Everyone just labels Sammy a Pavement ripoff band, but I contend that they are, in fact, the precursors and influencers of The Strokes. Look at those skinny ties! Look at those shag haircuts! Look at those rich kids (because what kind of other kids are there in Great Neck?) playing the rock music while vaguely looking like Brits! Sammy quickly flamed out in 1996, right after the release of this album, followed barely two years later, in 1998, by the formation of the band that led us into the new century. I mean, what other proof do you need? It’s band reincarnation in its purest form.
You can’t look at and listen to this record and tell me Julian Casablancas didn’t own Tales of Great Neck Glory, and bite its whole vibe. After all, this is a NYC album — despite its title touting the most annoying of Long Island towns. On the most annoying of islands. And, yes, I get that they throw off that “slacker” vibe that Pavement perfected, but there’s also the element of too-cool-for-school in their slackerness that was adopted by the post-punk revival crowd like The Strokes and their ilk. Not exactly a jokiness, but the eschewing of the earnestness of the grunge-era Nirvanas and Pearl Jams of the world. Bands that were only a couple years from their peak. I’m not saying they’re like Ween or Tenacious D or something. Or even something questionably serious like Cake, or even some of the goofier Weezer. Though, admittedly, there is some inauthenticity to what they’re trying to pull off. Which I suppose speaks to the fact they were a seeming label concoction with absolutely no staying power. Like they literally put this — their major label debut — out and immediately called it a day. As if they didn’t have the heart to hit the road to support what are pretty sly pop songs. But if your heart ain’t in it, I suppose it ain’t in it.
Ignoring whatever you feel about this album’s proximity to other bands of the time, I think it lives on its own as a pretty catchy amalgamation of pop rock coolness. The whole reason it probably got slagged back in ’96 is because society cared about those things back then. Authenticity. Originality. Selling out. All the Gen X nonsense that we put on our artists. Today it’s almost considered stupid if you don’t jump on the latest trend. I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of Hipster Jr.’s hip hop at this point and I dare anyone to tell me how any of the trap rappers are doing anything different than one another. Or how the drill rappers vary their act from the original, most popular artists. It’s as if imitation is expected. And rewarded. Paying many, many thousands of dollars for a popular rapper to jump on your track for a bar builds clout and can make a career — however short-lived. And selling out (aka shopping your music to the highest corporate bidder) is encouraged and applauded. It’s just a different world. So when Sammy does a song like “Blue Oyster Bay,” which actually does employ that languid, NoCal country thing, it’s considered bad form. And that they’re just Pavement lite. Whereas every single pop star in the 2020s copies the Billie Eilish phrasing, lyrical approach and musicality and is rewarded with sold-out concerts and legions of fans.
This is all to say, if you liked Pavement in the mid-nineties, you’ll also enjoy Sammy’s Tales of Great Neck Glory. If you are a fan of early Strokes stuff, you might like this record. The point is, we can’t always compare something to something else better. It’s not fair. Even though I do that shit all the time on this site. Like constantly. But sometimes that thing can be enjoyable all on its own. Such is the case with this album. And, sure, it isn’t the most original thing in the world. But only in the context of the nineties does that seem to be a problem. It’s an old construct. We should embrace the “get money” aesthetic of the new century and thank the world for giving us more sidecar Pavement. Because more of a good thing is almost always a good thing.