Rock column -rws ptg -jcr -dlh

Paul Karner

The underground rock scene has always carried a bit of a pretentious stigma with it, some of which isn’t completely unwarranted. It’s that separatist attitude that inspires these musicians and fans to skew from the norm and push the envelope of what’s generally accepted as cool.
In recent years, MTV has been snatching up more artists from outside the mainstream and hipsters all over have been struggling to find new ways to redefine hip. The most curious phenomenon to come out of this has to be the geek chic movement. Although it has long been popular in the way of fashion, in recent years, it has begun to seep into the actual music. Bands all over the place are beginning to trade in their Fender Strats for computers, banjos, Casio keyboards, and hell, even accordions.
The geek factor has perhaps peaked with the most recent addition to the anti-hip movement: a quaint little family known as the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. The Trachtenbergs, Jason (keyboards / lead vocals), Tina (slide projector), and 10-year-old daughter Rachel (drums / backup vocals), have been touring for the past couple years and earning curious praise all over the country.
Showcasing hits such as “Mountain Trip to Old Japan, 1959,” “European Boys,” and even a six-song suite taken directly from the 1977 McDonald’s Corporation (OPNAD) contribution study report. The Trachtenburgs recently released “Vintage Slide Collections from Seattle Vol. 1,” an entire album based on taking slideshows from the lives of anonymous strangers and composing around them what Jason calls “pop exposs.”
The shtick has been the same since they started, and as off-kilter as it seems, the music is no reconciliation. The album sounds like Tim DeLaughter of the Polyphonic Spree leading a Sunday school sing-along, complete with the atonal harmonies supplied by Rachel Trachtenburg. Jason Trachtenburg calls it art, others would call it funny or even silly.
Nonetheless, there is something truly sincere in this “take it for what it is” mentality that is becoming more and more rare in music these days. As MTV continues to rule the industry and bands continue seeking a glorified image and a big-name label to justify their existence, there’s always a breath of relief when a group emerges with something unique to offer without the bitter taste of self-promotion that leaks into so much music out there today.
As the indie rock scene has been replacing its affinity for angst and self-loathing with the new aesthetic of irony, perhaps the Trachtenburgs are just an extension of this movement, just a short-lived novelty act. However, given the state of music these days, I believe the Trachtenburgs have successfully emerged simply and magnanimously as, well, artists.