Tuesday, January 04, 2005

It's the same old song...

There were a pair of interesting music-related items on All Things Considered tonight. First, a story on a former fan who noticed striking similarities between two allegedly different Nickelback songs and then juxtaposed them to prove how close they really were. From there, a third Nickelback song and an Avril Lavigne (I think) tune got the same treatment. Interesting observations from various perspectives on the notion of difference in music (turns out Handel ripped himself off, even more blatantly), but to me the story was a beautiful illustration of exactly what I find so insanely uninteresting about so much pop/rock music since at least the heyday of postpunk, if not long before: same combination of guitar sounds and vocal mannerisms, over and over and over again.

The other item of interest was a rambling but fun commentary by the wife of a record store owner covering, among other things, the lazy writing of lots of music reviewers. While I don't agree with her when she seems to suggest that all she wants to know is what earlier artists a new, unknown one sounds like, I do share her frustration with the lazy, vague terminology writers trot out to describe music. (How useful is it to hear that a song is "luminous" or "incandescent"?) As a guy who earns a meager income from trying to find words for sounds (both as a critic and a record-company hack), it drives me nuts to see the same lazy, vague words hauled out over and over again. But I also know how hard it is to translate what's so wonderful--or awful--about a song into language.

Ah, Nickelback: luminous, incandescent Nickelback. Play it again, boys! Just give it a new name and hope nobody notices...

3 comments:

alizinha said...

"what I find so insanely uninteresting about so much pop/rock music since at least the heyday of postpunk, if not long before: same combination of guitar sounds and vocal mannerisms, over and over and over again"

I'll second that notion!

Ron said...

I think it was around the time that so-called "alternative" rock became the only alternative on the airwaves that I made a clean break with 90% of recent electric-guitar-and-vocals stuff. Been turning many places since (and before) then: electronic(a), alt-country, old-time country, 70s Beach Boys, 50s R&B, Brazilian, dub, etc. For me, music is less about revisiting the familiar than exploring the unknown. (Not that there's anything inherently bad about the familiar--it just gets a little boring in large doses. I guess I'm really talking about the predictable, come to think of it: the new which sounds EXACTLY like the old, mainly because there's money to be made.)

pszp said...

I have two comments. One: I've heard a lot of artists say they spend their careers writing the same song over and over again. I think for some it may just be more obvious to us. Two: Since pop music's beginnings there has been promotion and management eager to cash in on an artist's last hit by making the next record almost the same. Maybe it was more obvious in the 50s and 60s but it still happens all the time. I'm talking about the sequel syndrome - the same reason sequels are made in film. I don't know Nickelback at all but thought I'd offer my two cents. Then another two cents. Then one cent.