Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let Us Remember: The Greatness of ELO

I'm tired of people ironically enjoying the Electric Light Orchestra. What exactly is so lame about their music that it requires ironic distance? The fact that the band had silly cover art, overambitious arrangements, and dopey, idealistic lyrics makes them pretty much like every other popular rock band of their era. You can't ironically like ELO without ironically liking the Beatles or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, because all those artists have moments as cheesy (if not cheesier) as Jeff Lynne and Co. I'm not saying you have to rank ELO with those bands, just that you can't damn one band for their excesses while completely ignoring those same excesses in another, more popular band.

And to act like adding synthesizers to rock music is lame in this day and age is just silly. If anything, the band were trailblazers. From Daft Punk's Discovery (whose title is an homage to ELO's Discovery album) to Phoenix to M83 to any random Kitsune Maison dance rock band that makes a song that sounds like a late 70s disco rock one-off, the influence of ELO is still strong. The reason the band's influence has remained so strong despite cultural and critical baggage is that they made great pop music.

Listen to "Confusion" (off Discovery) and "Rain is Falling" (off Time). Even stripped down they would be beautiful songs, but who would want to lose all the different synth sounds? "Confusion" features a harpsichord-like sound, a deeper, flanged keyboard, and that descending organ part that sounds like someone whistling. "Rain is Falling" has just as many different sounds, my favorite being the one played during in the intro that sounds like a voice singing underwater.

Face it, snobs: ELO hate has nothing to do with the actual music and everything to do with residual judgments left over from pompous rockists and the "Disco Sucks" movement.