March 30, 2004

Loretta "The Translation"

I have got to hand it to 'modern rock' bands. It's a really brave game to play, making music that's indebted to bands who have a very distinctive sound. Most bands who wear their inspirations on their sleeve so openly like that often fail for a number of reasons: they sound too much like established bands, they can't build up a following because they're dissmised as clones, or--and this is so often the case--the bands just aren't very good. I mean, really now, if I wanted to listen to a band that sounded like Radiohead, why should I go to the imitators, when I've got a perfectly fine copy of OK Computer in my CD changer?

In order to survive, you've gotta be slick about what you want to do. You gotta play the game on your terms, you gotta build a shell up around you to protect you from charges of being mere imitators, and you've simply got to believe in yourself. If those accusations and comparisons stood in their way, would we respect bands such as the Posies, the Who, Coldplay, Rolling Stones, Buzzcocks, Nirvana or Wings? (Okay, some of those choices are up for debate, but you know what I mean.) All of those bands have been slammed with negative comparisons and have not only survived such initial negativity, they survived and thrived in spite of them.

Indianapolis' Loretta is a band who will suffer for comparisons. Their sound is a very slick, very tight radio-friendly sound that will be dismissed by many as 'too modern-rock' or 'alt-rock crap.' Comparisons to Radiohead and Coldplay are quick to follow, and it's easy to understand why--lead singer Jason Weidner's voice sounds an awful lot like Thom Yorke, that high falsetto swimming all over a brooding atmospheric rock accompaniment. It's impossible to listen to The Translation without thinking of Radiohead, but unlike most bands who remind me of that Oxford five, I'm more interested in hearing what Loretta does next instead of reaching for Hail To The Thief.

But don't deny yourself the pleasure of Loretta because of that. After all, this is their debut, so they're allowed to play their influences up a little bit, and, really, it's not something that should hold you back from enjoying their album. Their sound goes from heavy, hard rock on songs like "The Fire" and "Stolypin Neckties" to mellow, bleak Britpop on "Slow Down." The best moments of The Translation--the fast-paced "Adonais" and the heartbreakingly breathtaking "To the Knife"--belong on both modern rock radio stations and this country's best mixtapes.

The Translation is a great little record from a young band. It makes me happy to get a record by a young group who already sound this good--it's a rare day when that happens, it seems. While their sound may be a little bit derivative, it's not something you should hold against them. Next big thing? I won't turn my fickle nose up if it's Loretta. Neither should you. Here's hoping this already great sounding band will shed these things when they start work on that second record.

--Joseph Kyle

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