Friday, June 20, 2008

And what have you been listening to?

Friends always like to know what their friends are listening to, but when I hear a new album I'm usually curious about what the artist has been listening to, both when writing and recording their albums. Here are some guesses:

Shai Hulud has definitely been listening to Further Seems Forever. If you take the vocals out of their latest album, Misanthropy Pure (but why would you? Those vocals are sweeeeet), a lot of parts sound like early FSF in particular, and even the hardest and fastest parts still have that Josh Colbert (primary FSF songwriter) flavor (if you have any real doubts, just listen to 1:44-1:51 on "Be Winged"). It makes for one of my favorite hardcore releases in recent memory.

Coldplay has, ironically, only been listening to themselves, but that's probably not surprising to many people. What is surprising is how Viva la Vida is also surprisingly reminiscent of Take Me To Your Leader-era Newsboys. The main guitar riff from "Violet Hill" as well as the bridge on "Lovers in Japan" smack of Peter Furler and his boys. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing at ALL.

Weezer have been listening to... well, a lot of things. If I had to guess I'd say Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, Joan Baez, Eddie Rabbitt, Abba, Devo, Pat Benatar, Bruce Springsteen, Grover Washington, Quiet Riot, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer, Debbie Gibson, Michael Jackson, the Fresh Prince (and Jazzy Jeff, I’m assuming), and Nirvana. (Sorry, that was a long joke, and not even funny, but I couldn't really resist.)

The worst offender as of late, and the real reason the subject came up, is the Offspring. Those guys have been pissing me off for years with blatant ripoffs. It's one thing to pay homage to someone, but when you blatantly reuse ideas (like on "Why Don't You Get a Job?," which pillages the Beatles' "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da") and achieve massive success with it, that's just bad form, as Capt. Hook would remind you. Their latest offense involves their single "Hammerhead," which steals so many dynamics from Rise Against's "Chamber the Cartridge" it should be illegal. Let's list them:
"Chamber" features an audio recording of the L in Chicago, eventually announcing "This is Noyes" (a stop on my way to work for many months, by the way, and I often thought about how sweet it would be to use that announcement as an album intro; RA beat me to it). As this is going on, a lo-fi drum roll starts, eventually joined by a dirge-like guitar riff. It eventually swells into a drum roll which leads into the (hi-fi) song.
"Hammerhead" starts with some (lo-fi) instrumental noodling before a crappy punk drumbeat starts up. Still lo-fi, a minor-key guitar riff joins it, then they play a fill which leads right into the (hi-fi) song.
Shouts of "Woah-oh-oh" are nothing new in pop or punk-rock, but the striking similarities between the two songs cannot be denied.
"Hammerhead" dissolves almost completely before returning with a much more groove-oriented rhythm that destroys any energy the song had. "Chamber," meanwhile, dissolves to a kick drum and a new guitar riff before returning with a groove-oriented rhythm that kicks serious ass.

It's been ten years since the Offspring's biggest hits, and I'd probably be running on fumes, too. But since Rise Against has burst on the scene (I hear them on KROQ more frequently that any other band -they currently have four singles from their latest album, The Sufferer & the Witness), people have been taking notice. It's not surprising that the Offspring are some of those people. But by copying the band poorly, all they really illustrate is the massive discrepancy between the two bands - the Offspring is a bunch of rich ex-hipsters (seriously, they've got a corporate jet with an anarchy logo on the tail - if that's not irony, I don't know what is), while Rise Against are probably on track to be the first band since Refused to break up due to how strongly they hold to their worldviews - but in the meantime they're giving us some of the most raucous, fist-pumping anthems in years.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


O.k., I swear I’ve been meaning to write a few lengthy articles here, but things have just been slipping away from me lately. I have been actively preparing a few things, though, and hopefully will post them all soon.

In the meantime I just checked Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s MySpace and discovered the best news of the fall – Oct. 7th will see the release of two albums: Animal! and not animal, as they call it. I’m super excited for both. Not animal actually has more songs that I’ve been dying to have recorded versions of (“Broadripple,” “As Tall as Cliffs,” “The Ocean”), but Animal! will also be great, I am convinced. I’ve seen plenty of crappy YouTube videos of new songs and have remained skeptical, but seeing the new songs performed live recently (in person) really blew me away. Sure, they weren’t all as instantly catchy as “Vampires in Blue Dresses” or “Quiet as a Mouse” (“German Motor Car” definitely IS as catchy, though), but the new songs showcase an increased musical depth and lyrical, well… psychosis may be the most fitting term. It all adds up to a bizarre, Tom Waits-meets-Anathallo-meets-Indiana sort of vibe, which is hard to quantify but sounds like nothing else. “At the Carnival” and “Love Song for a Schuba’s Bartender” creep along like black smoke, while the aforementioned “German Motor Car” has the most radio-ready opening they’ve performed before devolving into something else entirely, and “My Baby (Shoots Her Mouth Off)” is reminiscent of twothirtyeight’s “The Bathroom is a Creepy Place” (at least in its live incarnation), and we all know that sounding like twothirtyeight is never a bad thing (don’t we?).

I have now used far too many parentheses in this post. More soon.

P.S. - Animal! will be released only on vinyl and digital download, while not animal will be released on CD and digital download. Apparently that's how you solve a game of tug-of-war with your record label. Win-win for the fans!