CD Review of Lay Down the Law by Switches
Recommended if you like
The Hives, The Vines, Jet
Label
Interscope
Switches: Lay Down the Law

Reviewed by Jason Thompson

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W
hen Pete Townshend penned and recorded the corny “Long Live Rock,” he certainly couldn’t have imagined a time such as now, with the entire music business dying at the hands of the videogame and movie industries. If he thought things were bad then, they were actually the golden years compared to now. Rock is indeed dead. There. I said it, and I’ll say it again. Rock is dead. Oh, it can be resuscitated, but it just doesn’t feel like anyone really cares these days. What movements are left to kick this pig into gear? At least back when Townshend was bitching, disco was something worth talking about. Punk was the direct result, and that, too was worth talking about. There are no more musical revolutions, only music format revolutions. If anything, the business is going back to the days when singles were king and albums were mainly for fools who wanted to blow some money on a bunch of filler. Weird that technology has actually taken things backward, isn’t it?

So bands continue to mine the rock music deathbed and labels like Interscope prop them up, hoping someone will buy. In the case of UK group Switches, they’ve already had a sizable hit overseas with the title track to their upcoming US debut. Yes, “Lay Down the Law” has a vibe similar to that of OK Go. The song sounds good on the radio waves, and will probably be used in a video game here and there for optimal saturation. Somewhere, a video will be shown on those rare TV outlets that still bother to play such archaic promotional clips. But the problem with Switches is that they’re no different, really, from the Vines and Hives of this world. They’re “just another rock band” catering to a world whose attention span is becoming shorter by the second when it comes to such things.

But this is what happens when there’s nothing left to do. The older influences like the Beatles and their ilk no longer hold true to the mainstream. This was inevitably going to happen. After all, that’s music that’s in its 40’s now, and even though new generations will continue to “discover” it, it’s been done, and those who choose to go that route are looked upon as “novelty” acts trying to please a “fringe” audience (read: anyone currently in their 30’s or older). No, no. You see, you have to give the deaf something instant that can be easily marketed and resold on a quickie compilation album a month later. Switches fit that bill perfectly.

Both “Drama Queen” and “Snakes and Ladders” are so 2002, that it’s actually sad that we can sit here and cite that time not so long ago so soon. But really, where has anything gone lately? “Coming Down” has kitschy Rentals-like keyboards mixed in with a claustrophobic, near-overloaded production that is as faceless as “Message from Yuz” that bolts into an “ironic” disco beat-laden-with-new/old-“New Wave” style. Yes, cleverly trying to regurgitate the past for the kiddies born after 1980 that will take to this stuff as if it were brand new. And therein lies the whole charade.

Instead of bands like the Beatles being used as touchstones anymore, new groups reach back to their own youth – the 1980s. No wonder most of these new sounds are so desperately rote. After all, everyone still goes gaga for all those ’80s one-hit wonder tracks, but there’s a reason 95% of those bands were one-hit wonders; the rest of their stuff sucked. So bands like Switches are relegated to being influenced by those times and tunes and having their own singular moments, with maybe a couple of mild aftershocks to follow, only to fall into semi-recalled obscurity and the dead zone of “Who cares?”

Still, you can’t fault the mentality entirely. It is what it is, and Lay Down the Law is a competent, if unmemorable, outing. “Every Second Counts” and “Killer Karma” both have a safe acoustic base, and fans can point at it and say things like, “Ooh, they’re quite nice when they unplug just a little.” Switches will indeed find some measure of success, just like other bands these days. And by “success,” that doesn’t equal huge fame and lots of cash. That just means you’ll probably wind up knowing one of their songs and caring about it for as long as it takes for the next similar-sounding group to come along. But that’s showbiz in 2007.

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