I heard The Little Ones for the first time yesterday, and was shocked that they're generating hype by aping moves perfected by The Shins (and, to a certain extent Of Montreal). It then occurred to me that most baby bands, when they're first starting out, generally sound appallingly like their major influences. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and part of pop music's evolutionary process. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), due to MySpace and mp3 blogs and aggressive online marketing, we're being subjected daily to an onslaught of baby bands that we might not have otherwise heard before they faded into oblivion. As it is, The Little Ones aren't necessarily a bad band, they're just not quite ready for a wide audience yet. Or, maybe more specifically, they're missing that one thing that separates the wheat from the chaff -- something unique and distinctive hiding between that blatant adoration.
The Little Ones -- Cha Cha Cha (via I Guess I'm Floating)
The Little Ones -- High On A Hill (via I Guess I'm Floating)
And so while Pinkie and I went on our evening perambluation last night before parting ways to get pretty for the show later on, I was blustering with a hyperkinetic thought stream surrounding the state of art, in this case music, in the age of digital reproduction (with apologies to Walter Benjamin, natch). And of course, as I do, I used Spoon as an example.
Now, don't get me wrong, I adore Spoon. Absolutely adore them; Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight hold very special places in my heart. Plus, living in Austin as long as I have, I've been lucky to be able to observe the band's development over the past ten years (I'm trying not to feel woozy and old as I mention that). As such, they've become the band-in-a-test tube upon which I can exercise a lot of my ideas about the development of cultural product in the early 21st century (yes, I totally just said that).
See, once upon a time, even Spoon was a baby band who wore their influences plainly on their sleeves. Listen to Telephono now, and even though it's still a solid record, it's so clearly heavily influenced by The Pixies, which something that was observed by reviewers at the time. Then there was the Wire phase and the John Lennon phase and ... In short, Spoon tried on a lot of hats before they arrived at the "Spoon sound" that we know and love today. But the thing was, unlike with a lot of baby bands getting overhyped these days, even on Telephono there were strong indicators of that original sound. And now, ten years later, Spoon's gone from being emulators to being the emulated.
Spoon -- All The Negatives Have Been Destroyed
Spoon -- Chips & Dip
Spoon -- Lines In The Suit
(And we have more Spoon here and here, if you're interested.)
When I heard The Robbers on High Street for the first time last year, I thought I might be hearing some sort of long-lost collection of Girls Can Tell-era b-sides. It was weird, and disconcerting, and ultimately I never listened to them again, really. But it was mostly because their songs just didn't grab me -- there's more than a glimmer of originality there, it just falls flat with me.
Robbers on High Street -- Japanese Girls
Which brings me to Hockey Night. Now, I listened to a number of Hockey Night songs today -- from their first album and some new demos -- because I saw a dude wearing a Hockey Night shirt on Saturday and realized that though I'd heard of the band, I'd never heard them. Well, suffice it to say that it was just a horrifically frustrating experience, but neatly dovetailed with my dissection of Spoon's development. See, as I listened to Hockey Night's songs, I felt like I was listening to my neighbor's band cover cast-off Spoon songs with the sharp, interesting edges shaved off and a huge injection of mediocrity used to replace them. And my first thought was: I don't need to hear this band. I didn't ever need to hear this band. The best, or worst, of their offerings, depending on your point of view, are following:
Hockey Night -- Dark Trances (Psychic Lightning) (via You Ain't No Picasso)
Hockey Night -- Save the Clock Tower (via You Ain't No Picasso)
As with The Little Ones' limited ouevre, there's no adventure here, nothing special -- Hockey Night is ripping off Spoon, and badly. And I kind of think that both bands are being done a disservice by the fawning adoration of a handful of music bloggers who aren't calling a spade a spade. Both bands need to find their own sound -- which they could, if they worked on it -- but I can't help but think that won't happen if they're heaped with adulations before they're deserved.
So that's that, really. And please don't make me listen to Hockey Night again, okay? Okay.