Saturday, April 03, 2010

The End of Louis XIV... For Now By Christine Albrecht

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Bands often remind me of hockey teams. You can hire the best and the brightest performers available, but if the individual players don’t gel as a ‘team’, then they can’t get ahead - regardless of the combined talent. That analogy sprang to mind when I heard that Louis XVI had parted ways to pursue their individual musical careers.

They got out of the game rather early, considering they have only been a group since 2003. Perhaps they could see the writing on the wall better than most bands. Louis XVI was fortunate enough to receive ‘just discovered’ status, but for some reason they weren’t able to sustain the public’s interest. As a journalist in Manchester wrote, Louis XIV had been “criminally overlooked”.

Louis XIV consists of singer/guitarist - Jason Hill, guitarist - Brian Karscig, drummer - Mark Maigaard, and bassist - James Armbrust. (In 2007 they added violinist, Ray Suen for tours.) They formed in April of 2003 and released several EPs. In 2004, local California DJs began sampling songs from the band’s Myspace page which prompted a quick release of yet another EP. They were quickly signed by Atlanta, in the Fall of 2004, and they released the album The Best Little Secrets are Kept. The album sounded raw and gritty, as though they had recorded in their garage, using a reel to reel. The effect worked - The Best Little Secrets are Kept is an album worth owning – each song brings its own eccentric sound to the finished whole.

These were not young, inexperienced musicians, but rather high calibre performers. Both Hill and Karsig performed on The Killer’s lauded album, Sam’s Town. Karcig, a music producer, also owns Nervous Productions. Hill is known for working with The Killers, The Virgins, David Bowie, as well as others. A formidable list of talented musicians seek Hill’s assistance, which begs the question, why couldn’t Hill propel his own band into a higher musical stratosphere? What happened to 2005’s wave of adulation, with Bowie generously dropping their name during interviews; Rolling Stone magazine and MTV deemed Louis XIV as one of the “top ten bands to watch”?

With the release of The Best..., Louis XIV came controversy. Most notably (and humorously) being known as the band who was banned in Hoover, Alabama. Regarding the Hoover incident, Hill was quoted in an interview as saying, “...but in some ways, the most negative press can also be the biggest compliment...” If this is the case, then 2005 was Louis XIV’s banner year for both accolades and ‘compliments”.

Hill in 2005

Specifically, the song, Finding Out True Love is Blind caused a stir. It was a top 10 hit, but it also prompted a knee jerk response from various special interest groups. These groups were calling for radio censorship and even going so far as to plead with the public not to buy the CD. It is a great song, and yes, the lyrics could be viewed as crude, perhaps even misogynistic, but no worse than top-selling rap albums. Why was this band being targeted by these groups, and why was Hill publicly being called chauvinistic, lewd, and racist? Ironically, the family-oriented Wal-Mart sold the Louis XIV CD, and made no effort to remove it.

Songs are akin to books; the publication of a book or song does not immediately reflect or indicate the writer’s innermost beliefs. It’s just a song/book, period. And since the public is given the gift of choice - either buy the CD, or don’t.

It appeared that Louis XIV was going to approach their zenith again when they released their 2008 album, Slick Dogs and Ponies. Favourable media attention was received when they toured with The Killers in 2009, yet the general public continued to overlook the band. Their recent songs, Air Traffic Control and Guilt by Association were gems, yet received little airplay, aside from occasional college radio stations. The public’s indifference to Louis XIV will remain a mystery. One can only fall back on the hockey analogy – perhaps these talented musicians simply weren’t able to “gel” as a unit.

2010 - the band is no longer, having sputtered out after several attempts to ignite excitement over their releases. Seven years is enough time to know whether staying together is worth the effort required. However, the band’s sporadic efforts will be missed as their music was worthy of attention. Here’s hoping that each member quickly tires of individual pursuits, and they once again unite to show the world that they are, as Rolling Stone once noted, a band to watch.

Louis XIV in 2009

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