Monday, January 21, 2008
Odessey & Oracle II
Friendly Fire Recordings
Has music really evolved?
Rhetorical question: It has, but not so much in the last twenty years. If anything, the Indie scene’s been keeping the growth relatively neutral, still capitalizing on Smiths riffs and leaning toward the Ian Curtis school of low pitch depression. In the last few years there’ve definitely been some shining stars, but when bands like Interpol show up as part of a scene’s leading crowd, you do have to wonder when the ideas stopped.
At this point, the answer seems to be “well, just go further into the past, dig up some sounds, and see what happens.” In 2006, with bands like The M’s and Wolfmother, the 60s and 70s were more or less reissued and beaten over the ears of listeners, ringing out with cries of “it ain’t new, but at least it ain’t the 80s!!!!” There’s truth there and though their explorations were competent, they were just explorations. There’s no shortage of throwback bands that want to revive 60s songcraft and 70s riff power in exchange for the somewhat overdrawn well of 80s New Wave and Post-Punk. And I guess that’s noble, but with revivalist movements it tends to feel like a fraudulent advancement. Is it really honest to generate yourself as the next best thing when your cash maker’s been exploited before by some other band that probably did it better? Is “tried and true” becoming “tired and bullshit?”
And then you have a band like The Whitsundays, a Canadian quintet whose only job is to be authentically 60s. Listening to their self-titled debut, you definitely get the feeling that music only had it right about 40 years ago, as if The Zombies were the end all/be all and that change has been an unnecessary waste of time. Why? Because the cycle is continuous, so it all comes back anyway.
Swelling with 60s oriented surf guitar, Beach Boys harmonies and organ music, The Whitsundays is a Tarantino level replication of a classic model, exhaustively studied and understood and then regurgitated with batting-eyed admiration and awe. From the first couple notes of opening track, “Loralee,” it’s flashback central and the album’s high production does little to modernize what you hear. Even when something like “It Must Be Me” pulls so glaringly much of its being from The Beach Boys’ “You Still Believe In Me” and The Zombies’ “A Rose For Emily,” the band still legitimizes its appropriation by belonging to its era of origin. It’s done so well, who gives a fuck if they pinch it?
Interestingly though, their efforts don’t completely reflect one point of reference. With “Antisocial” and “Already Gone,” The Whitsundays straddle the line between 60s Pop and present-day Indie rock, taking a shot at those aforementioned Smiths/Joy Division aesthetics. In context to the rest of the album, these tracks feel like anachronisms and sort of diminish the impact of what might’ve been their mission statement.
What’s most fascinating about this group is that they’ve tapped into the potential of being an indistinguishable copy, but only among groups that had their heyday 40 years ago. In that way, they sound somewhat unique for this day and age, proving that the cycle is continuous, and that it all comes back anyway.
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