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By Matt Weiss | Nov. 1, 2004
What’s in a gimmick? At least five songs, or so Williamsburg upstart Square Circle seem to think on their debut E.P., a collection that defiantly kicks cohesion, consistency, and originality to the curb in the name of... I don’t know what. Ego?
Earlier this year, the four aspiring models who comprise Square Circle convinced each other to drop out of Eastover College, a de facto castle in upstate New York, in order to hone their craft and share their offerings with the world. The only problem is that their particular gift is literal mimicry: each song on the album is a carbon copy of music someone extremely famous has already made, so identical in songwriting and production it's uncanny... And uncannily devoid of a voice of its own. It would miss the mark to say Square Circle sound like a cover band because they sound like multiple cover bands, selected with less discernment than an abandoned jukebox: The Stooges, The Beach Boys, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere-era Neil Young, The Supremes, My Bloody Valentine, or… Olivia Newton John? (Okay, the last one isn't on the E.P., but the band notoriously has been closing shows with a cover of, yes, really, Newton John's 1981 pop smash "Physical.") You're waiting for the joke to be over, but it's never over. It would be interesting, if it were interesting.
Stranger than Square Circle's scattershot sensibility (the word is an overstatement) is that the band seems to be taking the kids by a storm. This past summer, they earned themselves a mildly coveted Thursday-night residency at Williamsburg upstart The Monkey's Paw, playing alongside the infinitely superior and much more adventurous Root Cure. Of the two bands, though, it's Square Circle who seem to have the line of girls streaming out the dressing room door, while we rock critics stand back and speculate that maybe - hopefully - this is all a matter of sex appeal. The nicest thing I can say about Square Circle is that they do genuinely seem to have that.
But perhaps chalking it all up to money and cheekbones shirks a more serious notion: that people may actually like Square Circle. If that's true, what this record makes painfully clear is that the rising generation - a generation less than a decade younger than myself, I should note - has developed such incredible A.D.D. that they are no longer able to pledge their allegiances to anything. Instead we get E.P.s like this one, by liberal arts fuck-ups who imitate and appropriate everything in sight, who lack vision so profoundly that they can't even keep their schtick consistent. Knockoff "bands" like Square Circle show us how rock'n'roll will die: not with a bang or a whimper, but with an imitation of a whimper.
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