06 October 2009

I Bought This on Amazon for less than a Pack of Cigarettes

Wait. Stop the presses. There's been a mix-up. These days, if you read Rolling Stone or watch MTV you invariably end up hearing about this band, Kings of Leon. And then, you think for a minute and then you remember. "Ah, yes," you say. "They were that band that wrote the dirty, scuzzy rock ditties while endorsing a life experience of debauchery and what have you." And then you think about how much they changed up their sound while not changing the lyrics in order to achieve this stardom. If the music matures, then shouldn't the lyrics take on a more critical eye approach in order to represent fully-realized art? The reason I say this is because when you listen to the first Kings of Leon album, they don't exactly sound like a band that is supposed to be adored years down the road. It's kind of haphazard, and sounds like its just happening in the moment. This writer didn't sit down and listen to the Kings of Leon because there's no need for that, but rather he procured a copy of The Walkmen's Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone. And this band, on their 2002 debut sound like a band with a plan. 
There's a deliberateness on each song that hits you like a kiss when this record is on. Bad Grizzly Bear joke aside, this album is one tight package. According to the internets, back when this album was about to be released, The Walkmen were being shown on MTV. However, this is back when The Strokes were first starting out and it seems a safe bet to think that MTV was just scrambling to get their hands on any New York City rock band with "The" in their title. This is right before the rug got pulled from underneath all major music outlets. First, it was The Strokes, and then it was The White Stripes, and so on and on. These bands started getting played on the radio, and shortly thereafter people started realizing that there were more fresh sounds to be found on the internet and underground. The Walkmen kind of got lost in the shuffle, but not because they're shitty but rather because their sound doesn't hit you over the head. It takes time for it to grow. Kind of like Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 which lacks a "Wow" factor on first listen, but eventually one realizes that they are listening to a really great record. 
I didn't fully realize that I liked this album, until last night. I was pretty sure I did, but the fuse hadn't been lit yet. I was thinking about what this album reminded me of, and I was coming up with answers like "kinda-sorta similar to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" and "like Dr. Dog except with more instruments". While in hindsight, those are pretty shitty comparisons what struck me about them was the fact that both of those bands started releasing materials after The Walkmen. This disc has a familiar sound to it in a way, and it's just one of those things. Not to go on too long, but it's like The Walkmen nailed a particular brand and as time progressed others have been able to duplicate a similar aesthetic. There's a slight smudge of pastiche in the music as well, which also probably contributes to its ability to be duplicated yet still enjoyed. Want to know something embarrassing? When I bought Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and I heard Pavement for the first time and was then in total awe and wonder, someone asked me what the band sounded like. And I told him that I thought it sounded like a cross between Weezer-style melodies and Modest Mouse-like vocalizing. It was later that I conducted some internet research and discovered that Pavement was way, way ahead of the curve. Lesson learned, but it also goes a step further. I would like to propose a theory in which if a band's sound reminds you of other, newer bands' sounds, then the initial band in question is probably pretty good. This theory can now be set on the shelf next to my other theory that any movie worth a damn has shit that blows up in it. 

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