Friday, June 22, 2012

Avett Brothers -- "I and Love and You" (2009)

Three words that became hard to say
"I" . . . and "love" . . . and "you"

Brothers Scott and Seth Avett (who hail from Concord, NC) used to play in different bands, but eventually got together and released an EP as the Avett Brothers in 2000.  I had never heard of them until my friend Linda -- whose wonderful guest posts are familiar to regular readers of 2 or 3 lines -- recently brought the group to my attention.  

The Avetts have been described by one reviewer as sounding like a combination of Townes Van Zandt, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, and the Ramones.  I don't really know enough about their music to express an opinion on that judgment.  But based on this song, I think I would compare them to The Band.

I do know one thing: if the lines quoted above are typical of their lyrics, the Avett boys do know how to write songs.

It's been too long since Linda's last guest post.  I knew she was a big R.E.M. fan, so I asked her if she'd like to write about an R.E.M. song.  I like a number of R.E.M. songs a lot, but I can't say that I'm a fan of the band -- its frontman, Michael Stipe, is way too annoying.  I have a similar reaction to U2 and Pearl Jam -- both bands have released some great songs, but Bono and Eddie Vetter rub me the wrong way. 

I was surprised when Linda passed up the chance to do an R.E.M. post in favor of writing about the Avett Brothers instead.  I'll let her explain why she chose to do that:

When Gary dangled a carrot in front of me in the form of an offer to write another R.E.M. post, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I figured he must be in dire need of free content to put another R.E.M. song in his blog and being the loyal (if grossly underpaid) employee that I am, I agreed to write the post.
[I admit that I get hot and bothered when I hear the words "free content," but I do have my standards.  Linda's guest posts always exceed those standards by a wide margin.]
After giving my post more thought and considering and then rejecting various ideas for an R.E.M. song choice, I thought that maybe I should write about a relatively new band instead.  After all, one of the missions of this blog is to introduce music to the readers that they may not have heard of, but should. (2 or 3 lines can be at bit bossy like that sometimes.)
["Bossy"?  I have a feeling that Linda is talking about my "Hiphop 101" posts, which I continue to force down the throats of my readers despite being told repeatedly by those readers that they really can't stand rap music.  As for the "missions" of this blog, its primary mission is to impress hot chicks.  (How'm I doin'?)]
As you can see, I picked the Avett Brothers.  Every heard of them?  Probably not.  I’ve never heard one of their songs on the radio.  They don’t fit comfortably into any one particular music genre.

The Avett Brothers
Their music sounds nothing like R.E.M. (please tell me I didn’t just hear loud sighs of relief), although both bands use banjo, cello and piano.  The Avett Brothers actually have a cellist as a permanent band member.  I described their music to Gary as an amalgam of roots, folk and pop with heartfelt, affecting lyrics.  Gary’s pithy reply was “sounds like the musical equivalent of a chick flick.”
[I'm reminded of the joke about three baseball umpires who were asked about calling balls and strikes.  "I calls 'em as I sees 'em," said the first umpire.  "I calls 'em as they is," said the second.  "They ain't nothin' until I calls 'em," said the third.  Linda's description of the Avett Brothers' music made them sound like something that Thelma and Louise stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon would have been listening to as they were riding around in their 1966 Thunderbird, shooting pretty much every male they came across.  (One can only imagine the gigantic hissy fit that feminists would have thrown if the movie had been titled Elmo and Lewis and featured two male characters who used a Colt .38 Detective Special on every woman who looked at them cross-eyed.]

Thelma takes aim
The Avett Brothers’ songs probably do appeal more to females, but in videos of the bands’ live shows, there were an awful of  very enthusiastic male fans who seemed to know every word of every song. I won’t argue the point as to whether they were genuinely into the music or just humoring their female significant others.

[Linda's suspicion about why those male fans were acting so enthusiastic is quite accurate and consistent with my suspicion that most women have figured us males out.  Much of what we do is the human equivalent of the courtship display rituals engaged in by male birds in order to persuade females to mate with them instead of their rivals.  A male bird's courtship display is intended to persuade the target female of the male's physical vigor and biological fitness to father her children.  Most of the male fans at the Avett Brothers concerts are just attempting to impress the female fans with their sensitivity and simpatico -- not in the hope of actually fathering children in most cases, but coming as close as they can.]

Is that Scott Avett or Ashton Kutcher?
I found several parallels between the career trajectories of R.E.M. and the Avett Brothers. Both bands originated in the South – Georgia and North Carolina, respectively.  Both started out playing music that sounded very different from anything on traditional pop/rock radio.  They both quickly developed a fiercely loyal fan base while touring, first in the South, then up and down the East Coast and beyond.  And both have a singer with absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing blue eyes. (I know, that has nothing to do with the music, but then neither does Kim Kardashian.)
Michael Stipe
[Michael Stipe has mesmerizing blue eyes?  Really?  Maybe that's true, but have you checked out the rest of him?  The guy looks like he needs to get to a hospice toot sweet.  He makes most homeless guys look well-nourished.  By contrast, Kim Kardashian looks extremely well-nourished.]

When I was reading background information on the Avett Brothers, I was extremely surprised to find out that Rick Rubin produced their last album and is also producing their new album.  Rubin is a legendary producer who has worked with 2 or 3 lines favorites Black Sabbath, Beastie Boys, Metallica, Johnny Cash, and System of a Down as well as many other big-name groups, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC and Aerosmith.  I would never have imagined him as a likely choice to produce the type of music the Avetts play, but his pared-down production style must have appealed to them.

I really don’t expect a great many of you to be immediately drawn to this music.  I know I wasn’t. There are few catchy sing-along hooks or big, attention-grabbing choruses.  When I went through their older videos, they looked like they would have been right at home on the set of Deliverance.

 [Linda, I could have done without the reference to Deliverance.]

They have since cleaned up their look a bit, no doubt at the urging of their record label, but the music is what kept pulling me in and bringing me back for another listen.  “Musical equivalent of a chick flick” it may be, but the sincerity and passion in their music resonates throughout their entire catalog. 

I doubt I’ll ever feel the same connection to them that I’ve felt for R.E.M., but from the rapt looks on the faces of their fans when the band is playing, there must be a fair number of people who already have that connection with the Avett Brothers.

To be serious for a moment -- and I am capable of brief periods of seriousness from time to time -- I'm glad that Linda did decide to write about the Avett Brothers rather than R.E.M.

She is correct when she says that one of the goals of 2 or 3 lines is to uncover unfamiliar but noteworthy music -- not only for my readers, but for my own personal enlightenment and enjoyment.  I care a lot about old and new popular music of all kinds, but I know that I've only scratched the surface of what is available out there.  A number of my guest writers have written about songs that I knew nothing about, and as far as I'm concerned, that's the best kind of guest post.

Here's "I and Love and You":

Here's a link you can use to buy "I and Love and You" from Amazon:

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