#44 – “Chaos By Design” (Colorwheel; 2001)

TMBG Unlimited - September
A.S.: This is one of the Battle of the Bands tracks from the latter half of TMBG Unlimited.
L.K.: Oh yeah, I remember… not being entirely sure what band/style this was supposed to be parodying.
A.S.: I had no idea either, honestly. “The scoop on Colorwheel: Lisa and Liza are the ladies behind the mic and the computer screen, and collectively they represent one of the coolest bands to emerge from the “lo-fi” scene of the mid-90’s. Always critics’ darlings, even when they are roadies for Human League, the lusher approach is reflected in this track.”
L.K.: That doesn’t help a bit!
A.S.: No, it doesn’t. Although I’m thinking it’s supposed to be like Stereolab or something. A really skewed version of Stereolab.
L.K.: Yeah, musically and lyrically I’ve never really been able to quite place this track’s influences.
A.S.: Stereolab’s the best thing I got for this one. I could also easily see Flansburgh as a big Stereolab fan.
L.K.: What year was Stereolab even formed?
A.S.: Around 1990 or so, I think.
L.K.: Ah ok, so they’d definitely been around for quite a while.
A.S.: Yeah, and they’d been indie darlings since the beginning – I dunno about “lo-fi” but this song doesn’t sound at all “lo-fi,” although to be fair, this is Colorwheel’s “lusher approach.”
L.K.: TMBG’s Battle of the Bands project seemed really half-assed in a lot of ways; the recycling and rebranding of a lot of songs into it as a kind of desperate way to fill a month in TMBG Unlimited.
A.S.: Yeah, it wasn’t nearly as fully committed as Battle of the Bands revolutionaries’ The Turtles were (and needless to say, TMBG never got a self-parodic greatest pop song ever like “Elenore” out of this collection), but there are some really great curios from the project.
L.K.: The first month (that this song was from) was decent, but the second half was just recycling. To be fair though, if the official descriptions from Unlimited are to be believed, they were putting it together from the road while on tour.
A.S.: Which in that case, getting any sort of recording done on the road is impressive.
L.K.: Seems like they could’ve planned it out better based on how much it cost to be subscribed though.
A.S.: How much did it cost?
L.K.: It was $10 a month, I believe, or $120 for the full year. Since it predated by involvement in actively following the band, I am not sure whether it was an actual subscription, or if you just bought the months individually. Seems like that might have been the better deal, since some months have a lot more interesting stuff in them than others, not to mention a lot more tracks in general.
A.S.: Yeah, July’s definitely would have been worth $10. That is a pretty steep price for the whole year. It’s a bit ironic too that the songs in the Battle of the Bands ended up sounding less like emulations of artists than a lot of the Venue Songs.
L.K.: That is a very good point; Venue Songs verges on blatant style-parody.
A.S.: Case in point: “Leeds”, which we’ve discussed, is a pretty spot-on Who homage.  “Chaos By Design” might be some Sterolab-ish thing?
L.K.: I mean, “Something You’d Like To See” is faux Broadway audition song, Spool 409 is Blink-182 or Green Day or some other crappy pop punk band, but this one is still just… yeah. It’s this one.
A.S.: “Save Your Life” sounds like a They Might Be Giants song, even though it’s supposed to be C86 or something.
L.K.: Well the description of Bog Standard makes them sound like The Smiths meets XTC, but that’s for later. Other songs, man, these are all other songs.
A.S.: True, and we haven’t even brought up the cream of the crop yet… I guess the Battle of the Bands thing is more set on emulating certain styles, while a lot of the Venue Songs target specific artists. But I think the Venue Songs are overall far more successful in their emulations than these BOTB songs.
L.K.: Maybe somebody needs to ask Flans what this is supposed to be a fake version of, once he gets back from his JoCo Cruise. I actually have very few comments about this individual song though, just because I’m so totally clueless about where it came from concept-wise, influence-wise, and history-wise within the band itself.
A.S.: Yeah, we’ve talked very little about the actual song at hand.  It’s a lovely little song; I’m fond of the bells in the chorus.
L.K.: Yeah. It’s fairly forgettable, but when I hear it and remember what it sounds like again, it’s enjoyable enough.
A.S.: Rereading the lyrics calls up another likely inspiration for this song – Broadcast. They were very fresh around the time of “Chaos By Design”‘s release too.  Again, hardly “lo-fi” but I think it’s rather likely.
L.K.: This is more your area than mine.
A.S.: Dear reader, got any ideas on what the hell this song is trying to be?
One Response to “#44 – “Chaos By Design” (Colorwheel; 2001)”
  1. Nathan says:

    It kind of reminds me of the Residents song “Crashing.” Not any other Residents song, though, just that one.

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