Please Chew Your Influences Before Swallowing

J Frank got some leakage straight from the source. But biz before plez:

Nice little piece on the Boredoms in the Neu Jorker this week, although J Frank scooped his fact checkin’ cuz SFJ about, oh, five months ago. And I made the Alice Coltrane connection before him. Nyah-nyah. Although I did enjoy Yamatsuka Eye’s comment about putting the security video image, of a thief who stole Eye’s artwork, on a t-shirt. I need to have me one.

Same issue contains an article about web journalism and blogging and the changing face of journalism, ie weblogs not being controlled by the same corporate concerns of large print or electro news outlets. Yawn. Just let it happen without the trend-watching rhetoric, eh? Save it for the history books? Why even churn the ‘is blogging just cb radio” debate, something surely proven false by the consistent popularity, proportionally and globally, of shortwave radio despite the death of radio as a viable entertainment medium?

Pardon my bandwagon-ing, but how about this weather? But seriously, folks, I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve never, in my life, experienced weather this hot in the NYC area. It hurts. To quote someone in every disaster movie 1972-78, we’re all gonna die.

In September, Drama Club Records will release The Changes’ Today is Tonight. Band member Darren Spitzer was nice enough to email me a five track preview, following my comments about his band’s similarities with Prefab Sprout. He tells me that the band hadn’t listened to Prefab Sprout before a few months ago. He rightly guessed that this would surprise me, but only at first, because I realize this explains the difference between retro and inventive; the latter means your influences are properly digested, and sometimes therefore un-nameable, part of you, from the ether, the Oversoul, blah blah blah.

In music, talent and genetics are fate, alike to the concept of character being fate, in fiction. If your voice sounds like Paddy McAloon’s, of Prefab Sprout, you’ll probably find your way to making similar music, even if you haven’t heard Prefab Sprout. Otherwise, you might fail. If your voice is alike to Bruce Dickinson’s, and you don’t play metal like Iron Maiden, you might be making a career-killing mistake, whether you like metal or not. My singing voice, whether I like it or not, and despite my parents’ singing skills to this day and my actually having had lessons as a child, is as high as Jeff Buckley’s or Jimmy Somerville’s. I’ll never pull off singing like Nick Cave or Mick Collins, although I’d prefer it over Buckley. Actually, I want to sing like PJ Harvey. But that’ll take a trip to Sweden and a certain operation Mrs. Parnell wouldn’t appreciate.

As for Today is Tonight, I’ll start with the caveats before the raves: Not sure I’m yet comfortable with the pre-programmed percussion; I revel in the Changes’s previous skill at doing this stuff for real; while the track “Twilight” is a silver-sequin-trousered, full-on disco-esque number, like the Bee Gees crossed with Chic crossed with the Smiths (and it reminds me of the best Brand New Heavies), new tracks like “Sister” suffer a tad, I think, from looped beats – but fear not: The Changes get it right, complete with a wonderful, almost baroque guitar solo on the following:

The Changes – In the Dark(removed at the polite request of the artist)

–which evokes the ineffable heights reached by those Scottish blokes in the Blue Nile on their unsung debut A Walk Across the Rooftops (1984) and partially achieved on their soph effort Hats (1989). No easy feat, considering few latter bands ever tried, let alone achieved, the Blue Nile’s overly-romantic hybrid of electro and live instrumentation. And no, Postal Service doesn’t count, because it’s the straight up bloopy bleepy, although it comes close, and makes me happy sometimes.

The Blue Nile had that one thing that means they hit the bulls-eye: they often sound timeless. Take this, Magnetic Fields:

The Blue Nile — Tinseltown in the Rain

Of course, the Changes haven’t … changed, not entirely. Change is good, don’t get me wrong. It’s comforting to know they won’t be dismissed as retro-ists. But check it:

The Changes – Water of the Gods (removed at the polite request of the artist)

This one’s more like the previous EP, in that the Johnny Marr-like (and I don’t evoke his name without care) bounce and precision remains upfront, complete with a sharp but unselfish solo, and the band is a band, sans bloops and bleeps, even opting for piano garnishes, hand claps, and “wooaah-ohs” after the chorus.

I think what may be the lead single, “On a String,” might even echo the opening two-beat of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which is very funny, and very sincere, in a way, as if to say making a gorgeous pop song (silly as that may feel), one that makes all comers happy, is something to aspire toward, at least if you understand the impermanence of happiness, or the financial brevity of creativity (that’s a retarded phrase turn. Sorry). “On a String” is a heavens-storming doozy. At the risk of betraying Mr. Spitzer’s generosity — I had intended to honor it by only providing two tracks — I cannot control myself:

The Changes – On a String (removed at the polite request of the artist)

Overall, I’m really happy to hear music so well made, especially in this vein, since the over-raved Junior Boys (and a few others) just seem to clog my hard drive with tracks containing all the right cultural signifiers and nothing else, all the tone with no substance, and I sign off after the first minute, which leaves me sad, cranky, and so old and out of breath.

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2 thoughts on “Please Chew Your Influences Before Swallowing

  1. Certain little parts of each song tell me they have plenty up their sleeves in the future. Received a new track today (in trade for taking down the new three) that really surprised me – like uptempo Smiths, with a twist of early 80s power pop, like the Beat (not the english one, the LA one) or the Nerves.

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