Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Luv the 90s: The Return of Chris Holmes

Posted By on 08.19.10 at 12:50 PM

Jim DeRogatis brings up a blast from the past:

In my book, if in no one else’s, Chris Holmes ranks as the greatest squandered talent of Chicago’s alternative-rock era, a time that was lousy with them, and he places far ahead even of Christian Lane of Loud Lucy and Dave Trumfio of the Pulsars (who never really wanted to be a rock star anyway, and who remains an active and talented record producer out west).

Long before I was a twinkle in the eye of Holmes's alma mater, the University of Chicago, I was familiar with Holmes—not through his work, the only Chicago band I'd ever heard of was, oddly enough, Freakwater—but through Thomas Frank's 1998 Harper's account of Holmes's struggle to (ironically) break through with his (ironic) orch-pop act Yum-Yum ("With the benefit of hindsight, 1996’s Dan Loves Patti can almost be seen as bridging the gap between Cardinal and the Arcade Fire," writes DeRogatis), and the brutal takedown published in Suck, still my favorite online-only magazine. Which wasn't the only outlet taking shots at Frank and Holmes, in what became a remarkable class-baiting shit fit over a, um, not-terribly-successful major-label orch-pop band:

On the face of it, an entertainer who puts on a game face during a Seventeen-sponsored tour and then mocks it afterward (as Frank suggests Holmes did) isn't necessarily being "ironic," any more than a fast-food clerk is being "ironic" when he evinces a concern for a customer's order that he doesn't really feel. But [Harper's editor Ben] Metcalf thinks Holmes is different from other performers because of a quintessentially Harper's distinction: Holmes, you see, is "a very smart guy." Metcalf repeats this phrase like a mantra during our conversation. Whereas a Mariah Carey or a New Kid on the Block (to use his examples) does the show business grind without any awareness of its silliness, someone like Holmes has to know better. In other words, a Venezualan-Irish girl from Long Island and a bunch of Boston street kids are just pop-star puppets going through the motions. But Chris Holmes, a wealthy University of Chicago graduate, must be different - even if, to outside observers, the game's the same.

Frank would go on to write What's the Matter With Kansas?. It's not about how "Horse With No Name" wasn't ironic enough.

Then again, maybe Holmes did have the last laugh, being light-years ahead of his time in promoting hyped albums almost no one buys to a nation of millions:

Holmes hosts an Internet program, "Live From Chris's Bedroom: The Yum-Yum Hour," where he's chatted up guests like Jon Langford and Sally Timms of the Mekons in addition to discussing his own band. "Modern technology has allowed me to promote concerts in an intimate setting to millions of people all over the world without any of us leaving our bedrooms. The future is now!" Holmes announced in the press release.

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