Music is art. And, as art, is comprised largely in the copying, modification, juxtaposition, reiteration, and recombination of other peoples' works and ideas. So what's worse than stealing? I've heard tell that failing to let oneself be influenced by a good idea qualifies. Fine and well. But one quickly tires of hearing uninspired Radiohead and 'Young ripoffs all the same. I suppose as much as hearing endless Beatles ripoffs a generation ago while the then-contemporary namesakes continued to set their own standards.
But where's the room for a younger generation in this equation? If, as myself, one didn't grow up with The Beatles, The Who, and The Grateful Dead, is it justifiable to revel in imitations (whether by chance or deliberation) decades after the original* flame ignited? Such a thought crossed my mind sifting through the odd review and description of The Vells.
The Vells are a Pacific Northwest band currently signed to Seattle-based Imputor records, their latest album being "Return to Echo Falls." Apparently they sound a bit like The Beatles and The Beach Boys, hence the "low marks for originality, then, but a fair grade for general pleasantness" from one reviewer. While I can see the worth in drawing associations, it's hard for me to see it in an accusatory pointing of fingers. Especially since I didn't grow up with The Beatles. I'll burn in my own way. Hopefully that doesn't prevent me from examining the group in a meaningful way. Let's start with: Having members involved in the likes of Red Stars Theory, Modest Mouse, and Stagger Lee, the Vells are embodied in a quartet of active PacNW musicians.
Experienced indeed. The Vells seem extremely refined in their first LP effort, not completely unlike the resolve found on The Arcade Fire's debut "Funeral." Immediatly from the get-go of "In the Hours of Flowers," the grooves are set in a rustic trend. One that is developed and explored, the fuzzy bass and lead melding naturally with the crisper drums and vocals by means of a smoothe keyboard primer and occassional horn section. It's synergy with virbrancy that screams the bright green-with-gold etchwork of the CD's packaging (an eco-friendly, yet attractive cardboard holder. Yes, it's criteria for praise).
In contrast, it's suprising to hear the greater clarity and lift of moodiness from that of 'Falls on their 2002 self-titled EP on Lucky Horse Industries, as exemplified in the last Vells track provided (Beatles associations be damned!). The group has a new album out in September this year, and hopefully with its release there will follow more press coverage and tour dates.
The Vells -- "Larger Than Life"
The Vells -- "Mansour III"
The Vells -- "Light on the Right"
On a vaguely-related note, here are a few tracks by the aforementioned project with Vells' drummer Jeremiah Green (also of Modest Mouse). The group formed in late 1994, and is worth your ear, if only by merit of association and innovation of sound (as I percieve it...hah!):
Red Stars Theory -- "Combinations and Complications"
Red Stars Theory -- "Our Nearest Neighbors"
*Whether 'original' is the correct term is certainly debatable. The Beatles didn't manifest spontaneously in a vaccuum, to the best of my knowledge.
Image of The Vells' self-titled EP album art, by Kevin Willis
The Vells' Official Site
Red Stars Theory band site