I wish that record companies, publicists, and critics for that matter, would kick the habit of feeling the need to describe artists in terms of other artists in their press releases and reviews. This is especially true when, as if often the case, the influences are perfectly obvious, even to the least musically astute among us. It’s lazy, and unnecessary. Let’s face it, there’s very little that is new under the sun in the world of popular music. How artists use what has gone before, together with the passion of the performance, is what determines the value of new music.
My CD copy of The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar) came complete with an eight page booklet full of publicity releases, reprints of old magazine articles, and reviews of the second album by the Montreal band. I’m going to tell you which artists these writers want us to know that the band sounds like, but only because I want to demonstrate what I’m ranting about. As you will see, it gets pretty damn specific:
The Beach Boys (more Dennis Wilson than Brian)
Fleetwood Mac (more Peter Green than Lindsey Buckingham)
Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks-led)
The Alan Parsons Project
Whew! That’s a lot to live up to, right? I should note that the Beach Boys were referenced in nearly every story, and Christ, talk about bludgeoning you over the head with the obvious, that influence is obvious from the beginning of the first song. Do these writers feel special because they think they hear something others don’t? Forget it.
Ah, maybe I’m just in a mood. It’s a really cool album, full of gritty electric guitars, some nice group harmony, pretty melodies, ethereal atmospherics, and just plain old good song writing. The record company says that there is some kind of war-inspired theme afoot here, something about spies and coded messages. Could be. I guess I just wasn’t able to break the code. But the songs are cool.
I really like “Albatross”. Now it does feature Olga Goreas singing the lead vocal, so I guess that means your Fleetwood Mac alert should sound. And there are those harmonies, although to me they sound more Brian than Dennis Wilson. But maybe you can just accept it for what it is, which is a really good song, part of a very solid second album, from a very good young band. And if you catch me defining one artist in terms of another, and you probably will (that’s what music writers do when we’re out of ideas), please call me on it. In the meantime, enjoy some cool new music.