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2005-07-26 09:19
by Will Carroll

The music business is mired in sameness (and payola, but that's for a different post.) so why am I listening to some music that can easily be described in terms of its comparables? Simple - similarity is not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that an A&R can run back and say "this band sounds just like ________" simply makes it more likely to be a positive in signing, assuming that you fill in the blanks with a commercially viable act.

Blue Merle can fill in the blank easily. Even a quick listen will immediately draw Coldplay comparisons. Luke Reynolds sounds amazingly like Chris Martin and the band's sound recalls what Coldplay would sound like if Martin and the boys had grown up in Nashville. Replace Coldplay's piano with dreamy string arrangements and a mandolin seemingly lifted from Nickel Creek and you can almost hear Blue Merle. Now that the stew's ingredients are laid out, the band's first album "Burning In The Sun" comes out as something more than the sum of its parts. Songs like "Lucky To Know You" and the title track are nearly as soaring as anything on X&Y while others have a country/bluegrass edge that is as longing as recent Allison Krauss. After seeing Coldplay sing with Richard Ashcroft at Live 8, a song named "Bittersweet Memory" seems calculated, but in a perfect world, that song would be on the charts.

James Blunt is getting a lot of play in the UK now and there are immediate comparisons to Damien Rice. Rice's sublime "O" may be one of my favorite albums of all time so that's high praise. Blunt isn't as cinematic or sweeping as anything in Rice's catalog. He relies more on his high tenor, twisted lyrics, and more of a pop sound to convey what he's trying to get across. Blunt's album is good on its own, yet it's also the type of album that makes me really excited about the next one. A little bit more maturity and polish makes Blunt one to watch.

Fall Out Boy sounds like every other emo band in the world. On the first listen, that is. A couple more plays and you'll hear the little extras they hide behind the snarky song titles and conventions of the genre. Their lyrics are just a little bit smarter, their music just a little bit tighter, and each song has a little bit extra that pushes the band as a whole from good to great. They stand with Alkaline Trio and My Chemical Romance as bands that will likely break out of the bounds of emo, but Fall Out Boy - already getting MTV action somehow - are the ones that are likely to make the best music.

Of course, sameness isn't everything. Try explaining the sound of Oingo Boingo to someone and you'll find yourself at a standstill. XM had a great interview with Danny Elfman on their "Cinemagic" station (one of my favorites) discussing his film scores, bringing me back to his early work. Given hindsight, one can certainly hear echoes of his "Batman" and "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" scores in Oingo Boingo's work. If someone saw "Sommersby" coming, let me know. It ranks with the best of modern film scores.

2005-07-26 11:23:27
1.   Jiraiya
This seems like a perfect opportunity to plug my band, Lucius Warbaby - I hope you don't mind. I'm a regular reader (looking forward to hearing more news about the gyroball), and I just thought this would be a good opportunity to chime in.

If you're interested in something less commercial, something unique that is still high quality, we have some tracks from our upcoming CD available for listening and free downloading on our myspace site.

The URL is

You don't need to sign up or anything to hear or download the music.

People's opinions on the band's 'sound' are often either complex or vague. We've been called 'Gangsta Rock', compared to Living Colour, and one guy told us that we reminded him of Bad Brains. The guy that plays Jay from Jay and Silent Bob told us that we sounded like 'Blue Oyster Cult with a hint of the kind bud', whatever that means. We've run into dead ends from time to time in the music industry because people aren't sure how to classify us, and we've confused bookers who don't know what kind of bands to book us with.

2005-07-26 17:27:41
2.   tem213
Will - If you like Alkaline Trio, check out Tuesday, Dan Andriano's previous band. Very raw, but good stuff. And if you like the ska/punk thing, his band before that, local local Chicago "legend" Slapstick was also pretty good.
2005-07-26 20:22:20
3.   Smed
Try to explain early Wall of Voodoo as well. Some early Boingo is brilliant. And then there's stuff like the Three O'Clock.

In fact, what the industry is missing now is brilliant originality. Even newish bands I like are all emulating and copying things. Where's the innovation?

I guess they don't mint Captain Beefhearts anymore.

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