Eight Bits for a Night of Pain

A Review of the Letters to Cleo and Cliffs of Donneen Show at Strat's Rat
or A Real Step Down From that Guns and Roses Review Last Summer

by Jason Bucy

Letters to Cleo and Cliffs of Donneen are two local ``rock'' bands that recently played at the SCC's Strat's Rat, or ``Come Watch Two Cheap Bands For a Buck and Maybe Get Drunk If You Want.'' Actually, it cost two dollars this time around (I wonder if the admission to Strat's Rat is averaged with LSC's ticket price in that national consumer index thingie?). The Cliffs of Donneen play for free all the damn time at MIT, and I was loathe to pay two bucks to see them, but Peter and I really needed to punt and get the hell out of our house, so we walked across the Harvard Bridge, kissed two dollars good-bye and strode into the middle of Letters to Cleo's set. Oh boy.

Everyone on stage had hair of a very trendy length, as though they were still catching up to us real longhairs, or perhaps only wanted to have to flip their hair out of their eyes all the time, to call more attention to it. At first I only saw two people in the room I knew; I didn't even like one of them. I began to notice the subtle twisting of reality that had turned this punt zone into a torture chamber.

First off, nobody was smoking. NOBODY. These freaks respected the laws of Cambridge or something. Second, the band was playing rip-off Cranberry-style rock with whispery vocals. Sorta like every other band like that. They reminded me of a slogan a cheesy cover band once used: ``The drunker you are, the better we sound.''

Mikka asked us how many Sam Adams would be a bad idea for him to go to Athena on. Before we could pursue this intellectual inquiry further, the singer for Cleo started whining that the audience should call up 'ZLX and request their songs, and apparently if we didn't, she would plead with every other poor college crowd she played for. She must have mentioned WMBR as well, because someone in the audience told her that 'MBR didn't like Cleo. She looked aghast and whined, ``'MBR doesn't like us?'' I yelled, ``It's probably because you SUCK!!!'' but she had a microphone, so she won.

All the band members were wearing stupid striped shirts, reminiscent of the Umpa-Lumpas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These two dumb looking guys stood right in front of the stage (it had heretofore looked as if Cleo was playing ultrasonic roach repellent noise, to keep the West Campus people away). It seemed to us that the two men were doctors, drinking Bud, but eager to diagnose the twitchings and frothing of the lead guitarist. The guitarist was skillful at leaving the improvisational part out of his solos, and the bastards didn't play ``Freebird'' when we asked.

There was a brief respite when Cleo's set ended, and then Cliffs of Donneen started warming up. I immediately began fantasizing... the room at last filled with smoke, people spitting on the floor in the back, and an SCC member taking the microphone in hand. She would say, in a mock disappointed voice, ``Sorry, folks, but the Cliffs have been accidentally incinerated in a freak microwave incident involving the new bagels at the Coffeehouse. So the replacement band will be... Rage Against The Machine!!'' Then all hell would break loose...

I was shaken from my reverie by Mikka asking me how many Sam Adams would be a bad idea for him to walk up the stairs on. The Cliffs started their show on an especially pathetic note. The singer was mumbling and whining about his girlfriend in a small town or something. GET REAL. Like these guys have ever been past Porter Square. I know small towns. They're not worth writing songs about. You can't ``be yourself'' in a small town. Everyone is repressed and drunk and bored and racist and the whole experience is as romantic as killing a rat in your Froot Loops.

At least these guys conditioned their hair. The people in Cleo had rat's nests and Lets Dread! (tm) in their hair, but these guys had nice, shiny, long, straight to wavy, HAIR. Or extensions; I can't tell. The lead singer was wriggling like a worm on a hook. Maybe he sold his backbone for rock 'n' roll. There was entirely too much reverb. It was like hearing each song twice. They started their second song, even sounded promising for 15 seconds, then lapsed back into dance-a-billy cheese metal. I looked at the crowd dancing to this affront to the ear. I began to realize that this bunch of geeks needed to get to a real show, and really dance, instead of wobbling around to this garbage. Even if it killed them. Preferably if it killed them.

Stealing riff after riff, they pounded out a third song. It was replete with whooping and cheesy acoustic guitar, and really grating, whiny lyrics. I mean they were severely bugging me. The singer was just so lame, so posing, so ANNOYING, QUIT WHINING!! GODDAMMIT, QUIT YER FUCKING WHINING YOU POSER LONGHAIR FREAK!!! But hey, this song is a tiny bit slower than that almost danceable rhythm the Cliffs always play, so everyone's dork-dance circuits shut down. Everyone really wanted to dance, but they all ended up sort of bouncing at a 7:3 resonance to the beat and falling over. At least most everyone in the band was tall. It would really suck if I had been watching little short people twitch like that. I'd have had to club them like the epileptic dwarves they were.

Mikka asked me how many Sam Adams would be a bad idea to operate an elevator on. Then lead singer said something about, ``Hey, it's okay to mosh.'' What the fuck is this moshing everyone spooges about? I've slammed people. I've never moshed someone. Besides, slamming is for losers (hey look, a whole cafeteria-full!) who can't dance. ``I can't dance, so I'll fall onto you,'' seems to be their credo. I weep for the future.

Karl thought the Cliffs were good for a local band. I agree that they are more polished than a high school punk band, but they struck me as so much less genuine. Only one was wearing ripped jeans, all of their clothing looked new, and there was no leather, no spitting, no pissing, just more practice. Their song writing was totally unoriginal. And remember, kids, any guitarist sounds like a fucking genius with the reverb on full.

Awright! Just then the dorks started ``moshing.'' They failed to hit each other as they hopped around. I guess you could call it Slamming Light. Looks Dumb, Less Killing. After a while, the singer started plugging these Cliffs of Donneen t-shirts that look about as fashionable at a pair of stained Hanes.

Meanwhile, nearly all of this grad student punk band had showed up at the show, drawn by the scent of Sam Adams. The bassist had this lascivious sort of Village People look on his face, but I think that's how he always looks. The guitarist picked his nose and attempted to care about the show. The drummer just watched the band, shook his head a lot, and drank more and more beer. Hey, at least these guys had an ample supply of leather. Maybe they could steal the Cliffs' instruments, beat them over the heads, and play some real music...

I'd finally figured it out by this time. Jane's Addiction, new U2, and Pearl Jam have a musical orgy. Cliffs of Donneen are their inbred, bastard, club-footed, autistic spawn. Mikka asked me how many Sam Adams would be a bad idea to try breathing without life support on and said, ``What a lame pit! How's anyone s'posed to get hurt?'' Then the band launched into ``Once'' by Pearl Jam. Except it wasn't ``Once''. Well, it was, except for the lyrics. Holy shit, they stole most of the song. I saw then that the singer was actually kind of short. Damn dwarf. After the song, he whined about ``all the crap and bullshit we had to go through.'' I was in tears, let me tell you. All those copyright violation lawsuits must have been very taxing on the thieving bastards. But then I breathed a lung full of relief (sans smoke). It was 12:35 am, time to shut this show down.

Oh shit. They came out for an encore. I loaded my pistol and aimed carefully for my medulla, but it was too late. They played the main riff of ``Evenflow'' by Pearl Jam. And the other riffs. The entire melody. Every last note, down to the solo, down to the twitching and ``Huh!''ing, just with the Cliffs' own very lameass lyrics. Have these fiends no SHAME!?! Where the hell do they get off STEALING all that music? What the FUCK is wrong with this picture?? I'll tell you what, THEY SUCK!! THEY TOTALLY FUCKING BLOW DISEASE-RIDDEN DOG!!! That's what! I still can't believe my two dollars went to support this joke. I never want to listen to that guy masturbate his guitar again. I should have brought earplugs. It's terrifying to think I could lose even one hearing cell for these wankers and their cheesemetal-grunge-fusion-belly-button-lint. Nuke 'em from orbit, man. It's the only way to be sure.