Plenty of pop wannabes
shamelessly court success--there's nothing unusual about that. But
California singer-songwriter Pete Yorn is one of those all-too-eager
sellouts who want to appear hip while pandering.
The former drummer jams with Liz Phair on a notoriously titled track from
her new album (a name that can't be printed in the paper). He's been known
to pull stunts such as heckling the infinitely cooler Strokes from the
balcony at Metro. And he's chosen two undeniably hip opening acts for his
current tour in support of the new album, "Day I Forgot."
The latter decision backfired on him during a packed show at the Riviera
Theatre Thursday night, when both openers outshined the pretty-boy
headliner, underscoring the thoroughly derivative, unbearably boring nature
of his faux-rootsy sounds.
Not for nothing do detractors call him "Pete Yawn."
The young quintet Rooney kicked things off. While there was nothing
particularly original about its particular attempt at New Wave revivalism,
at least it could deliver some memorable tunes.
The stars of the night, though, were the five members of the Modesto,
Calif., psychedelic-pop band Grandaddy.
Notoriously reticent onstage and in person, guitarist, keyboardist and
vocalist Jason Lytle and his mates relied on witty, well-chosen film clips
to provide the eye candy during their 40-minute set. But they barely needed
The songs from Grandaddy's 2000 album, "Sophtware Slump," and the
forthcoming "Sumday" are effervescent and intoxicating, full of giddy hooks,
strange sonic ambiences, oddly askew guitars and synthesizers and endearing
vocal hooks delivered in a plaintive, Neil Young-like whine.
Grandaddy evinced more ambition and originality in one tune than Yorn
displayed in his entire bombastic set (which followed an annoying 45-minute
delay, no doubt due to the "himbo" star preening backstage so that his long
black locks would look their best when he finally surfaced).
If Yorn were able to dish out a memorable melody or two, he might qualify
as the male Sheryl Crow--an obvious pretender, but a guilty pleasure.
Unfortunately, he's too busy trying to appear heartfelt, sincere, serious
and, you know, "heavy" in that sub- sub- sub-Dylan way.
Yorn's formula is obvious: He attempts to cross Americana roots-rock a la
Wilco and the Jayhawks with post-alternative arena-rock in the style of
If there's a more contrived act in the current pop spectrum this side of
P. Diddy, I've yet to encounter it. And at least Puffy is being honest by
just blatantly stealing (I mean "sampling") his plundered tunes.
Backed by a tight, professional and equally yawn-inducing four-piece
band, Yorn switched between electric and acoustic guitars as he yodeled such
dreadful non-ditties as "Committed" and "Long Way Down." But the nadir came
when he put down his ax and jumped into the crowd to bask in the love of his
misguided fans, sharing the mike so they could croon along, and bumming a
few drags off their cigarettes.
One longed for people at close range to slap some taste into the warblin'
fool while they had the opportunity, but it's doubtful that it would have
done any good.