In Defense of Mediocrity: Musings on Carolina Liar

You may remember that back in April, Ben turned into a screaming queen over the trailer for Post Grad. One of the devious mechanisms by which this insidious preview wormed its way into our favorite cinephile’s consciousness (besides the utter deliciousness of Zach Gilford) was the overpowering pop hook of its theme.  There was some initial confusion over the title and artist of the song.  I asserted that it was “Show Me What I’m Looking For” by Carolina Liar.  Shmarker doubted my musical powers, and labeled it a Keane song.  I was right (hah!), but Shmarker was entirely justified in thinking it originated with Keane.  After all, it shamelessly aped Keane’s piano-heavy ballads and Chad Wolf seems to be painfully straining to imitate Tom Chaplin’s distinctive warble.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Tom must be downright charmed.

Now, the song has been popping up a lot lately.  From its humble beginnings as the backing theme to the Post Grad trailer, the song has appeared on everything from car commercials to new TV spots for The Time Traveler’s Wife, even promotions for Major League Baseball.  This certainly proves yet again that any band seeking a modicum of notoriety need only produce an un-offensive pop ballad with a catchy chorus, a 3 chord progression, and a suitably emotional tone.

Admittedly, Carolina Liar isn’t actively bad.  They just aren’t good.  The chief “merit” of the band is their ability to resemble other groups, crafting imitative songs with simpler lyrics, less complex arrangements, and infectious hooks.  There is not an original sound on their entire album.  Songs like “Coming to Terms” and “Show Me What I’m Looking For” follow the same heavily piano based formula as Keane songs, with a little guitar thrown in and a lot of Keane’s famous distortion and delay effects removed.  “Last Night” and “Better Alone” sound like they were rescued from the rubbish bin of songs cast off from the Killer’s Hot Fuss. And I swear I thought Snow Patrol had snuck into the studio to deliver a half-ass contribution for “Done Stealin.”  The album is perfectly fine to listen to once, but that’s it.  The songs get old the second time around, which means being constantly bombarded with their “smash” single is getting a wee bit annoying.  Seriously.  I felt that if I heard that fake orchestral score for “Show Me” one more time…well, Madeline Khan says it best.

But then I had a change of heart…sort of.  More like a recognition.  I was loafing about this morning, enjoying a cup coffee to take the sting off a typical Saturday morning hangover, when of course one of the car commercials blaring Carolina Liar came on.  At first, I could feel the urge to kill rising…rising…rising.  But then I realized something:  we NEED mediocre bands to provide soundtrack fodder for commercials and bad sitcoms.

Just think of all the great songs you loved just a little less after they appeared on a car commercial.  Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”?  The Kooks “Shine On”?  The double-bastardization of The Dandy Warhol’s “I Love You” and “Bohemian Like You”?  I don’t know about you, but I died a little inside.  However, arguably, the presence of overexposed mediocrity means that producers will choose these catchy and unremarkable songs and leave the good stuff pure and untainted.  Plus, where would Gossip Girl be without bands like Carolina Liar?  What would set the mood for those painfully overdone shots of Serena walking down Fifth Avenue looking like someone just kicked her puppy before cutting away to Dan brooding in Brooklyn?  So go ahead Carolina Liar, continue to slavishly ape superior bands to produce easily marketed generic slop.  You and your ilk provide a much necessary service to the world, and we salute you for it.  Just don’t expect much in the way of a thank you.  After all, I said “necessary service” not “desirable.”



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