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.