I’d love to hear your thoughts on assorted nerd musicians, who you think works, who doesn’t, and perhaps why.
I’m sure we’ve all heard of Jonothan Coulton, and most will have heard of MC Frontalot, but what other performers/bands are out there that might be good?
This is big in my mind at the moment because I stumbled over Kirby Krackle earlier this week completely by accident, and they are consuming my headspace in way that hasn’t happened since I found They Might Be Giants in the early 90′s.
Wow, I am so not the person to ask about this. I just went through my Zune (yes I own a Zune shut up) and found songs that could be classified as official nerd subgenre (as opposed to music nerds like but isn’t definitively nerdy, like They Might Be Giants): one MC Chris, one Optimus Rhyme, one Lemon Demon, one Ookla the Mok. I have about twelve hundred songs on that thing, so that’s .3 percent of my portablized music.
This is not due to lack of exposure, either. People send me links to nerd music all the time; nerds self-promoting, nerds promoting their friends, nerds sharing whatever nerd thing they found this week they think is awesome. (I just checked my email right now and I have an email from Kirby Krackle circa March of ’09 saying they liked a post and I should check them out, et cetera.) I usually give anything that gets sent to me at least a single once-over if it doesn’t look like spam.1 I’ve got a pretty wide range of exposure to nerd music, and my honest admission is that it surpasses Sturgeon’s Law quite handily.
Perhaps that’s unfair to an extent, but moments of musical genius are few and far between in nerd music. Clever lyrics, sure, there are plenty of clever lyrics, but only rarely do they raise above the level of simply making the reference and moving on; the more ambitious gambit tends to be “tell Character X’s story in song,” which is marginally tougher. Musical virtuosity is rarer; competency is generally the over/under, or maybe a bit lower.
The takeaway, for me anyway, is this: moments of genuine brilliance in nerd music are few and far between, and certainly they appear at a lesser rate than in non-nerd music. The number of nerd songs I’ve heard that can match up lyrically, to, say, Eminem on an average day? Fingers on one hand. And instrumentally, if a nerd band can be as consistent as Nickelback – friggin’ Nickelback – they’re already in the top quarter of musicality.2 Tack on top of that a general lack of interest in listening to a song about any given superhero or video game character if it’s not really, really funny and you begin to understand my lack of disinterest in nerd music generally.
(I know in comments there will probably be a bunch of “well you haven’t heard THIS,” and hey, have at it; maybe other readers will find good suggestions in the comments. But my track record for “well you haven’t heard THIS” is “no, I haven’t… and now I see why.” Four nerd songs on my Zune, people. Four songs.)