Bored Of Comparisons


When The Kays Lavelle’s debut EP ‘I can’t believe you’re here’ was reviewed in Is This Music? The article called the drums which opened the first track ‘Coldplay esque.’  I cannot deny it, they were completely stolen from ‘In My Place’ by Coldplay, or at least the idea was I think.  Not sure that they were identical.  Anyways, my immediate reaction was one of disappointment.   I was not the biggest Coldplay fan (though I did like much of their stuff – see uncool article!) and I certainly did not feel like the band, or the EP sounded in anyway like Coldplay.  I was concerned that that opening remark would set the tone for the rest of the review and also give people a false impression of the Kays as a band. However, the article went on to say that the overall feel of the EP was more akin to that of granddaddy or Mercury Rev and even compared our quieter moments to Neil Young.  My reaction to this was obviously the opposite to the Coldplay remark.  To have a couple of tunes compared to Neil Young left me feeling immensely proud and positive about how people would view the review.  Thing is, none of it was really accurate and it got me thinking about how bands are compared and tagged all the time.  For me, it’s quite often lazy journalism at play.  It’s one thing to name check bands as a reference point for another such as ‘if you like such and such then you’re going to like this’.  However, saying ‘this band sound like,’ whilst it can often be accurate, serves no purpose and is quite simply lazy and wrong.  I cite the example of when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot dropped and it got tagged the American Kid A.  Wilco became the American Radiohead.  What a load of nonsense.  I just cannot stand that kind of throw away remark, which really does no justice to either YHF or Kid A.  It’s a terrible comparison for a start.  What, because they are both quite experimental albums and represent changes in direction for each band they are therefore similar?? 

I recently made a comment on songbytoad about Mumford & Sons sounding a little like Frightened Rabbit.  It really was a throw away remark and was perhaps a little premature based on one song.  But what really fascinated, and I guess surprised, me a little was the reaction to this by some people on the site.  They were not amused.  I guess I can understand why.  I mean, for me, it’s no bad thing to be compared to Frightened Rabbit but I appreciate that the band do not generally sound similar.  It was perhaps an ill thought out comment and I was taken to task for it.  The fact that I hear elements of Frightened Rabbit in the sound of Mumford & Sons really cannot be debated, I do.  But I shouldn’t have tagged them in this way, which I myself find frustrating when others do it in their articles/blogs.  So I understand the issue.  I do think if you like Frightened Rabbit or Meursault you will like Mumford & Sons.  I hope my point is clear.

Anyways, for me, the best review that The Kays Lavelle ever received was from Godisinthetvzine, which commented that we had carved out a niche all of our own.  That felt good.   Real good.  There was no attempt to pigeonhole us.  There was no attempt to say we sounded like another band.  It was just simple and honest and I loved it.   I really don’t mind comments that begin; ‘for fans’ of.  In fact, it’s really nice to hear people say if you like Sigur Ros or if you like Low or if you like Wilco then…..   I just don’t like sentences that start;  ‘this band sound like….’  That really gets my goat.  And ultimately is irrelevant.  Do eagleowl sound like Low?  Yes, of course they do.  Does that make them any less special? No, of course it doesn’t.  Does Debutant sound like Eluvium?  Yes, at times he does.  Does that make him any less special?  No, of course it doesn’t. 

It really is a tricky one though, because at the same time as not liking this type of journalism, I do see how being compared to a particular band would enhance the chances of sales, interest from the public etc.  But at the same time, I think it can act as a turn off.  I don’t want to hear a band who sound like Interpol.  I want to hear a band who if I like Interpol I will like but who retain an identity which is clearly theirs.  I know so many bands who do that and who deserve the attention without any of the name dropping or comparisons.

 So when the Kays album drops, I will be keeping a close eye on reviews and disregarding any reviews that use the words “the Kays Lavelle sound like”.  Grrrr…………….

End of Sermon