Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Mid-week Special: Ben Gibbard Covers Avril in NYC
Ok, so for the second week running I'm hitting 2/3 on the live, cover, and b-sides that are the intentions of these posts. This time it's Ben Gibbard playing at the Knitting Factory in NYC in November of '02. He's covering the "song of the summer" at the time, Avril Lavigne's breakout hit "Complicated." At the time, the song was kind of catchy in an "Mmmbop" sort of way, but it descended into bubblegum pop hell as it was overplayed on the radio and was plastered all over the entire country in a few short months.
Now, given my discontent with the song, why am I posting this cover? For a few reasons:
1. It's still a great pop song, no matter how annoying it is to remember that time back in '02, and I feel no shame in admitting that. Even Hanson had its merits in that little bit of '97.
2. Ben Gibbard turns the song into a light, comedic acoustic track live. It has a different feel when it's just one guy and a guitar crooning while winking with his voice and trying to keep a straight face to a crowd that knows he's trying to be ironic.
3. The banter after he finishes the song is priceless, commenting on what is going on in the song, and how ridiculous it actually is if you pay attention to the lyrics.
Also, as a little commentary on this track, I found an interview with Owen Pallett, who is the violinist for Arcade Fire as well as the act known as Final Fantasy, a snippet of which can be found here .
In the Q&A, he takes a stab at Gibbard for the way he comedically does his cover of Avril, and positing that covers should be serious and without irony because an artist should really love they song they're playing if it's by someone else. Now, the idiocy of naming yourself after the Squaresoft video game series aside, I actually like some of his music as Final Fantasy, but saying that every cover must be straightforward and serious is just being ignorant and stuck up in an attempt to be "holier-than thou". As a matter of fact, Final Fantasy's best two songs are live covers of two other bands: Bloc Party's "This Modern Love" and Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go," so I'm not sure what genius artistic ground he's coming from here way up on his pedestal whining about how bands should perform covers. I think they're a lot of fun, and if the song merits a little tongue-in-cheek comedy and winking at the crowd, such as this Gibbard track, then power to the artist.
As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don't remember anything about how you go about imitating a certain song being a part of that, which is something Pallett should do well to keep in mind. Parody is still in itself honoring the original artist, as any band that's had Al Yankovich do a song of theirs can attest. Some greats have been humbly honored by the man who's made a career out of making fun of other people's songs, can't Pallett tone down the artsy ego for a little bit so we can just enjoy his music?
Ben Gibbard - Complicated(Avril Lavigne cover)