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July 25-31, 2007

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Advil Latrine

Derivative shmerivative: Ripping off old bands is, like, as punk as it gets!

Dear Avril

Girlfriend to girlfriend: Rip off more old songs

By Sara Bir


DEAR AVRIL,

I bet your summer seems pretty craptastic, what with that old band the Rubinoos saying your hit "Girlfriend" stole from their 1979 song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." And then some Internet gossip columnist claims that the opening part to "I Don't Have to Try" is a blatant copy of potty-mouthed, hairy-armpitted trash rapper Peaches' song "I'm the Kinda."

But don't worry, chica—I got your back! Even if you did rip off the Rubinoos, you only ripped off the best five seconds of their best song, the part with the call-and-response "Hey! You! I wanna be your [boy-or-girl]-friend." Like anyone still cared about the Rubinoos before this whole lawsuit came up, anyway. Those guys should be glad you ripped them off! And as far as Peaches goes, there are only so many 808 beats to go around. LOL!!

I've read your lyrics, and I believe that you did write them, because they could be a lot better. Like "I'm the one, I'm the one who's got the prance/ I'm the one, I'm the one who wears the pants," from "I Don't Have to Try." Lame! Avril, if you wanna come off all badass, you can't use words like "prance."

You've got a good voice for teen pop and you have real spunk. But this whole brattiness-masquerading-as-girl-empowerment ruse just isn't cutting it. And I have just the solution: Rip off more songs. The even cooler news is that they're all by girls! Girls like you, but better.

All along you've had a mall-punk thing going on. How about some real punk, with a squealing teenage vocal about S&M? Then check out the X-Ray Spex's 1978 rave-up "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" The song functions on two levels—there's that whole symbolic bondage of society, see—and we all know you're into rebellion.

I noticed from the thank yous in the liner notes to your last album that you like to drink. But you never write songs about it. Hello, wasted opportunity! Everyone knows the best songs are about drinking. The Ohio band Scrawl are even less known than the Rubinoos, which is a shame, because no one sang about bad relationships and partying gone afoul with more poignancy and emotional bite than Scrawl.

Cue up the drunk-driving threat "Drunken Fool" for a crash course in (or reminder of, as it were) how dumb we can act when wasted. And pay attention to Marcy May's crunchy guitar playing and lovably flawed singing. It might be only a matter of months before you get arrested for drunk driving anyway, so you might as well capitalize on the situation.

In the video to "Girlfriend," you push around a nerd girl, which is all fine and good, but maybe it's time for you to take the next step. Enter Loretta Lynn's 1968 firecracker "Fist City," in which Ms. Lynn threatens a trashy competitor for her man's affections: "You better close your face and stay outta my way/ If you don't wanna go to fist city." And in the video, you could actually beat up the nerd girl. I'd pay to see that.

When you're not bossing your boyfriends around, they're all shitty and cheating on you. Billie Holiday sang about both subjects with a sad-hearted authority. Listen to "Don't Explain" for a model of a co-dependent love song ("Hush now, don't explain/ Just say you'll remain/ I'm glad you're back, don't explain").

And speaking of bossing around boys, lend an ear to the Yeastie Girlz' timeless cunnilingus anthem "You Suck." Also venturing into the territory of girl bands that don't shy away from singing the word "clit" is L7, who were sort of like a metal version of you, but with better dye jobs.

Your ballads need some work. They're all sappy and clichéd and stuff. Look to the entire Rhino box set One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds for some bar-none delivery of sexual and emotional longing delivered with a heavy cloak of harmonies and knockoff "wall of sound" production. Like the Chiffons' "Nobody Knows What's Goin' On (In My Mind But Me)," a powerful testament of misunderstood young love with a shooter of fuck-you. It's mildly psychedelic and totally spellbinding, with a whirling arrangement of harp glissades and gauzy cocoons of echo. Might be a nice break from the dance-pop.

Your fan,
Sara


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