The Pizza Underground sucks. I expected to see this sentiment echoed across the Internet but, to my shock, even Rolling Stone has gotten behind this horrendous band. I tried to let it go but just couldn’t. The truth needs to exist somewhere out there on the Web.
For the uninitiated, The Pizza Underground is Macaulay Culkin’s Velvet Underground tribute band that rewrites Lou Reed’s lyrics to be all about pizza. They posted an eight-minute medley on their Bandcamp page and have so far landed shows at The Sidewalk Cafe, Union Pool and Baby’s All Right, along with receiving multiple gig offers from around the world.
Around the world? Seriously? Granted, their shows are no cover, but still. The absurdity of it all is baffling.
I could rattle off a hundred reasons why The Pizza Underground stinks, but let’s stick to the top five for now.
Suck Point #1: Their performance is bad. Really bad. They can’t hold a steady tempo. Their “percussion section” sounds like a Kindergarten classroom banging on toys (in fact, I’ve taught Kindergarteners with a better sense of rhythm). They have five singers, which you’d think would mean lovely harmonies, but really their closest attempt at harmonizing is when one of them is just off-key (which happens often). Their transitions are sloppy. The highlight is Culkin on kuzoo, but, again, I’ve heard Kindergarteners play a better kuzoo riff. If this is supposed to be a comedic performance in which we let the musical side slide, they need to get funnier. And anyway, when Weird Al Yankovic does a funny parody, he nails it. Gets every chord and every note right. The Pizza Underground don’t just miss the mark, they butcher some classic rock-and-roll.
Suck Point #2: They’re using Lou Reed’s songs to advertise corporate chains like Papa John’s and Domino’s. This is an insult to his music and his memory. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying Lou wouldn’t have endorsed pizza. I’m saying he wouldn’t have endorsed Papa John’s and Domino’s pizza. Lou would have endorsed real, thin-crust, baked on the Lower East Side, New York-style pizza. He wasn’t a corporate stooge. He was a serious artist dedicated to exploring the dark side of life. Songs that The Pizza Underground parodied, like Heroin and I’m Waiting for My Man, aren’t goofy, light-hearted songs. They’re about real people and real struggles with addiction. This trivialization of art is exactly what Lou Reed stood against.
Suck Point #3: As I said in #1, it’s just not funny. I mean, I love puns. I’m the first to laugh, even if the pun is really cheesy (e.g., “I falafel honey, but we cantaloupe. My mother won’t lettuce. Peas understand.” Hahahahaha!). But, these guys aren’t even making bad puns. They’re barely even trying. “I’m waiting for the delivery man?” Come on, that’s merely adding in an extra word. If you’re going to exploit this song and its message, give it more effort, dudes.
Suck Point #4: The Pizza Underground doesn’t deserve these gigs, nor do they deserve the positive press they’re getting. I know dozens and dozens of bands that really rock. People who are writing original lyrics that actually say something, people who have mastered their instruments and are still motivated to practice and improve, people who pull all-nighters to record an EP on a smattering of home equipment before going off to their day jobs. Why aren’t these talented, dedicated bands landing gigs around the world? Why aren’t these bands getting blurbs on Rolling Stone’s website? They’d be psyched to play a no-cover show. They’d be more than willing to give an interview. Plus, their set is 45 minutes or longer, a solid amount of entertainment, not some measly, eight-minute medley. This sense of commitment to art should be rewarded with gigs and press. So why is The Pizza Underground getting them instead?
Suck Point #5: The ONLY reason this band has gotten any attention whatsoever is because Macaulay Culkin is the kid from Home Alone. Our society has a bizarre and disgusting obsession with celebrities, particularly child stars and where they are now. It seems that we as a society do not want quality art for entertainment but just want the fake rush of being near a celebrity, the fake feeling of coolness because we’re so in the know about what’s going on with who-and-who. This also ties into our obsession with rich people. These days, people are celebrities simply because they’re born rich. We no longer value talent and hard work; we value money and fame. To the point that if you have money and were once famous (even if it was twenty years ago), we’ll pack into a nightclub and drool over your shitty, disrespectful, not-funny cover band then rave about your epic performance on Twitter. Need I remind you, Lou Reed was one of the first modern celebrities to attempt to reject his fame. His album Transformer catapulted him from cult status to super stardom, and how did he respond to this? By releasing Metal Machine Music, 45-minutes of constant guitar feedback and nothing else. An album made for people exactly like Macaulay Culkin.
In conclusion, my friend Beki put it best: “Why does he get press? Because he’s Macaulay Culkin? Some stupid band about pizza? This disgusts me!”
I hear ya, sister. Despite Lou Reed’s amazing contributions to our society, this is the America we’re living in now.