization of the genre, “The O.C.” needs to include other types of independent music. Then, maybe we can abolish horrible mainstream music forever!

But, probably not.

Contact ALL correspondent Ben Breier at [email protected].