Tuesday, September 14, 2010

regarding band comparisons.

I received a promotional copy of an album in the mail yesterday for an up-and-coming singer/songwriter. I read the press release before putting on his EP, which was probably a bad idea since his publicist saw fit to compare him to Radiohead and Wilco. Those are lofty tags, and they made me laugh out loud when the album came out. Dude was turning out a Starbucksy soft rock/country hybrid. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it was boring, something that the hyperbolic one sheet exacerbated. I get why his publicist compared the guy to Radiohead (They're popular!), but it's still wrong. With that in mind, here's an open letter to publicists: THE FOLLOWING BANDS ARE UNTOUCHABLE. DON'T PRETEND YOU KNOW THE NEXT BIG THING.

Radiohead: Now, I actually don't like Radiohead. I like a handful of their songs, but overall, not a fan. But I still recognize their sizable cult and sound. So I know that "RIYL Radiohead" is code for "wiener faux rock." Bands that claim to sound like Radiohead don't know how to use guitars. They sing without balls. Bands that claim to sound like Radiohead actually sound like Coldplay.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band: When bios say a band recalls The Boss, they really mean they sound like John Cougar Mellencamp. They might sing about the working class and use classic riffs and big orchestration, but they still don't sound like Bruce. No one else has his grand poetic vision. The Hold Steady comes close with the rhyme schemes and The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon does a good imitation, but even they can't match the E Street Band's arrangements.

Jawbreaker/Hot Water Music: Code for "gruff songs about drunks, beards optional." Jawbreaker and HWM get tossed around so much that I don't even know what those comparisons mean anymore. Sure, Banner Pilot seems poised to be "the next Jawbreaker," but that's more in spirit than in sound. Most punk bands jockeying for these labels are too straightforward; they can't match the twists and bursts of Jawbreaker near the end of their career, or HWM during the pre-Epitaph days.

My Bloody Valentine: My Bloody Valentine was atmospheric but rocking. Plenty of bands approximate elements of their sound (M83, Jesu, Deftones), and those bands can be good. But there's only one original.

The Cure: There is no way you think this is as good as "Just Like Heaven." Look me in the eye and say that.

The Beach Boys: There's a school of psychedelic indie/folk that aspires to Brian Wilson's dense orchestration and vocal arrangements, but never gets there. Truth is, Pet Sounds is lusher and Wild Honey and Smiley Smile are druggier than anything these dipshits with hard-ons for audio loops will ever concoct.

The Ramones: Well, unless you're Screeching Weasel or Teenage Bottlerocket. Then it's cool.

No comments: