OK. I feel like I’m the last one to arrive to the Gotye (AKA Wally De Backer) party, and not only that — almost everyone else has already gone home and I’m that latecomer who the host tries to prevent from coming in but can’t because they’re too drunk. You know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes this happens. Not the late part, but that sometimes an artist manages to sneak in under my radar and then sets up shop somewhere inside my body and won’t leave me be until I listen to the music again, and again, and again.
The last time this happened was quite a while ago it seems, and I wrote this and this about it. Not that I haven’t enjoyed music since then, I most certainly have. However, I don’t appear to have obsessed to this level for a while.
I’m obsessing (along with what appears to be most of the known indie/alternative-music-listening world) about Somebody That I Used to Know (video embedded at the bottom of this post).
Unlike my last obsession, I’m not relating the lyric to current events in my life. There’s all sorts of stuff in it to relate to past experiences, but that’s not really what’s getting me caught-up.
Instead it’s the quality of the voice, the dynamics, the beat, the harmonies, the chord structure. There are some chord progressions that seem to just push my “yeah baby” buttons, and this song has them.
In listening to the rest of the album, Making Mirrors, I wasn’t disappointed. So often a released single just isn’t representative of the whole of the body of work. Luckily that’s not true here. The album is an interesting mix of styles, but all showcase Gotye’s very real vocal and writing talent and sensibilities.
Some listeners have discounted Gotye’s voice as being very much like Sting’s and therefore somehow “less” for being derivative.
I beg to differ.
First of all, I’m a Sting fan. Not rabid, mind you, but I like him a lot. Even music from his more recent embarrassing look-I’m-still-relevant-even-though-I’m-trying-out-country-and-by-the-way-don’t-you-think-tantric-orgasms-are-the-shizz phases.
I’ll grant you that Gotye, like Sting, does possess a powerful and clear tenor voice, and a penchant for choosing a bit of a pretentious (or perhaps ironic?) stage name. But honestly, I think that’s where the comparison ends. Sting’s voice, to anyone who’s listened to him more than cursorily, has its own personality that Gotye’s doesn’t share.
Heck, if we’re going to make comparisons, there are moments on the album when the voice is as much comparable to Sting’s as it is to Michael Penn’s or Neil Finn (of fellow New Zealand outfit Crowded House fame). Heck, on Save Me, there’s even a bit of Depeche Mode (a la David Gahan) peeking through.
But I don’t know that comparisons really serve a purpose, as tempting as they are to make. It’s hard to find artists for whom one can’t make a case for look- or sound-alike-ness on some level.
I do see Gotye somewhat struggling to find an identity. Or rather, it seems that he really enjoys so many types of music that he can’t settle whole-hog on the style that is truly his (exemplified by songs like Somebody, Open Eyes, and State of the Art) and indulges a bit by including songs like I Feel Better and In Your Light (which, while not bad, really do feel like homages to Squeeze or Crowded House).
It’s hard to blame Wally, it’s fun music to be sure. But it doesn’t feel as soul-nakedness-baring as the other songs on the album.
There is also much enjoyment to be had from the videos for the music. Somebody has a fantastic aesthetic. I enjoy both the artwork as well as the connection that Wally has with the camera and Kimbra (and don’t get me started on how large her damn mouth is, I guess it has to be to let that voice out!) – there’s a fantastic vibe of feeling that, as a viewer, one is invading his space. That’s awesome.
The video for State of the Art is very fun as well. However, being a bit of a John Kricfalusi and Spumco fan, I do think Rubber House cheated a bit, as appropriate as the artwork is for the song. I suppose though, since John K./Spumco work is itself derivative of all sorts of awesome animators, I really shouldn’t complain.
So. If you, like me, are perpetually late to the party. Go have a listen. Enjoy, or don’t. Just don’t blame me if you get obsessed.