Friday, July 25, 2008

Déjà Vu, Dude!


The Hold Steady’s new album “Stay Positive” is, to my ears anyway, a cross between “Born To Run” era Bruce Springsteen and Social Distortion. A friend at work substituted Social D. for Thin Lizzy, but agreed on the Boss . When you listen to it I don’t think there’s any way you wouldn’t hear the Boss’ influence; even Craig Finn (principal songwriter for the HS) admits that he is inspired by the guy in a big way.

Yet another friend of mine (yes, that’s two) said something today that kind of stuck. He said, and I‘m paraphrasing here, “You know, I can appreciate the effort and the fact the guy is influenced by Springsteen, but if you want to listen to something that sounds like the Boss why not just listen to the freakin’ Boss?”

Which brings me to the question of the day: has any rock record released in the last 20 or so years been truly original? How about the last 30? Or 40 years? Or is that a stupid question and besides the point, as rock and roll by definition is a hodge-podge of different musical genres anyway?

I dunno, I’m asking you.

Is Dylan just a Woody Guthrie clone? Were the Sex Pistols just a glamed up version of The New York Dolls and the Stooges? Did Nirvana just get lucky by riding the coattails of The Pixies and copying their soft-loud aesthetic at the right time? Do we have to go all the way back to friggin’ Robert Johnson to find a truly original voice?
Or is rock and roll an organic and ever changing cannibalistic
beast that devours then regurgitates it’s own past, eventually evolving into something totally fresh and unique?

Again, I don’t know.

I’m asking you.

4 comments:

ThomG said...

I hear EZ in them words about The Boss. But yes, originality exists. It is the record reviewers (and ourseleves) who put labels on music to get people to listen. "Who do they sound like?" "Well, they sound like (insert recognizable band)." That's how it works. "What does The Hold Steady sound like?" "The Hold Steady." "Huh?" ("Navy Sheets" is playing as I type this.)

Simon said...

I listen to a fair few people who do sound like other people: Paul Weller for instance, there is absolutely no doubt about what records he is listening to at any given moment. But what Weller has is his own personality that comes through. That's what makes it original.

I mean Springsteen might be an influence on The Hold Steady, but he was a pretty obvious guy when it came to influences wasn't he? And yet you cannot mistake a Boss record when you hear it.

Originality is not what people should look for. Personality every time. Originality is good, but a bunch of derivative songs can sound like the best thing ever if the creative talent behind it remembers to put something of themselves into the mix!

Uncle E said...

I would tend to agree with both you guys. Growing up in the 70's and 80's was a fantastic time for music, for me anyway, and since I didn't know any better it all sounded fresh and innovative to me. That music from those decades is still the benchmark for me, although I love a lot of stuff from the 90's and beyond.

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