You Know Your Band Sucks if ...

I was sitting on the can, flipping through a 2-year-old issue of Cosmo and marveling at how easy life could be for insecure, affluent, malleable women with intimacy issues. I mean, it's all right there in The Quiz, isn't it? For any and every romantic, relational, sexual, financial or self-esteem conundrum contemporary pressures have posed to womanhood, there has undoubtedly been a clarifying installment of The Quiz. It's like a series of helpful signs along the road to Destination: Social Appeasement. And then it hit me: that's exactly what unsigned bands need. A Quiz! Why should hopeful musicians go through the whole rigmarole of selecting an instrument, learning how to play it, forming lifelong attachments, expressing themselves and amassing unforgettable experiences, when they can find out in five minutes whether or not they've got any aptitude for the calling? What a time-saver The Quiz would be.

So, in the tradition of the finest women's unrealistic-lifestyle-expectations magazines, the Weekly Planet is proud to present Great Expectations: Does My Band Suck?. It's a Quiz — for us. Please answer the following 13 questions as honestly as possible; remember, you'll only be cheating yourself.

Our newest song sounds like:

a) A rallying cry for a generation at risk

b) Amnesiac, only catchy

c) John Zorn on a meth binge

d) The Warped Tour, after 3 p.m. but before dusk

e) "Down with the Sickness"

We've only had to look for new members when:

a) Our rhythm guitarist went on tour with Guided By Voices

b) Our singer's narcissism and our lead guitarist's alcoholism went to Mexico, and only one of them came back

c) All original members for six years now, dude, but don't call it a rut

d) Our keyboard player went on tour with Guiffria

e) Do drummers count?

Our vocalist/lyricist is heavily influenced by:

a) Libido and misanthropy

b) Barnes & Noble

c) Bud and Weiser

d) De la Rocha and Carson Daly

e) Vedder and Staley's arena-angst hellspawn, because "I feel them, y'know?"

The "something different" we offer is:

a) A unique and forward-thinking amalgam of canny songwriting, broken rules and individual perception

b) An unparalleled cathartic experience, visceral to the point of emotional breakdown

c) Nothing, really — it's just good tunes

d) Abstract, stream-of-consciousness deconstructionalism that spits in the face of traditional arrangements

e) Masks ... but different masks

Our guitars most closely resemble:

a) Machines that kill fascists

b) Stevie Ray Vaughan's

c) Sports cars from the "50s

d) Sea urchins

e) The sticker case at any given indie record store

When asked who we sound like, we reply:

a) With a knowing smirk, as if nothing even remotely comparable has he retofore existed on this plane

b) By placing three disparate bands in an unlikely and hopefully humorous theoretical situation, such as two of them having a baby that was eaten by the third

c) Foo Fighters! Foo Fighters! Foo Fighters!

d) By quoting an immortal talent (Marley, Mingus, etc.) whose stuff we've never heard

e) With a list of emo bands that staunchly refuse to admit they're emo

When approached about a possible Brass Mug gig, we:

a) Ask who else is on the bill

b) Ask which day of the week it's on

c) Edge stealthily away, agreeing to ask the other guys while wondering aloud if that's the same night our drummer has his hernia operation

d) Explain tactfully that, having played there twice, we've paid our dues and will consider nothing less than a headlining slot at The State

e) Need directions

Upon learning that members of another band have talked shit about us, we:

a) Retort dismissively among ourselves at practice, then go home and lie awake, obsessively fingering our wounded feelings

b) Shrug with a vengeance

c) Continue gigging with them, but we're totally using them and often treat them to the glaring of a lifetime

d) Post disparaging comments about them on coffeestain.com that imply we're impartial fans of the scene

e) Immediately fire our weakest link and begin aggressively copping Jimmy Eat World

Our reaction to the influx of electronic-music culture into other genres is:

a) A healthy mix of acceptance and wariness

b) Exhilaration at the thought of future possibilities

c) Signified by the way we make our DJ carry all his own shit

d) Akin to early man's fear of fire

e) Hey, you can get porn on this thing!

For us, the word "jazz" conjures:

a) Grudging respect

b) Aspirations to a level of mastery never to be achieved

c) Vague distrust

d) A blatant lie regarding our familiarity with Birth of the Cool

e) She works at Diamond Dolls, right?

When we finish our set, the other bands on the bill usually say:

a) "We should try to do some out-of-town stuff together"

b) "Fuck, dude, you guys rocked"

c) "You know that one where you go from that big chang-chang-chang into the sort of jun-jun, jun-jun? I dig that one"

d) "Really? It sounded fine out front"

e) "Nice gear"

We equate success with:

a) A balance of creative fulfillment and corresponding recognition

b) Our record being available for purchase in Minot, North Dakota

c) Scoring with a Hot Topic employee who's seen us live

d) Free beer that we can't drink without a bottle opener

e) Opening for Pretty Boy Floyd at GoldStar

We'll know we've made it:

a) When Conan shakes our hands going into the commercial break

b) When our ex-bassist sues for points

c) In those precious seconds right after the major label gives us a shitload of money, before it really hits that they're gonna want it all back

d) We don't know how we'll know, but we know we'll know

e) Four words: "eight," "ball," "stripper's" and "ass"

All right, you've come to the moment of truth. Give yourself five points for every a), four for every b), three for every c), two for every d), and one measly point for every e). Now refer to the scoring chart below to find out whether you're fit to go all the way, or should seriously consider hanging it up and sparing yourself and your family untold volumes of shame.

0-12: You couldn't even finish. What a puss. Lighten up. Your band sucks, but don't worry about it too much, because stress is going to kill you long before anyone besides your closest friends finds out.

13-25: Don't give up your day job. And by "day job," of course, we mean girlfriend/boyfriend/room at your parents' house.

26-38: Predictable, formulaic, uninspired, average. Go ahead and ruin your credit — you are going to be soooooo famous. For a little while.

39-51: A bit too original, yet not weird enough for immortality, you're the eternal local heroes. You don't suck — but it sucks to be you.

52-64: So you think you're all that, eh? OK, so you're actually pretty good. Better than most, in fact. But it doesn't matter — everybody hates you on account of your uppity demeanor. Take your inevitable cult-icon status and like it.

65: God, you're pretentious. And a liar, too. Even when the whole thing is obviously a joke you've gotta be No. 1, don't you? You've gotta win. You've gotta ace it. Sheesh, what a cretin. Seek therapy.

Well, there it is. And don't we all feel better knowing, once and for all? Those who feel dissatisfied with their results are, naturally, welcome to impugn, smear, defame or altogether disregard the outcome. Go ahead, ignore a painstakingly informed scientific opinion. Continue "enjoying yourselves," "rocking out" and "having fun."

Just remember this, however — The Quiz is never wrong.

Music critic Scott Harrell can be reached at 813-248-8888, ext. 109, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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