Once a week, an handful of Scene staffers meet to determine what upcoming events are worthy of coverage in our Critics' Picks section. We rule out anything that's being covered elsewhere — in the film section, the music section, et al. — then we eliminate the chaff, and then Picks editor Laura Hutson assigns the rest. As it turns out, winner of two Academy Awards (and of three Golden Raspberry awards, each for "Worst Actor") Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, will perform tomorrow, April 14, at Exit/In. As a matter of fact, the show is already sold out. We zinged KC — perhaps somewhat inelegantly — when he played Opry at The Ryman a few years back, but maybe he deserved that a little more. Headlining your own bill at a rock club is one story; masquerading as an outfit that is worthy of The Ryman's stage is another. Anyway, needless to say, during our Critics' Picks meeting, Costner's shit landed squarely in the "chaff" pile.
But are Kevin Costner and Modern West really all that bad? In a world that has seen the likes of Keanu Reeves' Dogstar, Russell Crowe's 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, Michael Pitt's Pagoda and Billy Bob Thornton's Boxmasters, are KC and MW truly the worst of the worst, as far as leading man-fronted bands go? Let me dive in and find out ...
Dogstar pulled from the post-grunge playbook about as hard as any one band can, but I have to give Keanu points for sticking with bass and letting frontman Bret Domrose (whoever the fuck that is) hog all the spotlight with quality lyrics like "You think I'm speaking what I'm feeling — is it rage? / You say I'm reading like a novelist's unfinished page." Whatever, they sound like Candlebox or something. Maybe a better version of Candlebox? Either way, they aren't a band anymore.
Wait. So this song wasn't featured on the Master and Commander soundtrack? Russell Crowe is just really down with old ships? Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts is apparently now known as The Ordinary Fear of God, which forms the same acronym (TOFOG). I suppose that's clever, if I'm stretching the word "clever" to its absolute breaking point. Points for the fact that this band has been around for nearly as long as Crowe has been acting, and for the fact that it's so boring it couldn't possibly be offensive. I'm noticing a trend.
Was Pagoda supposed to be a Nirvana parody/sound-alike? Michael Pitt did apparently form Pagoda while filming Last Days thanks to the encouragement of director Gus Van Zandt. Hell, they released their debut via Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace, so they can't be all that bad. Though I would recommend that Pitt stick to portraying (SPOILER ALERT) sniveling mother fuckers (literally) on incredible shows about the Prohibition Era. Oh wait, his character (SPOILER ALERT) got capped in the dome by Nucky? Back to music it is, then. Still, it's better than Murder by Numbers.
Thing about Billy Bob and the Boxmasters is, as far as self-described "modbilly" bands go, they're definitely not completely terrible. But you just can't reference BB and the BMs without sharing the above clip of Billy Bob's Q interview gone mad haywire. That said, Q host Jian Ghomeshi was in this absolutely absurd Canadian novelty band, so ... "Everyone does weird shit" is the moral, I guess?
Thank you, Jason Schwartzman, for proving that not all actor-musicians are necessarily glory-hogging egotards. The sunshine-poppy indie rock of Coconut Records (and Schwartzman's former outfit, Phantom Planet) certainly isn't groundbreaing. But it's unassuming, and it doesn't put the star's name front-and-center in that obnoxious, "Garsh, I suppose I have to" way. Even though he plays everything. Anyway, didn't J-Schwartz play music before he acted?
Not sure I want to comment too heavily on this assimilation of haircuts masquerading as a rock band, except to say that Jared Leto's 30 Seconds to Mars is the only outfit in this list that could truly be considered "commercially successful." Also, Leto is a 40-year-old man with albums that have names like A Beautiful Lie. It's like a MOR version of AFI, except with loads of Leto's acting in the music videos.
As much as The Return of Bruno suffered from awful '80s production, Bruce Willis is actually a really good harmonica player with a decent voice, and the album featured contributions from some greats. Along with Leto's joint, this is one of the few actor outings that saw some serious commercial success. Also, Bruce left it alone instead of coming back with another terrible record to try and sell us every three years.
All right. So here it is. Thing is, Costner is perfectly charming until he starts singing. "Singing." It's middle-of-the-road contempo-country, sure, and not the worst song you could ever hear in Nashville ... but, my goodness. You know when you hear a person sing and you're immediately like, "Someone very close to this individual is lying to them"? It's like seeing a Make a Wish come true, but instead of it being a severely ill little boy, the Wisher is a middle-aged, perfectly healthy millionaire.
Verdict? The music itself isn't as good as Coconut Records or The Boxmasters, but it's certainly no worse than The Bacon Brothers, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts or Dogstar. The singing, of course, is probably the worst in the lot. Unless you know of something I'm missing.