Girls‘ latest album, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” is a mecca of influence. Each song has a strong sense of familiarity to them without directly sounding like anything too specific. “Die” sounds like sort of like “Hole in the Sky” by Black Sabbath before it changes into a mellotron led break down. “Say I Love You” has some guitar passages that resemble the chorus to “Misery” by the Beatles, and “Vomit” is unmistakably Floyd-esque.
However, the song “My Ma,” which they performed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” the other day seems to come very close to several others – at least three immediately come to mind.
First, here is “My Ma,” as it sounds on the album:
Delicate. Wounded. It’s a very pretty ballad, with an underlying soulful vibe. When first hearing the opening chords last week on the CD though, I was immediately reminded of an old track from The Flaming Lips‘ very first album.
Back when they were a rambunctious noise rock trio with some goth tendencies, they penned this epic track and put it on their full length debut, “Hear It Is,” in 1986. An underrated record for sure, especially considering the drugged out glory of this centerpiece.
Okay, so “Jesus Shootin’ Heroin” aside, “My Ma” kicks in with with its draggy beat and warm organ moseying along, which doesn’t bear much resemblance to the aforementioned track. Again though, I’m shot back in time, jusy not quite so far:
Out of the three listed here, this may be the closest in similarities to “My Ma.” “Alarmed”‘s tempo is around the same, there are some traces of the melody, and although they both change in different ways halfway through their verses, they both do so at approximately the same parts, diverging in opposite directions – Built to Spill go for major chords, while Girls keep it solemn and minor. “Alarmed” is from “Ancient Melodies of the Future,” released in 2001, a record that continues with “Keep It Like a Secret”‘s power pop but with about half the quality unfortunately.
And while we’re at it, the chord progression coupled with the band’s cadences at the end of each chorus is most reminiscent of:
Not an obvious sound-alike, but very similar in its structure and sound. “The Greatest” opens Cat Power‘s 2006 album of the same name, and sets the mood for an emotionally reflective outing. Out of all four songs, this may be the best, but “My Ma” is a worthy number two. It’s hard to truly compare quality against “Jesus Shootin’ Heroin” as it’s stylistically so different from all of them. “Alarmed” is a decent song, but not representative of Built to Spill’s overall genius.
The fact that “My Ma” sounds like these other songs doesn’t really take away from it. It’s still a stand out on “Father, Son, Holy Ghost,” but it’s interesting to observe as we shovel in more and more music into this world everyday, the ultimate limitations of 12 notes.