The 5.6.7.8’s subvert pop, punk, surf and rockabilly expectations with Bomb The Twist, the best EP of 2012 you didn’t hear

Play this EP straight through and you’ll feel like you’ve just taken a time-warp back into the classic era of pop singles. “Three Coolchicks” may be the best mock-Beatles track I’ve heard to really hit on the sound the band made famous, while distilling how that sound must have sounded to these three Japanese women coming up in the era of Quentin Tarantino “aural re-evaluation.”

Yoshiko “Ronnie” Fujiyama, Sachiko Fujii and Akiko Omo formed the 5.6.7.8’s in Tokyo back in 1992, achieving a modicum of underground fame when they briefly appeared in Kill Bill Volume 1 performing “Woo Hoo” by the Rock-A-Teens, but their music has yet to catch fire. That boggles my mind in this era of retro-pop nostalgia — the EP’s title track sounds like a long-lost Bill Haley smash as though filtered through the Ramones with a touch of surf-rock Beach Party mix thrown in for good measure. This is the essence of “fun” and “rock” distilled into 18 minutes of furiously twisted pop. Like Tarantino the music ably steals from an era long past, but the key is that filter which is applied liberally to the music to make it distinctly theirs. That alone makes this worth a listen. I dare you not to start singing along with “Dream Boy” as though it truly was the logical follow-up to the Chordettes or Leslie Gore.

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“Get Ready Now,” as the Shilohs prepare to unleash the retro pop of So Wild February 5.

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All you need in music is a good song, and Vancouver’s the Shilohs showcase that in stunning 16-megapixel glory on their upcoming new album So Wild. From the opening ninety seconds of “This Is Vancouver Music,” a wonderous hunk of McCartney-esque horn-soaked glory, to “You Don’t Call Me Darling Anymore,” the album’s low-key closer, this album positively soaks up the bare-bones elements which made the Beatles into masters of their craft.

The Shilohs strip away all the hype usually associated with modern garage rock and contemporary pop, letting the songs do the talking. Whether you listen to So Wild as a master-class in how to create a true album-lover’s album in the era of iTunes, or as a Greatest Hits in the making, the result is the same. Listen to the chorus of “Get Ready Now” or the stripped-down Dylan-soaked melancholy of “The Place Where Nobody Knows I Go” and dare not to stop dead in your tracks, in pure awe of the sheer audacity of this band’s retro pop recreations. In an era where so many believe meaningful pop music is an oxymoron, So Wild is an album fully capable of changing minds, from a band you’ll want to rabidly follow from the ground floor.

Enough with irresponsible music criticism! Stop making allegations of plagiarism where it doesn’t exist!

Bellamy Brothers

The Bellamy Brothers: Leeches For Attention?

Britney Spears might not hold it against them, but the Bellamy Brothers have decided to rise up from obscurity to claim that Ms. Spears misappropriated their lyrics to create her newest soon-to-be-hit single, “Hold It Against Me.” They claim she took her song’s chorus directly from their song “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body” — a line they acknowledge they borrowed from Groucho Marx. To quote a recent article on Yahoo’s “Our Country” blog, apparently there are some idiots out there who take this crass grab for attention by the Bellamys seriously. Writes Chris Willman:

“It’s probably true that anyone under 30 who doesn’t come from a country-loving family has never heard the phrase before. But certainly almost anyone over 35 or 40 has, and not even just country fans, thanks to the title’s ubiquity in popular culture in the early ’80s.

“It may not count as plagiarism, but even after a few decades, you’re still kind of surprised that anyone would have the chutzpah to go there. For anyone in middle age or older, hearing a song with that as its lyric hook, it’s as if someone wrote a new song called ‘(I Don’t Have Any) Satisfaction’ or “Janey Got a Glock” or ‘Hi, Jude.'”

I’m calling bullshit on the whole thing. For one, the Bellamys’ song is hardly as ubiquitous as Willman would like to believe. Second, compare the lyrics in question from the Bellamys’ song:

“If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?
If I swore you were an angel, would you treat me like the devil tonight?
If I were dying of thirst, would your flowing love come quench me?
If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

to the lyrics from Britney’s chorus:

“If I said my heart was beating loud
If we could escape the crowd somehow
If I said I want your body now
Would you hold it against me?
Cause you feel like paradise
I need a vacation tonight
So if I said I want your body now
Would you hold it against me?”

As far as I can tell, the only offense Ms. Spears committed was daring to use a line, “would you hold it against me?” that references sex, something I can’t imagine has never been done before. To expect that no one else was ever going to use the Bellamys’ lame pick-up line, which they admit came from Groucho Marx, is absurd. And for Willman to contend that this is akin to rewriting “Hey Jude” as “Hi Jude” is disingenuous at best.

Let’s be honest. I’m all for holding artists accountable. When Vanilla Ice rewrote “Under Pressure” by Queen and added a few new notes to mask the misappropriation, that was infringement. When Huey Lewis’s “I Want A New Drug” was turned into the Ghostbusters theme without his permission (again with a few notes modified) that was worthy of exposure in the press. But Britney’s new single is nothing like the Bellamys’ 1979 single. The tone of both songs is completely different, and the lyrics differ significantly aside from the use of the “hold it against me” phrase.

And if we’re going to get that nitpicky as to bring up Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” (vs. the Beach Boys’ “California Girls”) or “I Kissed A Girl” (vs. Jill Sobule’s original), as Willman does later in the same article, then why not target everyone who’s ever used the same title as another singer? You can’t copyright a song title. Which is why we can have “Ghost Train” by Marc Cohn, “Ghost Train” by Counting Crows, and “Ghost Train” by Gorillaz, none of which come even close to being the same song! And why not bring in Dottie West’s “Would You Hold It Against Me?” which actually predates the Bellamys’ hit by 13 years? Sure, it’s using the phrase in a completely different context (“would you hold it against me if I see him one more time?”) but why should we let context into the equation?

Bottom line — even beyond song titles, you can’t copyright a popular idiom, and to ride Britney Spears’ coattails with a bogus accusation seems beyond pointless. But I really took affront to the idea that because Britney grew up in the south, she should have known the song was misappropriated:

“There does seem to be a bit of a pattern emerging in the Dr. Luke/Max Martin camp, where everything old is new again, when it comes to appropriating familiar old titles or lyrical hooks. Dr. Luke has said in interviews that he’s not that much of a lyric guy, so it seems entirely likely that Katy Perry was responsible for borrowing those earlier titles—and that Britney had this one pop into her head, after almost certain exposure to it growing up in the South.”

The author’s sarcasm is duly noted. But the ridiculous argument implies that Britney heard the Bellamys’ song, decided to use the line for her own song and not credit them appropriately, and that it’s part of some grand conspiracy to make old songs new again. Nevermind the fact that, even if Britney had heard the song before, the two songs aren’t similar enough to imply intellectual property theft — which is exactly what Yahoo does with their blaring headline: “Does Britney’s “Hold It Against Me” Rip Off the Bellamy Brothers?”

This sort of thing has happened before, with Michael Jackson’s posthumous release featuring Akon, “Hold My Hand,” leading to Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand” being dredged up to suggest that the MJ single somehow “ripped off” the Blowfish. Yahoo wrote a big bullshit article on the subject under the headline: “Michael Jackson and Akon Get Hootie-esque and Hold Hands on New Single.” This, despite there being a Sean Paul song with the same title, not to mention “Hold My Hand” by Nat King Cole, “Hold My Hand” from the musical Me and My Girl, “Hold My Hand” by New Found Glory, and … what the hell … “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles. Enough for you?

It seems far more likely that whoever wrote the song for Spears took a familiar idiom, “would you hold it against me?” and crafted a dubstep sex romp for Britney Spears to make her 2011 comeback. No hidden agendas, just pop music. And the sooner veteran musicians stop “crying theft” to get attention, the better. And bloggers need to be responsible enough not to make comparisons that don’t hold water, only to drum up a few click-throughs. We’ve all had more than enough!

Hear for yourself — the two choruses are broken out here: