Any of us who are in bands have a hard time facing comparisons without feeling like it’s anything but a necessary evil. As flattering as you think it might be to hear that your music reminded somebody of The Beach Boys, or Billy Squier, or Napalm Death, it can just as strongly make you feel like they overlooked what makes you unique. The dread of the cookie cutter, the embarrassment we feel when admitting that there’s a blueprint to our sound; for indie artists these can be much stronger motivations than the effort to make good music. In a sad, sad way this might describe an entire culture, one with all the self-consciousness it takes to appear artistic, but without the talent and creativity it takes to make art.
With their debut EP, It’s Funny Because You’re Not Even Real, Brooklyn trio Ceramics does an admirable and refreshing job of avoiding this trap, and as an indirect result it’s not so difficult to spot their influences. The album opener, “Paid Out,” sounds like early Foo Fighters, “There’s Enough For Everyone” invokes Green Mind-era Dinosaur Jr, and “Coma Toast” could have been on Bleach if Kurt Cobain’s songs had funnier titles. If Ceramics were simply trying to recycle the golden days of late 80’s/early 90’s indie, these comparisons would have been the first thing to come to my mind when I listened to their EP. But they weren’t. The first thing I thought was simply, “This is good. It’s good music. It’s great music!” And making great music is the best way to ensure that listeners will smile – and not cringe – when they do spot familiar sounds in a new context.
The best songs on the album – or at least my favorites – are the first and last. In short, “Paid Out” is the catchiest, and “Deal Not To Heal” cuts the deepest. But there’s plenty in between to love in this album. From start to finish it maintains a skillful balance of the melodic and the visceral, and given their influences I feel pretty sure that this is exactly what Ceramics wanted to achieve with their debut. Just listen to it. This thing will stick in your head.