DJ Hostettler
Cultural Zero

Memo to MKE–It’s OK, you don’t have to support Chester French

By - Jul 2nd, 2009 12:28 pm


Fig.1: The future cast of That ’00s Show, if those ghastly fucking clothes are any indication. Which one’s Eric and Which one’s Kelso?

Milwaukeeans–as is the case with most Wisconsinites–have a tendency to collectively lose their minds whenever a local “talent” threatens to make it big and put our humble little blue-collar burg on the map. Take a look at the WAMIs–every year their choice for Artist of the Year seems like it’s determined by asking “um, well, do we have anyone who was in a lot of national magazines last year? Bon Iver? Who’s he? Feingold likes him? Yeah, OK, sure.”

Fairly often, this insisted overexposure of anyone who comes from Wisconsin and happens to make some noise ends up backfiring on us, as evidenced by the BoDeans’ presence at Summerfest yet again, or the Shepherd Express’ idea of a “Year in Local Music Issue” consisting of blurbs about how the Violent Femmes are still suing each other despite the band not having been relevent since the 80s or so.

Milwaukee is yet again on the precipice of going balls-out bonkers for an act completely undeserving of the attention: Chester French, who are playing Summerfest’s Miller Lite Oasis tonight. Chester French isn’t even a Wisconsin band–they got together while attending Harvard (because when you want edgy, daring and exciting new rock and roll, you look to the Ivy League–which reminds me of another aggravating buzz band that got together at a rich kids’ school: the atrocious Vampire Weekend). But that’s ok, because band member D.A. Wallach is originally from the Milwaukee metro area (I think I read somewhere that he’s from Mequon). Well, hey, that’s enough to warrant the Journal-Sentinel and Decider Milwaukee (which, full disclosure, I write for, but never about Chester Mufugging French) riding their jocks, right?

Except here’s the rub–this band is not very good. At all. In fact, based on their first single, “She Loves Everybody,” they are horrible, boring, no-good limp-dicked tripe. Let’s take a look at the video for this “She Loves Everybody” song.


Fig.2: The definition of “cute, so they’re marketable”

The song is apparently about some slut who bangs every guy she meets, but it’s dressed up in a cute, sorta-harmless “cheeky” (everyone calls this band “cheeky” and it’s hell of annoying) veneer of pseudo-sensitive male posturing. “Well she craves passion/So I use protection/I know she loves me/She loves everybody,” they croon in the song’s zoloft-haze chorus. The opening lines of the second verse expound upon why this girl thirsts for the cock: “You’re just a girl who misses your dad.” Ignoring the obvious sexist bent of these lyrics (because hey, a girl can’t just be a free-spirited, open-minded girl with a healthy sexual appetite–if she’s not a prude, she obviously has issues. So, what’s the deal with slutty guys, then? Do they all have mommy issues? Just trying to get back into the womb? OK, sorry, I guess I can’t ignore how awful these lyrics are, as evidenced by my earlier usage of the word “slut” to sort of illustrate the point), the whole “daddy issues” thing is just downright lazy. They sort of half-heartedly try to counterbalance their cro-magnon frat-boy view of female sexuality by depicting themselves getting their shit kicked in by the video’s Token Hot Model Chick, as if to depict how they can’t get enough of this easy lover, even though she cruelly stomps all over their sensitive Ivy League hearts. But sorry, that’s just as boring and doesn’t excuse the lame sexist theme.

But even disregarding the awful lyrical content, the music’s about as exciting as a sensory-deprivation tank (and makes me long for one). Half-hearted guitar chords chime over a sedate drum machine while the singer (is the singer the Milwaukee native, or is it the other guy? Oh, who the fuck cares) delivers his lines like a recovering ICU patient on a morphine drip. If this is indicative of their overall sound, this band could threaten to make the aforementioned Vampire Weekend sound like they have balls.

(Vampire Weekend do NOT have balls, by the way. Any band attempting to mine Afrobeat that ends up sounding like a diluted version of Paul Simon’s Graceland is by definition a band of sad sacks–or empty sacks, in their case.)

Now, I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve had more fun at this year’s Summerfest than I have ever had there in my entire tenure in Milwaukee. Between the excellent Meat Puppets/Matthew Sweet double bill, Spoon, and the upcoming Judas Priest and Elvis Costello shows, the organizers have done really well this year. But if it’s locally-grown quality you’re looking for, skip Chester French and go see anything on the Cascio Interstate Groove Garage stage instead. Hell, even watching the Wildbirds is probably less painful than sitting through an entire set of “smart, cheeky pop in the spirit of Fountains of Wayne” (um, sorry Quinn). But if that sounds like it’s up your alley, go for it, I guess. Just listen to it because you inexplicably like it, not because their parents bought a house in the state where you live.


Fig.3: Also, the CD for the single comes in a condom wrapper, apparently. ZZZZZ

(ENDNOTE: I’m behind on my Summerfest recaps, but they’re coming, I promise. Aren’t you thrilled?)

0 thoughts on “Cultural Zero: Memo to MKE–It’s OK, you don’t have to support Chester French”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is this some sort of American new age Wham?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Maybe, except Wham chose life. I dunno what these guys chose, but it ain’t real living.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow is this band a steaming pile.

  4. Anonymous says:

    DJ, I congratulate you on once again punching your bad-ass punk rock card in public. (Just so I’m clear, you like music with “balls,” right?) But I gotta ask: Does this band suck, or are you just pre-disposed to hating any band that sounds like this? In other words, does a band automatically suck because it does not satisfy DJ Hostettler’s personal, hard-dick-loving tastes? Discuss.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Steve!

    Just so *i’m* clear: is this the same bad-ass punk rock card i’ll be punching when i talk about what a great time i had at Huey Lewis & the News in an upcoming post?

    Obviously personal aesthetics come into play when anyone reviews a piece of music, and there are some things i’m pre-disposed to liking way more than sleepy ivy-league pop like Chester French (i’m also pre-disposed to be suspicious of music that’s made at freaking *Harvard*, but maybe that’s a bit unfair). But personally, i think i made a solid case for this band having problems outside of my personal preferences. For example, can you explain why people refer to “She Loves Everybody” as “smart, cheeky pop” when it’s essentially a song about a girl who fucks everyone she meets because she has daddy issues? If that lyrical theme were explored by, say, Motley Crue, it would be (correctly) labeled as “moronic” or “sophomoric.” Wrapping sexist lyrics in a veneer of cute preppy-boy posturing just reminds me of the so-called “nice guy” that secretly holds more misogynistic views of women than the so-called “jerks” the objects of their desire go for. At least the big, dumb, “hard-dicked” rock guys are clear about their intentions when they’re being sexist.

    And yes, i find the music uninteresting as well, as i stated in the initial post.

    But mostly, CF are being used in this post as a vehicle to needle Milwaukee for its propensity to get way too excited about anything new with the most tangential connection to Milwaukee–something you and i effectively pulled off in our Danny Gokey coverage over on Decider. It just so happens that Decider and the JS, in my view, was covering this band for the same reason people were going batshit over Danny, so i felt the need to point out that the new emperor in town is naked.

    I welcome your rebuttal, my good man.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Good points all around, Deej. However, to compare what we or The J-S have done on Chester French to the massive coverage afforded to Gokey is a bit of an overstatement, don’t you think? To date, we’ve done three stories on Chester French: a brief announcing the release date of their major label debut, an interview, and a brief plugging their Summerfest show. Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t amount to a full-scale hype campaign in my eyes. (I can’t speak to what the J-S is doing. Have they been going overboard?) You seem to be saying that Chester French isn’t worthy of ANY coverage, which seems a little extreme to me. This is a group signed to a major label with the backing of Pharrell Williams; to me, that warrants at least a story or two in a town where that sort of thing ain’t exactly happening every day.

    As for your comments about the music, well, I won’t argue too much about that because I’m not a huge fan of CF. I do think, however, that you’re missing the irony in what CF is doing. If you read our interview (shameless plug alert!) I think it’s pretty clear that these guys don’t take themselves very seriously, and are basically Ivy League studio nerds wrapping themselves in an R&B lover man persona with tongues planted firmly in cheek. C’mon Deej, I wouldn’t have had you pegged for being so P.C. when it came to song lyrics. Didn’t one of your heroes once call one of his records “Songs About Fucking”? Even if you hate the music, don’t make the mistake of missing the joke.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hmmmm…not seeing much of a “don’t take themselves seriously” vibe in that interview; just a lot of talk about the benefits of a strong demo over playing shows (gah) and talk about how they got noticed. What am i missing?

    To the overstatement point: that’s fair, and it could be that i’m overreacting because i find their music to be so awful.

    To your “PC” point: As you’re aware, i’m a fan of plenty of big dumb sexist bands (as evidenced by all the hair metal in my collection). My main issue with the sexist bent of CF is that A) it’s lazy (interesting point on bringing up Albini and the themes broached in Big Black/Rapeman/Shellac, but i doubt anyone would ever accuse his lyrics of being lazy, and to his advantage, he has the benefit of having a broad range of work that his more disturbing lyrics can be put into context with, a benefit CF don’t have yet), and B) it’s sneaky (the “nice guy disguise” point i’ve belabored enough already).

    So, i dunno, maybe there’s a joke i’m missing–something i’d need more singles to bring into context (*shudder*)–but right now i’m not seeing it, and i’m not sure i’ll be interested enough to look for it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What if the joke isn’t funny?

    What if we’re well past tired of people using a tongue in their cheek as a blank check for a wide variety of jack-assery ranging from misogyny to childlike fascination with neon to utter and complete mediocrity?

    That’d put Steve out of a job, though, wouldn’t it?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I suppose it depends on how many of Steve’s customers are jackasses…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hey Ben, just so I’m clear: Are you call me a jackass, or an enabler of jackassery?

  11. Anonymous says:

    No, I’m saying Chester French is jackassery. I’m saying that if there’s some ironic joke behind CF which (as Steve seems to be saying) excuses their lameness, mediocrity, ivy league-ness, and sexism, then it’s a tired old joke that isn’t funny anymore (though it’s constant repetition seems to work quite well for the onion, so maybe i’m in a tiny minority here).

    In fact, its so not funny that i don’t think it’s a joke anymore as much as it’s a method of ambigufying one’s statements, identity, and intentions to mask elitism and market oneself as “cool” to otherwise mutually exclusive consumer demographics (actual ivy leaguers and people who revile ivy leaguers).

    So, DJ my only complaint is that you mention enjoying yourself at Huey Lewis and the News, this is either ironic enjoyment, indicating this type of jackassery, or genuine enjoyment indicating exceedingly bad taste.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Oh, wait, it was steve asked that. Sorry the page layout is tripping me up.

    I am saying that the onion enables this kind of jack-assery. As far as whether or not you’re a jackass yourself, i can’t tell, might just be i’m bored with your brand of humor.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Relieved I’m not the only one who finds Vampire Weekend to be pretentious, unlistenable twee tripe.

    Of course it’s easy to hate someone who’s not FROM MILWAUKEE LIKE DANNY GOKEY! SQUEEEEEE!

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