Our Love/Hate Relationship with Gotye

The Man, the Myth, the Single Plays the Bowl September 8


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 11 months, chances are you’ve heard Gotye. Not ringing a bell? Well, what about his breakthrough, chart-topping, xylophone-freak-out jam “Somebody That I Used to Know”? Yeah. We thought so.

For you hermitic types, Gotye is the stage name of Wouter “Wally” De Backer, a Belgian-born, Australian-bred singer/songwriter, and the single in question is his magnum opus, a slinky and infectious duet with Kiwi songstress Kimbra. In the months since “Somebody” broke stateside, the song was named 2012’s longest-running Hot 100 chart topper. (He’s since been unseated by Miss Carly Rae Jepsen.) It’s also been rerecorded, reimagined, and reworked by more artists than even Google can count. (This past June, Gotye celebrated the song’s triumphant success with, you guessed it, a release of his 10 favorite “Somebody” remixes.)

This week, Gotye returns to the West Coast as part of an ongoing tour in support of his 2011 album Making Mirrors. With shows booked at L.A.’s historic Greek Theatre, New York’s even-more-historic Radio City Music Hall, and our own beloved S.B. Bowl, we can’t help but ask: Is one ubiquitous single really all it takes?

To give Mr. De Backer some credit, “Somebody” isn’t actually his only jam. In fact, Making Mirrors packs a pretty solid punch. Tracks like “Easy Way Out” and “Smoke and Mirrors” offer decent reinterpretations of Sting’s soft rock–meets–prog guitar shtick, and sleeper track “State of the Art” boasts an inventive mix of reggae-fied bass, orchestral surges, and trippy vocal effects. But then there are the misses, like Hall & Oates hack job “I Feel Better,” and the head-on collision of acoustic guitar and trumpet that is “In Your Light.” Still the major problem with Making Mirrors is that “Somebody That I Used to Know” is by far its best track. As for what that means for the concertgoing masses, we’re not too sure. But with the encore already spoiled, I can’t help but wonder — what’s the point? Then again, I’ve been humming that damn xylophone hook since I started writing this.

Gotye plays the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.) with Chairlift and Jonti on Saturday, September 8, at 7 p.m. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.


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