Some months ago, I went to go see Chromeo play at the House of Blues and something disturbed me about the show. I like the albums – they’re fun, upbeat, and catchy. If you haven’t heard them, very very heavily influenced by mid-80s synth-pop electrofunk. [Aside: Daryl Hall does a video series where he plays with musicians on his upstate NY farm, posting them on a site called “Live from Daryl’s House”. The Chromeo episode is amazing, and the cover of “Family Man” is particularly noteworthy] But they’re really just a Nostalgia Band.

At the show, the warm-up music was all obscure synthesizer tunes and the crowd all largely dressed in some combination of 80s nostalgia and modern hipster. For the unaware, Chromeo is just two guys, guitar and keyboards, heavily leaning on the Talk Box (The tube which musicians stick in their mouth to create the roboty sound you associate with Peter Frampton, especially “Show Me the Way”, although the Dinosaur Jr. cover is probably better than the original). One guy is Jewish and the other is an Arab, so there’s a certain unity they project, and they’re both taking the 80s synthesizer influences and doing something somewhat new.

Anyhow, anyone who heard the concert would think they were an 80s cover band – it’s definitely a nostalgia act recreating the sound of a bygone era. I took the negative perspective of this and shared it with my friend. “But you like The Black Crowes, right? That’s just The Faces, except from Georgia not England,” he correctly observed. I had just seen The Crowes on their “farewell” tour at the same venue and I respectfully disagreed – I think they draw a lot more from gospel than the Faces did, but it’s a moot point -The Crowes belong in another era of 70s-style rock. Other bands have done some variation of the same trick, sometimes I appreciated it (Lenny Kravitz’ brilliant “Let Love Rule“, Ugly Duckling recreating 80s era hip hop, especially on “Taste the Secret“) and sometimes not (Drive By Truckers).

In the long view, I suppose all music is derived from somewhere, its just much more obvious in some cases than others, and the source material is almost always better.

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