Grand Theft Audio

The default position of many an aging rock aficionado is to decry “PLAGIARISM!!” at the top of their lungs whenever some new band dares to pull an influence or two from the R&R history book. God, if I had a nickel every time someone said “If I want to listen to someone who sounds like (The Stones/The Who/Sabbath/Kinks/Cohen/Dylan, etc etc etc) I’ll just put on a record by (The Stones/The Who/Sabbath/Kinks/Cohen/Dylan, etc etc etc)”, I’d at least have $1.75. But is plagiarism really that bad? The fine folks over at Popmatters don’t think so:

“Contrary to the opinion of many critics, apparent influences are not the horrid specter they’re often made out to be. It’s the most readily available weapon in a critic’s arsenal to go down the “carbon-copy” avenue. Pressured by deadline? Write up a quickie describing the band via the output of an aforementioned and easily identifiable band from “the golden age”, i.e., the Beatles (and really, isn’t everyone just copying them?). Now, for certain, some bands deserve the “retread” label. There’s no denying the reprocessed yawp of Creed or the not-so-sleight-of-hand produced by Lenny Kravitz. However, for every dummy of the ventriloquist, there is a band that knows how to use a filter.”

And there are an awful lot of bands in my collection that “know how to use a filter”, and they’re some damn fine bands that are able to transcend and sometimes even better their influences. Some achieve this by blending a number of different influences to create a whole new stew of sounds, others just work at a style and perfect it. Even  if it is outright theft, so what? If some teenager discovers a great band because the crappy copycat band cites them as an influence, well, isn’t that a good thing in the end? I think so.

I could list a couple dozen bands that do this love and theft thing exceptionally well, but to tell you the truth I’ve burned myself out on lists lately. So I’ll leave that up to you.