Musica de Fondo: MTV Unplugged
Some bands just don't translate well to an unplugged setting (though that did not stop Korn), but with Zoé, it was obviously not going to be the case, not with the source material being melodic alt-rock steeped in Brit-pop influences. Hypnotic, melancholic guitar-based stuff -- even given the band's love of keyboard arrangements, it's hard to ask for a better setup from which to proceed with unplugging those delay and distortion pedals. It was even too good, perhaps; it's actually easy to forget that Musica de Fondo is an acoustic record -- it's just too polished, the soundscape too full, the rhythm section too powerful and flawless, and the still-present synthesizers are, frankly, the same kind of cheating as that lead guitar on Nirvana's "The Man Who Sold the World." This is not to say the band just faked it -- the songs are dutifully rearranged into a new setting, with most of the post-punkish licks, speedy beats, and reverberating guitar textures ditched, and pianos, cellos, and even the occasional Jew's harp brought in. And it's actually a good record in its own right -- quiet, wistful, and yet not without a bounce: see the rhythm in "Infinito," for example, which is nothing if not an acoustic-based nighttime dancefloor ditty. But much like Zoé's studio albums, their MTV performance feels detached, psychedelic, a bit otherworldly, and it's not really how this kind of show is meant to sound -- which is intimate and stripped down to the basics, eliminating the distance between the band and the audience. A good, moving record, no question about it; just not really an unplugged one.