Friday, September 16, 2011

Publicity Machineri

One of the wonderful benefits of having an Edgars charge card and belonging to the Edgars Club is the monthly Club magazine that is essentially an advertorial for Edgars merchandise. Now Woolworths, with which I also have a charge card, offers me the same, the W magazine, probably printed on recycled, organic paper.

That's the intro. Here's the thing: in the first W magazine I received there is a couple of pages worth of fashion for the young, which no longer speaks to me as I am way beyond the retro, neo-grunge look and never took to the original grunge look of 20 years ago either. The clever device the Woolworths marketers have come up with, and they are not the first, is to use local music scene celebrities as the models for the apparel they want to flog.

In this particular spread we see two members of Machineri, Sannie Fox and Andre Geldenhuys, somewhat self-consciously throwing supermodel shapes. There are others but these two are the only ones I recognise.

The main impression I gain from this spread is that Machineri's publicist must still be working hard for them to get them as much media attention as possible and possibly an extra income as models, even if this kind of mainstream fashion is not exactly rock and roll. In this day and age, though, one has to compromise with the corporate dollar to earn a crust from your main day job as bona fide rock star, or just an aspirational rock star. This is a small pond and if your media image is positive end ubiquitous, you can parlay a party trick into something approaching fame, or whatever passes for fame in South Africa.

The spread is 8 pages with photographs and text. Two males are featured: Spoek Mathambo (producer, designer, singer, DJ, rapper) and Andre Geldenhuys who is not the renaissance man Mathambo is made out to be. He is introduced merely as a guitarist and band member of Machineri. Where Mathambo resembles a parody of the guy from The Aloof, Geldenhuys poses like one of the more anonymous members of Alice In Chains, circa 1992. Mathambo is obviously not into neo-grunge; I guess Black dudes were not much into old school grunge either. Geldenhuys claims to be 27 and he must have infused the grunge from somebody else\s CD collection.

One of the problems with the youth of today is that they tend to look so much like the youth of some years ago. Grunge as a fashion was pretty much of a drag twenty years ago and nothing much has changed, except the age of the devotees.

The second chick singer in the mix is one Zoë Kravitz who is yet another multi-talented or at least multi-aspirational person. She is actor, singer, songwriter and member of Elevator Fight. Are these people serious about every aspect of their creative aspirations or is one or more of these facets merely the hobby while there is a core interest and talent? Hey, I am a lawyer, poet, writer, guitarist, songwriter and chef.

Zoë looks like someone who is small, feisty and trouble. She wears a little black dress and, in a solo spot, a white shirt and jeans combination that is classically sexy in a Patti Smith kind of way, though Zoë is more appealing to the eye. Hmm, I must seek out the music of Elevator Fight. Would it be more pussycat dolls or more punk rock? Sophisticated lounge-core prog rock? Math rock? Acoustic instruments, harmonies and songs about healing the hurt inside the world? Someone at W magazine must have thought Zoë connects with the youth of today who are likely to shop at Woollies.

One of my all-time favourite Page 3 models is a girl called Zoë who must be close to 30 now.

Second rock chick du jour is Gabi-Lee Smit who is also a mere guitarist and vocalist, in a band called The Pinkertons. I have no idea what they sound like, either. Reminds me of The Finkelstiens but that would be just my imagination, I guess. Why does Gabi-Lee not write songs? She looks like the kind of girl with something to say and those kinds of girls tend to want to say things and write songs if they happen to be in bands. Does Gabi-Lee even belong in the lustrous company of Zoë and Sannie Fox if she has such limited talents or aspirations?

I like the look of Gabi-Lee in her abbreviated short sleeve black and white plaid shirt (though plaid is a style I absolutely abhor) and tight short shorts, long thin legs and combat boots. Roadies dress like this, although maybe not as sexily. I also like Gabi-Lee's long, straight, dark hair and fringe that cover the eyes. She does not need Ray-Bans.

Then there is Sannie Fox. Actress, singer, songwriter and (mark you) electric guitarist in Machineri. She has been in a movie called Long Street and her band has played at venues in Long Street.

In one pic Sannie wears an off the shoulder America crop top and skinny red jeans with faded denim jacket tied around the waist. She shares the pic with Zoë and Sheila Marquez, a New York model who seems extremely superfluous to requirements. We are not told what other talents Marquez has. She sits, facing the camera while the other two appear to be dancing in front of a speaker or bas amp and next to a Vox amp. So very rock and roll. I can't see the handbags around which they were dancing.

In the last pic of the piece Gabi-Lee and Sannie lean against each other and where Gabi-Lee has fun with the setup, Sannie has an embarrassed, distant look in the one visible eye as if she is hoping the pay check will make up for this absurdity. Sannie wears another white top, denim jacket and red short shorts. Hey, maybe she is not into blue denim at all. Maybe red is her favourite colour. Her footwear is what I think of Cuban heeled Beatle boots and that must be an indication of my stunted fashion sense. Sexy, grungy shorts with Doc Martens obviously ain't the image anymore.

There is quite a bit of text in the 8 pages, mostly in the language of superheated publicist. Andre Geldenhuys lives in the here and now and in his head. Of course. Sannie Fox is fragile, soulful, open-hearted, tough and weary at the same time and fiercely private. All that and more. Without question.

What's my gripe? Nothing. Kudos to Machineri for being able to penetrate mainstream marketing opportunities. This is not the first time they've been featured in a South African glossy magazine and may not be the last time. Will this help them sell records? Perhaps. I would guess, though, that their sound is not exactly geared to great commercial success and if they want to make money from their music it will not be through selling CDs or even playing gigs.

The sound is defiantly anti-commercial in the pop song sense of that concept and this generally means that the songwriters cannot write pop songs for toffee and then turn this deficiency into a virtue. Does Sannie Fox enjoy wailing tunelessly simply because she has something serious and significant (to her) to say? The music has to carry the entire performance and bears the responsibility for grabbing our attention and making us stay. Who gives a damn for the private hell or private pleasures of the songwriter unless those insights touch the fucked up interior of the listener.

Music is not that important and not that significant. The world did not stop turning and music did not wither because Kurt Cobain topped himself. Courtney Love did not throw herself on the funeral pyre. Nevermind is significant for what it represented at the time, not for the actual content. Kurt did understand the need for a memorable hook, though, along with the crunchy guitar noise.

According to W magazine Machineri's debut album was released in July 2011. I have not seen it in my local Musica and I must find it. It is an album I want to own, as the on-line tracks I listened to a while ago sound mostly good and compelling. I saw Machineri for the first time last year, supporting The Pretty Blue Guns at Zula in Long Street, and my opinion was that the Blue Guns pretty much blew Machineri away because they had songs and Machineri had this free form noisy crap that is so tedious unless you are wasted and do not care anymore. The recorded songs have structure and some of them have hooks. Even so, I doubt that Machineri plays in the same league as the Blue Guns. The latter band just does not have the publicist's wet dream of a front woman like Sannie Fox or the same publicist. Can't see them in a retail brand's house magazine modelling middle of the road fashion tarted up as edgy. Might be their loss in the long run.

Machineri has the cogs. The cogs are oiled. They are cranked up to go. We just don't know how far yet.





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