Monday, January 4, 2016

Game Theory Were Just Okay

Everyone's trying to find that lost genius out there that will prove to everyone that they have discovered something incredible you didn't grasp or understand because you're not special enough to have done so:

In mid-December, Omnivore Records announced a reissue of Game Theory’s 1987 double LP, “Lolita Nation.” To say the news was long-awaited is an understatement: The album has been out of print and nearly impossible to find on CD for many years (unless you want to shell out big bucks on eBay), and it’s considered by many to be the finest work produced by songwriter Scott Miller. Although known as a power-pop touchstone, the Mitch Easter-produced “Lolita Nation” is actually far denser and more complicated than that tag might imply: The collection leapfrogs through genres and sounds—theatrical synthrock, psych-torqued pop, swaggering jangle-rock, British Invasion exuberance, soul-jazz moodpieces—with fluid grace and ease.

One of the more bittersweet aspects of the “Lolita Nation” reissue is that Miller isn’t here to see it, as he took his own life in 2013. His unexpected death stunned fans, and spurred an outpouring of grief and admiration from musicians, journalists and fans alike. One such admirer was Boston-based journalist Brett Milano, who recently published a compelling, comprehensive biography of the musician, “Don’t All Thank Me at Once: The Lost Pop Genius of Scott Miller.” (More information and places to buy the book are here.)

There was a time in the early 1990s when I listened to these records. I owned them, and I sold them off because I didn't find anything in them worth hanging on to. Not bad, just not great. I still have Donette Thayer's collaboration with Steve Kilbey because, yeah, Kilbey is an actual genius and has the catalog to prove it. She was a bigger deal than Miller, if you want to get right down to it. Game Theory was an interesting attempt at a band, but it was all too obscure and pretentious. You can make the case that Scott Miller was a genius, but he was actually just another pretentious indie artist from the 1980s and 1990s who got to make some records. They didn't sell because people didn't get into them. Dime a dozen, man. Dime a dozen.

That doesn't mean Miller was an obscure genius. And it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with really liking Game Theory. There's also nothing wrong with saying meh, either. People felt the same way about Royal Crescent Mob, Pere Ubu, Wire Train, The Rave-Ups, The Rainmakers, and Fire Town. Where does it get you? I have no idea, either.

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