Is there something inherently wrong with a current band/musician sounding almost identical to a band/musician of the past? I’m not sure. I’ve been asking myself this question again lately. A couple of years ago I heard this song, Lower Leg, on the radio by a band called Wetdog. At first I was like, this is good, this must be some song by Kleenex/Lilliput that I haven’t heard before. Maybe there was some promo single or something that just came out. But no. The dj said it was Wetdog. Fucking weird cuz it sounded exactly like Kleenex/Lilliput. From the vocals down to the guitar to the sound of the production. But Wetdog was current. Their song was brand new. So while originally I was enjoying the song, once I realized it was brand new and by a band that sounded exactly like another, I was instantly turned off. Disappointed I guess.
But should I have felt like this? Something about it bugged me. I felt like, what was the point of making a song, making music that sounds exactly like something that already exists. I understand making music that has a similar vibe, aesthetic, sound, element, etc. That’s bound to happen. You grow up listening to something, and some part of that is going to come out in what you play, what you make. That’s inevitable. But I feel like the point is to take your inspirations and add something unique, however small, to it. Otherwise why bother, just be in a cover band. There’s tribute and there’s appropriation. Maybe biting is a better term.
Just recently I came across two more examples of this and it got me thinking about this again. The first was this band called the Sediment Club. Who in theory I should like. Cuz they’re like no wavey arrhythmic guitar squall chime etc. But something about their sound bugs me. It’s like just too similar to the original no wave product. The vocal delivery, the guitar sound, the drums. It’s like you can identify each element individually instead of it all just blending together and coalescing into something new. The guitar is just too similar to Arto Lindsay in DNA. There’s just slightly too much Contortions happening. But should this matter? Cuz, it does sound good. But if you added it to a comp of original no wave material it wouldn’t sound out of place. Is it biting? Or is it adding something new?
The second example is this new album by this British saxophonist, Nat Birchall. If I didn’t know it was a brand new album that just came out this month, I would’ve thought I was listening to an album that was released in like 1972 on Impulse or something. Which in theory is great! There are some amazing Impulse records out there. The first track called Ancient World began and I was thinking, wow this is a great intro. Nice bells and droney piano, but then at about a minute in, the saxophone comes in and it’s like fucking John Coltrane. Like too much identical to Coltrane. The sound of the recording is clearly new, but overall the vibe is too similar, the aesthetic is too similar, the fucking harp is too similar. I do understand loving Coltrane, cuz I love Coltrane, but to totally ape him is weird to me. Make something new. Make a tribute to him, but make it your own, in your own voice.
So this bothers me, but should it? Should I care? Is this a worthwhile issue? I mean it’s not like the music is bad, at all. It just seems to lack its own voice. And is it even crucial/necessary to add your own voice to your music? Or am I just being picky – a snob, a hater, a curmudgeon, a douche? Maybe. But it is my gut reaction. And I think I have to go with my gut on this.
Here are some links so you can investigate for yourselves. And you might like these musicians. And if you do you should definitely buy their stuff cuz they are technically very good, active musicians who probably need your support. And I totally understand liking the music.