There are moments on the ste where musical classifications are discussed at great length with little to no certifiable progress or definitive decision made, one way or another. Sometimes I’ll spend long swaths of readers’ (and my own) time taking shots at the hilarity (and inanity) of “Americana” or the greater umbrella of “true” country music. Granted, some of that is due to proximity convenience, and other times, it’s just fun to stir the pot. Whether or not I feel strongly about one genre or another is up (but probably not) to debate.
Now, with all the journalistic pleasantries out of the way (see: a lede and introduction, but let’s be real, I’m the only person editing this), I can cut to the chase. There is a genre that has piqued my interest as of late, largely in part because the genre’s interests are my own. What genre might that be, you ask? Well first off, thank you for playing along, and secondly, please read all the way through the write-up to help click-through (what era of the Internet is this? 2009?). But most importantly (and thirdly?), that mystery genre is none other than the post-millennial genre of meme-rock.
“What is meme-rock?” Great question. Short answer - I have no clue. Shorter answer - anything. To bastardize an Armie Hammer as The Winklevii in The Social Network, “I’m sorry, [reader name], but what you just said makes no sense to me at all.” To which the proper reply is (sarcastically), “I’m devastated by that.”
That made no sense, right? That’s the point. Meme-rock is the newest genre (if we arrive at that conclusion) which constitutes any and all genres can enter, co-mingle, fight, imitate, etc, with the only rule being that person creating said meme-rock simply does whatever the hell they want. Whether it’s for shits and giggles or as a true “Outpouring of Artistic Necessity Which Will Change the World,” as long as it’s what that person wants to do, then do the damn thing.
Which brings us to Sandra Bullets. Easily one of my favorite bands in Nashville. They’d probably qualify as “under the radar” if this were Spin, or Stereogum, or Paste (reply to my story pitches you cowards!), but all you really need to know is that if you haven’t listened Sandra Bullets to this point in your life, stop what you’re doing now and listen. I know I asked you to finish reading the whole thing, but screw it. Listen to “Kingfisher 9000” right this moment.
What Sandra Bullets does with their unique blend of meme-y math rock sensibility is truly enviable, from a musical standpoint. This is the modern age of music, which means everyone has heard every version of any type of music a thousand times over. So, to counteract that, mash things together, much like the sublime math rock meets PBR&B meets jazz fusion of Sandra Bullets. Admittedly, I’ve established quite the bias, if not a “Stan” level of admiration for the band, but I think what they’re doing is likely the next-best Stateside version of what the great black midi are doing over in the UK. A song like “Kingfisher 9000” only further solidifies that fact.
Much like black midi, there’s always been a tempestuous reservation to Sandra Bullets’ music. “Kingfisher 9000” is exactly that. At one moment, it’s about as “pocket” as one could hope for, with tight rhythmic and arrhythmic guitar tremors from Cotter Childs and Brian Wolf, supported by a syncopated rhythm section comprised of Christian Baraks and David Nelson, all corralled by the vocal prowess of Tatiana Alvarez-Cianelli. Everyone is doing something uniquely their own, slowly but surely ramping up to something that might push a song over the edge, only to tastefully pull back into said “pocket” before all hell breaks loose.
Granted, that all might not explain the meme-rock designation, but in my mind, it does. If you watch the video for “Kingfisher 9000,” I’d like to think that’d be a little more apparent. There’s definitely some quirk to it, but there’s also some distinctly aesthetic taste peppered throughout. Sandra Bullets have a discernible aesthetic through their musicianship which may not be readily describable otherwise, but you know it’s them. Much like a meme.