I really don't like the feeling of déjà vu. It makes me miserable; it consumes my brain space and brings out my worst obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I can spend weeks at a time trying to figure out what that familiar taste was, or who was playing on the radio (it was K-Ci & JoJo, a tough one). As much as I love music, sometimes it physically pains me when I hear a band that sounds like another band, or a singer that sounds exactly like someone else, because it inevitably means I have to figure out the connection, no matter how inaccurate it turns out to be. Déjà vu hits, and the moment of musical bliss is killed as I desperately weed through my iTunes so I can find out that, oh, I don't know, I was thinking of Aaron Carter the whole time. This has actually happened to me. It's not pretty.
Well, unfortunately, that's kind of how listening to Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band's Where the Messengers Meet felt for me. While not anything like Aaron Carter (thank God), the opening track off the band's second album, "At Night," is deceptively similar to Arcade Fire-like weeping violins and echoing vocals mixed with hard guitar strums and drum pops. And while the Seattle-based band manages to switch it up from song to song throughout the rest of the album, it feels more like a frantic-and failing-effort to find their true sound than an organic blend of instrumental ingredients that work. "Hurrah" is like a sped-up version of Dr. Dog's "The Ark," and the powerful drum rolls in "Messengers" takes me back to my Dodos days.
Not to say the songs on Where the Messengers Meet are bad; there's definitely something in Benjamin Verdoes' soulful wailing vocals and MSHVB's unabashed instrumental exploration that keeps me interested enough to listen through the entire album twice. But by the end of it, it all just sounds too familiar. And the problem with sounding too much like something else is - if you're not doing it better than the original it's just not really worth it, is it?
According to Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band fans, they're a great act to see live. Judging by the sheer energy and musical variation of their songs - even on Where the Messenger Meet - that is something I can totally believe.
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