You tune into Showtime on a Saturday night and find a heavyweight bout ready to commence. The setting of this match looks familiar, but also eerily different. Fascinated, you sit and watch, engrossed, as an old gray dude with hair in his ears steps up to a hanging microphone in the middle of a boxing ring, like LL Cool J in “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
“In this corner, weighing in at four members and five songs, the blisters on the asshat of the instrumental-music flock, the torrential titans of titular shock, the ragin’-Cajun-never-ever-flangin’-hit-you-hard-like-a-strange-case-of-mange-rock, BY... THE... END... OF... TONIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEGHTAH!”
[Crowd goes wild, throws panties and mini-bottles of gin.]
“And in this corner, the challenger, weighing in at five songs, the three-headed mega-stress-rawk pest, the best-in-the-West-caving-in-your-chest-like-a-ball-of-heartburned-stress, the Gladiators of Gauntlet-ian Musical Gall, the last band you’ll hear on the PA system at your local mall, TERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAM-M-M-MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELOSSS!”
[Crowd goes equally wild; they can tell that this is going to be a fight to remember.]
Announcer 1, Ken Kingsley: Good evening America, we welcome you to Temporary Residence Japanese Flower Garden tonight to witness one of the prime events of the sound-sparring season, a battle of wills between two bands who have been preparing for this duel their whole lives.
Announcer 2, Brian Bosley: That’s right Ken, and you couldn’t ask for a more evenly matched pair of acts. Two perennial powerhouses in the prime-time, limelight, star-gazing phase of their careers. Let’s take a closer look at each outfit:
[An ESPN graphic comes crashing onto the TV, segueing into one of those introduction segments that seem to be in every episode of Sportscenter and every Will Farrell film. Voiceover narration carries you through the intense mélange of images and statistics.]
“Young, dumb, and full-o'-drum: that is the way of the walk for frill-drunk By The End Of Tonight, a group of wild-eyed instrumental rockists who never seem to come down from their high. [Slow motion video of guitarists jumping through the air.] Toy percussion kits and leaps across small stages abound at their concerts, and though their combined ages fail to exceed the century mark, they make up for their bright-eyed, bushy-tail’d naiveté with well-honed skills and a penchant for the dramatic.”
[Graphics transition to a picture of a rag-tag threesome jamming out.]
“Speaking of dramatic, Tera Melos could pack a thousand silver screens with their vivid imaginations. Formed in the sunny climes of Roseville, California, the mealy-mouthed, methodical, clinical un-metal of this band could melt your face in the middle of a brain blizzard. [Video clip of guitarist Nick Reinhart throwing out a mean devil horns on a smoky stage.] Not much is known about this torrential trio of tangent-prone tuffs, and it only adds to their mysterique. Truly, if anyone can tangle with the tiger-obsessed By The End Of Tonight, it is the T-to-the-Melos.”
Announcer 1, Ken Kingsley: And we’re underway at Temporary Residence Flower Garden, both bands ready to parlay months of practice into a pure moment of undisputed glory. Tera Melos are the underdogs, to be sure, but that means very little once the bell rings...
Announcer 2, Brian Bosley: That’s right Ken, you’re not only right on the money but quite attractive as well.
KK: Thanks Brian, feel free to focus on the fight from here on out.
BB: Righto, hot-nuts. By The End Of Tonight are showing Tera Melos all kinds of looks early on, shifting from fleet-footed drum rolls and lurching nu metal-ish riffs to dainty dollops of quick-pickin’ frenzy. Most young acts wouldn’t be able to withstand such a dizzying flurry of styles, but Tera Melos aren’t your average young act.
KK: Bingo, Brian, you hit it on the head. Tera Melos look a little shaky-kneed right now but they’re anything but a glass jaw’d band, and they’re countering with tricks of their own. See how By The End Of Tonight followed an obligatory intro track with an all-out wash of rawk? Tera Melos are running a game of their own to counter the balls-out offensive, following the harmless, minute-long, fast-forward warm-up of “555-9676” with “Party With Tina,” a relentlessly punchy ath-may ock-ray tune with The Planet The-ish vocals, molten-metal thrash solo-ing, and Zach Hill-patented drum mischief.
BB: Tera Melos have been relatively impressive, but they’re looking a little faint right now. They’re going to have to whip out the big guns to compete on this stage...
KK: And that’s just what they’re doing. I think the tail-end of “Party With Tina” caught By The End Of Tonight off-guard with its southpaw trumpets and spiky drum jabs.
BB: Yes! You’re so right on Ken, I wish I could... I wish I could just fuck you, if I may go as far as to say so.
KK: Ohkaaaaaay, Brian, thanks. As we approach the end of the second round it’s apparent that neither of these bands are going to hit the tarmac without a fight.
BB: You’re right as rain Ken; the last time I saw two talents matched up this evenly was when Miracle Of Birth shared the ring with Child Abuse at Lovepump United Icecapades. That was, to say the least, quite a battle. Now, as both bands step into the ring for Round 3, it has become obvious that this will be a battle of riff attrition, with the spoils going to the band that’s still jamming when the final bell rings.
KK: And Round 3 is now underway: Two bands, one belt, and one big raspberry for the loser.
BB: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, hahaahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, that’s so funny Ken, you make me laugh! I... I love you.
KK: And I love post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-rock. Where else can you get such a wide variety of sounds, from song-long drum rolls to whale calls? Nowhere, that’s where.
BB: And how about By The End Of Tonight? Every time I think they’ve run out of ideas they spring something new on me. I’d assumed they had exhausted their entire arsenal in the first few rounds, then they came out with “Jealous of a Ghost” and its lunging, energetic cymbal-bell manipulation and palm-muting – at least I think it’s palm-muting – and proved me wrong.
KK: Don’t give Tera Melos the short straw, either. They came back from two stellar rounds and upped the ante, blowing this fight wide open with the cock-socking randomness of “When Worms Learn to Fly,” perhaps the best move made thus far tonight.
BB: Fuck yeah Ken, you rule; let me lick your face.................. Ahhhhhh. Now, By The End Of Tonight are reeling a bit after losing the edge during Round 3, but I can tell you from experience that they’ll come out stronger and harder than ever in Round 4.
KK: And that’s where you’re wrong – assuming anything when dealing with these cagey Austinites is an exercise in fuck-tility. They’ve come out in this, the fourth round, and flipped the script completely, toting a gentle atmospheric wash over their head and egging on the crowd. This could make or break the contest for them, Brian.
BB: You’re as wise as you are supple Ken, but give Tera Melos credit. This sudden morph has thrown them off their game a bit, but TM have countered with an unexpected move of their own, dipping into Color Wheel drone like a Kranky old indie vet. Well played, sirs.
KK: At the end of Round 4 we are completely knotted at 2-2.
BB: This is where the men are separated from the boys; the wheat from the chaff; the cock from the balllllz.
KK: And – no big surprise here – By The End Of Tonight have come out sluggin’ like Barry Bonds on triple-action muscle-juice, injecting the proceedings with even more displaced metal riffs and beautiful guitar interplay, care of two three-minute rabbit punches, “Ghost Boat” and “Elvis Never Didn’t Die.” They’re ducking, dipping, diving, dodging, dancing, wagging and weaving, and unless Tera Melos reach deep into their bag of trix they could be in trubbs, major trubbs.
BB: And reach into their bag of tricks they have, Kenballs. “Last Smile for Jaron” might be the most potent punch thrown so far. It lurches clumsily and gargles bubbly sound effects like Listerine, clocking in at six minutes when all is said and done. By The End Of Tonight have thrown more punches, but Tera Melos may have landed more.
KK: And after five rounds of musical murder it’s up to the judges to decide. No matter the outcome, both of these outfits should be proud of the effort they exhibited today.
[A four-member ringside jury talks amongst itself, passing papers back and forth and looking dignified. Our announcers pass the time by talking about the past and mentally undressing each other, at least in Brian’s case. Soon the announcer steps up to his microphone once again, this time to render the decision of the judges. Both bands wait hopefully in their corners and sweat, drummers nervously chewing the tips of their sticks and guitarists fingering their necks. After blah-blah-blah-ing for a spell, the announcer makes the decision of the judges known.]
“And the winner, by a score of 124 to 124... NOBODY! After all this build-up, we have a draw. Gay.”
[Crowd boos viciously while both bands exchange pleasantries, a lot less daunted by the decision than the crowd. They both put forth their best effort, and that’s all that could’ve been expected of them. And the indie-rock universe lives on...]