Thursday, July 30, 2009


In the musical universe I love it when songs reference other artists or songs in either an overt or subtle manner. This creates a continuous feedback loop where the self referencing world of pop music reinforces it's own history (and mythology), creating context and legitimacy for a largely derivative form of expression.

One of my favourite recent examples is in the song "So Far Around The Bend" by The National; "You’ve been humming in a daze forever, praying for Pavement to get back together". A good illustration of the power of art to imprint itself in the brain and become entrenched in our psyche.

One of the most obvious, and perhaps my favourite example of overt referencing is the Camera Obscura song "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" (2006) in response to "Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?" (1984) by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions. It is a playful track and I can picture singer Tracyanne Campbell being a fan of Cole and flaunting the influence proudly.

There is a reason why some of the most compelling forms of art, music and film are often those that are aware of their own history and our able to reference both itself, as well as that which may be behind it's own genesis. This provides a sense of place in a creative universe where connections create a dynamic sense of birth and rebirth, where various forms play off each other and grow into something new.

These are a just a few thoughts brewing in my brain, anything to add? Most importantly of course, what are some of your favourite musical references within a song?


Sean Wraight said...

Excellent post Matthew... I can always count on you to find that new angle on a particular pop phenomenon. So often a heartfelt homage to an influence and such 'the other band mention' is a relatively rare treat but always exciting. My favourite, recent find is from Art Brut on 'Art Brut VS Satan'- Their song entitled the Replacements is earnest and lovely... Eddie Argos hoping he "really, really likes them" when he listens to them for the first time.

Of course they weren't the first to pay homage to our beloved Mats. They Might Be Giants did it twenty years ago with 'Hi We're the Replacements'

Great post. I am off to find my old Lloyd Cole CD's.


Allison said...

I love those lyrics by The National. They pen good lines those boys.

I did not know that's where the Camera Obscura title comes from, I always associate it with Say Anything. ;) I have been really enjoying their latest album.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Great post! I wholeheartedly concur, as I am a huge fan of self awareness in music and of referencing that which came before.

I do have a whole bunch of favourites, and naturally can only think of one off the top of my head: the Belle & Sebastian song "Seymour Stein" (itself of course a strong cultural reference) that refers to Johnny Marr with the line "it reminded him of Johnny before he went Electronic".

Comrade Kevin said...

There are so many.

The entire White Album is full of self-referential or referential homages. Then you have song like "Glass Onion" whose lyrics include the words and concepts of prior songs.

And aside from music, I enjoy art film because one can see homages to other directors in the script, shooting techniques, plot, color scheme, and in all sorts of other areas. I can think of so many right now.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Email Marketing Solutions

Anonymous said...


two from vic chesnutt: "Lucinda Williams" (self-explanatory) and his "Twelve Johnnies" which refers to (at least) chuck berry's Go Johnny Go and 'hippy johnny' from the modern lovers' "I'm Straight."

but my fave might be frank black's "I Heard Ramona Sing":

i had so many problems
then i bought me a walkman...



Westcoast Walker said...

This is one of those moments where I love blogging - lots of great comments (minus the spam from Victor) and further avenues of musical inspiration for me to explore!