Album: Liam Lynch

Fake Songs, S-Curve/Virgin
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The Independent Culture

Liam Lynch is probably best known here, if at all, for the hit single "United States of Whatever", which, through alternating bursts of Valley Girl contempt and punk riffing, manages to encapsulate in two acidly satirical minutes the fathomless well of irritable disdain so thirstily drawn on by American teens.

In the wider scheme of American pop, however, Lynch has become known as "the Spike Jonze it's OK not to have heard of", a brilliant one-man multimedia cottage industry whose quirky animations, parodies, comedy skits and music videos have enlivened the output of MTV - for which he also created and starred in the daily show Sifl and Olly. So, although Fake Songs may seem a tad short by modern standards, its 20 tracks zipping by in less than 37 minutes, there's compensation aplenty in the accompanying Fake Movies DVD, a generous show-reel of Lynch's film output. Along with footage of recording sessions with Jack Black and Ringo Starr, it features episodes of Lynch's Flyz animation, spoof commercials for Satan and the life-prolonging vitamin Inphibia, the adventures of Time Tagger - a geeky graffiti artist who travels back in time to spray-paint ancient monuments - and promo videos for things such as "Ansel Adams Theme Song", an apocryphal biopic of the celebrated photographer.

Lynch is rather like an American equivalent of Adam & Joe in the way he feeds voraciously off (and into) pop culture. The music CD reveals him to be a devastating parodist, with spot-on spoofs of Bowie, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads and, most impressively, Björk, Lynch essaying an astonishingly accurate impression of her agitated murmur over a froth of synths and skittish electronic rhythms. He has an extraordinary ear for his subjects' stylistic peculiarities, reducing each artist to a checklist of tics and conceits: his "Fake Pixies Song", for instance, features the requisite hoarse screams, surf guitar, girl's name and ghostly harmonies, all deftly aped. And even when he's satirising genres rather than individuals, it's not hard to figure out which bands are being teased in the glam raunch of "Try Me", Goth-rock of "Vulture's Son", slacker slouch of "Still Wasted from the Party Last Night" and ghastly poodle-haired heavy metal of "Rock and Roll Whore" and "Well Hung".

The danger of such reductive parodies is that Lynch's talents are condemned to a subsidiary role: he's reacting to other artists' creations, rather than forging his own sound and presenting his own worldview. And there are limitations on the commercial appeal of music parodies, which generally serve a different need from that which drives pop fans to buy. But then, they said that about Spinal Tap, too.

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