Liking the Like
So there’s this band called the Like. They’re an all-female three-piece from Los Angeles, and they’ve got an album coming out on September 13 called Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?. A-D has been listening to this album a lot, and while I initially dismissed it, I find myself really enjoying it. In fact, it reminds me a lot of one of my favorite bands of all time: Throwing Muses.
Actually, I’m mostly just a big fan of Tanya Donnelly. I’ve been into everything she’s done, including her work with Belly and her first two solo albums (though I’ll begrudgingly admit that last year’s Whiskey Tango Ghosts was pretty terrible). The best Muses album, in this writer’s humble opinion, is 1991’s The Real Ramona. In fact, I have a playlist on my iPod that contains tracks from both The Real Ramona and Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?, and I sometimes confuse the two and think that one of the Like songs (typically “June Gloom”) is a Muses tune, and it got me thinking a lot about legitimacy.
While the quote-unquote “importance” of Throwing Muses can be debated ad nauseam, I think everybody could basically agree that they are one of those bands that is considered seminal, mostly because they blew up around the time that girls and guitars weren’t all that prevalent, and the band also launched the careers of Tanya Donnelly and Kristin Hersh. Throwing Muses could be considered “reasonably important,” if only because they probably allowed for the careers of PJ Harvey and Liz Phair (and, further removed, Alanis Morrissette), women who are considered “quite important.”
Nobody will ever call the Like important. They will likely be dismissed because their album doesn’t really have a marketable single, although they will probably be adopted by one indie community or another simply because they are three moderately attractive teenage girls (this is known as the Jenny Lewis Effect). Also, they don’t traffic in any sort of music that could be called “new” or “revolutionary,” so even though nobody has ever recorded and released these specific songs before, it mostly sounds like stuff that has already existed (as I said before, I often confuse their tunes with songs from The Real Ramona). So they will never be considered “important” (unless they all drown in a river before their second album is released — this is known as the Jeff Buckley Effect).
But does that make them any less of a band? The songs are great, and it’s been established that those songs are easily confused (in a very complimentary way) with songs recorded by a different band who are considered important. This leads me to only one conclusion: Music has nothing to do with the importance of music.
This is not as unreasonable as it sounds. When was the last time anybody really, truly made an impact with nothing but an album? Think about the greatest albums of all time, and then think about why the bands who made those albums are important, and you realize that it wasn’t so much that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a great song (especially considering it sounded like a recycled Pixies riff and has a set of lyrics that don’t make a lick of sense), but it was that Kurt Cobain was dirty and sexy and mysterious. He became a guy every girl wanted and every guy wanted to be. Same goes for the Beatles, the Stones, or anybody else. Even faceless Radiohead, who was selected as having the best album of the last twenty years by this magazine, are about a lifestyle (a lifestyle most often led by androids in the thirty-first century).
So basically, I’m declaring the Like important right now. Why? Because they’re not important. They’re so not vital that it makes them vital. This makes so little sense, it actually makes sense. Trust me.
By the way, I suggest that you indulge in Tanya Donnelly’s full oeuvre. Her first solo album, Lovesongs For Underdogs, can be a little hard to find, but it is available on iTunes (the first two tracks, “Pretty Deep” and “The Bright Light” are some of the best things she’s ever done). And I was just told by Associate Editor Caryn Ganz that apparently the first Belly record, one of the finest “hard jangle” records of the ’90s, was actually supposed to be the second Breeders album. Tanya wrote all those songs intending for the Breeders to play them, but contractual issues forced them to break it off. This explains why the first Belly album smells suspiciously like it has the influence of Kim Deal on it, as she worked on all those songs. Just another slice of wisdom from your friends at Spin and A-D.