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I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A tangent about Band Of Horses

Describing a band by listing a bunch of other bands is about the laziest thing a music writer can do. It’s also one of the more helpful, because it’s how most regular people describe music. And it’s an underappreciated skill—being able to spot the right old band(s) a new band is ripping off requires a wide and deep knowledge of music. Otherwise you end up comparing everything to the Velvet Underground and Neil Young.

Band Of Horses is often compared to Neil Young. It also is compared to Built To Spill, Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, and The Shins. If you know any of these bands, you probably have an idea of what Band Of Horses sounds like. Unfortunately, it’s not the right idea. Because Band Of Horses sounds almost exactly like My Morning Jacket crossed with Supertramp and Jane’s Addiction. The first few times I heard the Band Of Horses record, Everything All The Time, I was convinced I was actually listening to Okonokos, the My Morning Jacket live album. Then I realized that, no, the singer sounds too much like the singer from Supertramp during the verses and Perry Farrell during the soaring choruses. And My Morning Jacket sounds more like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, and, um, Neil Young. Obviously, we are talking completely different influences here

This isn’t a matter of different people hearing different things on the same record. Critics who compare Band Of Horses to Neil Young or Flaming Lips are simply wrong, and obviously don’t have a suitably extensive classic rock record collection. This isn’t hard to prove. The Supertramp song “Dreamer” is in a new computer commercial. DVR it and play side by side with “Wicked Gil,” the best song off Everything All The Time, and tell me the Band Of Horses singer is more influenced by Wayne Coyne. (Who, let’s by frank, cannot sing a lick anymore.)

The drums and guitars on “Wicked Gil” are My Morning Jacketesque, the vocals are Supertrampesque, and the chorus is Perry Farrellesque. Since I like the bands that compose Band Of Horses, I like Band Of Horses, too. This is not a backhanded compliment. I can’t think of any artist that can’t be broken down into a handy formula comprised of other artists.

The Beatles=Motown+girl groups+Chuck Berry (Add Bob Dylan after Rubber Soul)

Bob Dylan=Woody Guthrie+Hank Williams+Robert Johnson+The Rolling Stones+Allen Ginsberg

The Velvet Underground=The Beatles+’60s Brill Building pop+Andy Warhol

Led Zeppelin=Muddy Waters+Howlin’ Wolf+Yardbirds+Cream

The Clash=Sex Pistols+Elvis Presley+Bob Marley

U2=The Clash+The Who+Preachy era John Lennon

The Replacements=The Beatles+The Rolling Stones+The Ramones+the Midwest

Nirvana=The Pixies+The Bealtes+Black Sabbath

Radiohead=Pink Floyd+The Smiths+Brian Eno+David Bowie

You get the idea. It’s not that some artists create something completely new and original while other, lesser artists merely reconfigure their influences and pass it off as their own. Every artist reconfigures, some are just less obvious about it. Being less obvious doesn’t make you better. Being better makes you better.

5 Comments:

Blogger Motorcyclejesse said...

I like your thinking here! I'm glad you're getting paid to notice these similarities, because I think you're astute and well-informed on this subject.

I often lament that people could better recognize these similarities when told "there's nothing new that I like." Some of my friends only like classic rock, for example. But those classic rock groups created their sound from their influences and also have influenced new bands. 'Tis the great continuum of music, particularly pop music!

So thanks for informing me of new bands I might like (I often pull from your lists to find new stuff, such as My Morning Jacket.)

Post more often!!

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. Post more often!!

3:03 PM  
Blogger Thomas Roz said...

"Critics who compare Band Of Horses to Neil Young or Flaming Lips are simply wrong, and obviously don’t have a suitably extensive classic rock record collection."

Um, bullshit. I hear Lips almost as much as I hear My Morning Jacket. And I don't hear any Jane's Addiction, though I don't think that makes either one of us wrong or right. That's just music, man. I'd post more, but the rest of my fucking in-depth analysis just got wiped out, and I don't have it in me anymore.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Thomas Roz said...

And dude, shoot me an e-mail one of these days. I don't have your address.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Nelroy said...

I like this. I like thinking up math equations to figure out a bands sound. I googled 'My Morning Jacket sounds like Supertramp' and found this blog. Me and my friend realized that not only their overall sound but the sometimes epic structure of their songs, the fun basslines and of course vocals are reminiscent of Supertramp. Of course Jims vox. It sounds like a combo of both guys from s-tramp. Hes got the high register of Hodgdson and the almost nasally and creamy? (almost Kermit D Frog-esque) aspect of Davies. For real. Check it out. Then after thinking reading this, i checked out more Band of Horses and agree that they are also kind of channeling Supertramp, then I thought about the Shins and other "newer" "indie" bands, and now I think theres a general S-tramp influence for a lot of them. Maybe the bands dont even realize it or their embarrassed to say it (dont know why, Supertramp is incredible. I dunno, but I like the comparison.

4:19 PM  

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