Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Goodbye, Black Tie

Much has been said about Black Tie Dynasty ever since they announced their breakup. Since this Saturday will be their final show, I figured I needed to put in my own two cents worth. Hopefully it’s at least worth that much.

Pete Freedman from the Dallas Observer called the band “the line in the sand when it comes to area music fan tastes”, and that seems to be a very accurate statement. Judging by the comments on the DC9 blog, reaction ranged from mourning over one of the best local bands to wishing the band good riddance along with complaining about what the local music scene. I don’t particularly want to get into a discussion on the latter category, as most of those comments lacked any form of insight, unless you call hurling juvenile insults insight.

So instead of insults, or going to the opposite extreme with flowery praise, let me state the truth as I see it in regards to BTD. If you are looking for an innovative band that is always looking to push the musical envelope, then Black Tie Dynasty is not the band for you. BTD was formed around the time that Interpol was making a name for itself, and like Interpol, BTD was definitely riding the 80’s revival train. Such influences as Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division were blatantly obvious on their debut EP, This Stays Between Us, and well as their first full length, Movements. Although their most recent effort, Down Like Anyone, showed a definite growth in its sound, Black Tie Dynasty's sound is still firmly rooted in its trademark 80's revival sound.

What Black Tie Dynasty lacked in originality, however, the band more than made up for it in its captivating live performances. Lead vocalist Cory Watson not only possessed a powerful stage presence, his rich voice was enough to grab the attention of anyone who saw the band live. Drummer Eddie Thomas is regarded by many as one of the best drummers in Dallas; he even managed to capture a Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Musician. And while the band’s style may be less than unique, Black Tie Dynasty’s songs were catchy enough to bring the band a certain level of mainstream success, even if that success was confined to the metroplex area.

This brings me to why I think so many people are ready to jump on the BTD bashing bandwagon. The band committed what seems to be a cardinal sin within the music scene: they became successful. When Black Tie Dynasty began playing shows, all the reviews seemed to suggest that they were the great new hope for the local music scene. As the band’s fan base grew, the praise from critics seemed to shrink. By the time that BTD released their single “Tender” and the song became a staple on 102.1 KDGE, the group went from great new hope to every critic’s favorite band to ridicule. That’s a shame, especially considering the fact that “Tender” is one of the best songs to have been in regular rotation on KDGE over the past several years. From its opening keyboard hooks to close, it was one of the rare songs on the radio anymore that was worth listening to.

I can understand some of the criticisms against the band. Much of their sound is so wrapped up in the darker stylings of new wave that those who hate the sounds of that period are bound to hate Black Tie Dynasty. And Black Tie Dynasty was definitely not breaking new musical grounds. I can understand and even accept all of those complaints. What I cannot accept, however, is the fact that so much of the criticisms against Black Tie Dynasty only seemed to surface AFTER the band’s success. This is not a case of a band changing their sound in order to cash in; their sound remained constant as their fan base grew. Please, do not hate the band for whatever success it has gained during its time. This tendency for people to turn their backs on a local band once they gather any level of recognition is a problem that, if left untreated, will poison this city’s music scene. All the hipsters will complain about how the DFW music scene is so weak, when the complainers are the biggest problem with the scene.

But let’s get back to Black Tie Dynasty. Simply put, I like the band. They are a talented group of musicians whose songs are memorable and catchy. I have had many a good time at a BTD show, and I will miss their presence in the local music scene. I leave you with a video for my favorite song of theirs, “Bells”. Enjoy the video, and feel free to say goodbye to the band this Saturday at Granada.

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