Originality is scary sometimes,especially in entertainment. After all, it can be really off-putting to see something you don't understand, even if it is new and innovative. We like comfort-food entertainment. Hence Hollywood's obsession with sequels and remakes and all those band reunions we complain about but secretly adore.
But sometimes bands can really verge over into the territory of being just too damn familiar. I'm not knocking inspiration. Even homages, while eye-roll-inducing, are fine. But when a band's whole sound is defined by the sound of its predecessor, you're dealing with a knockoff, no matter how much you might love it.
It's becoming more and more prevalent these days, too. Let's take a look at five pretty popular bands who are just copying their forefathers, and one old one that's still inspiring copies of copies after several decades.
Oh hi, Rage Against the Machine. The thing that's so crazy about Stray from the Path is that as an up-and-coming hardcore band, they have virtually everything they could possibly need to succeed as artists. They're signed to Sumerian Records, they've had production handled by Misha Mansoor of Periphery and Kurt Ballou of Converge, and they've had guest appearances from huge names like Cory Brandan of Norma Jean.
Instead of doing anything original or innovative, though, they wrote some subpar angsty political lyrics that read like the manifesto of a 17-year-old anarchist and handed them to vocalist Drew York to yell in his very best Zach de la Rocha impression. Come on, guys. You have all the tools, and your best idea is ripping off Rage? That wasn't even cool when Rage was in vogue.
Orchid The band that sent me down this whole train of thought. I am a hardcore, hardcore Black Sabbath fan, to the point where I even know the lyrics to songs from the Tony Martin years. That being said, even I, upon hearing Orchid, wondered if there were some undiscovered Sabbath demos from the '70s I had just never managed to hear.
But no, Orchid just sounds that much like Black Sabbath. It would be one thing to be influenced by Sabbath -- a million bands are influenced by Sabbath and wield that sword well. The way Orchid does it, though, they might as well be a soundalike hired to record for a commercial Sabbath wouldn't sign off on. Christ, some of their riffs are just taken from Sabbath verbatim. It's noxious.
Silversun Pickups This is one I don't hear as much as maybe other people do, but it is undeniable that Silversun Pickups do sound a lot like the Smashing Pumpkins. I can tell the difference, probably because I've spent so much time listening to both bands, but play them for your casual-listener friends and they'll inevitably ask if they're listening to the Pumpkins.
SSPU has grown a bit on their latest record, but they still carry that stigma and probably always will. Put it like this: If people were confusing America with Neil Young and Aerosmith with Led Zeppelin in the time before Google, they'd be just as quick to confuse Silversun Pickups with Smashing Pumpkins regardless of little variances in their individual sounds.
La Dispute One of my favorite bands to come out of the emo-screamo-post-hardcore-genre-names-for-days revival is La Dispute, whose ingenious wordplay and poetry combine with some seriously catchy riffage to make a fantastic rock band. Unfortunately, they just cop a little bit too much off of their primary influence, mewithoutYou.
Sure, I hear other things in their sound. There's even a strange amount of thrash in the guitar work. But have you listened to [A->B] Life by mewithoutYou lately? La Dispute works so much from that blueprint that it can honestly be a distraction from how talented they are. Luckily, they seem to be carving out a little bit more of their own niche as they keep recording, but front man Jordan Dreyer will probably never not sound like Aaron Weiss's twin brother.
List continues on the next page.
Led Zeppelin I know I'm going to take a lot of flack for saying this, even though I'm not the first or the last to say it, but Led Zeppelin really did little more for a good part of their career than copy obscure folk and blues artists. They've even gotten in trouble for it over the years, including being forced to finally insert some of the people they had ripped off into the credits of their songs after years of claiming the royalties for themselves.
That doesn't make what Zeppelin did any less incredible. They brought this music to the masses and have inspired generations of rockers since. Even today, it's hard to argue with their legacy, especially when so many bands now are such shameless knockoffs of them. That being said, it's impossible to ignore the debt they owe to the artists they essentially stole from.
Death Grips Ah, come on. This is Houston; did you think we'd let this one go? No. It's a matter of offense to local pride that Death Grips has so obnoxiously and shamelessly ripped off B L A C K I E (All Caps With Spaces)'s sound and popularized it for the masses. It's just a good thing that as a real artist, B L A C K I E has essentially already moved past doing what Death Grips does. They're copying his old shit, while he's already on something new.
I think, though, that it wouldn't be such a big deal if they hadn't also screwed him out of a tour. For those not in the know, awhile ago Death Grips picked up B L A C K I E to be their opening act on the road. It was the least they could do, right? Then they canceled the tour with little notice and left him high and dry. These guys are not only knockoffs, they're just jerks.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!