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Story of a 'stupid' song

Liam Lynch has a hit with 'United States of Whatever.' But he is far from claiming it is genius.

March 16, 2003|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Just leave him alone. He doesn't care, doesn't listen. The irritated voice on the song "United States of Whatever" belongs to Liam Lynch, adopting a mindless sneer for barely 90 seconds of comical punk attitude about nothing at all. A typical lyric: "This chick comes up to me, and she's all like, 'Hey aren't you that dude?' Yeah, whatever!"

The song has received regular airplay on KROQ-FM (106.7) in Los Angeles and on rock stations across the country, virtually all of them playing bootleg copies of a single that Lynch quietly released in England last year. The song officially arrives in the U.S. on April 1 as part of his debut album, "Fake Songs."

"The song's stupid," says Lynch, 32, a writer, musician and filmmaker who was born in Akron, Ohio, and lives in Van Nuys. "It's an improv. It took six minutes to write and record. I think people like it because it's got attitude, and it's obnoxious and short."

It was all a big accident, an early-morning recording done at home in just one take, with Lynch making it up as he went along, thumping a big, stupid bass line along to his stupid lyrics. And it shows, which is part of the song's reckless, idiotic genius. It quickly hit No. 10 on the charts in England, which was no surprise to Lynch, who released the single there as a "litmus test." Lynch, who was the creator of MTV's "Sifl & Olly Show," studied at Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts for four years. "I think they view it as such a prime example of obnoxious irreverence of Americans," says Lynch.

Brevity is key

KROQ inflicts "United States of Whatever" on its audience about 30 times a week, says station music director Lisa Worden, who had a friend provide her with an MP3 copy of the song. "We think it's funny, and KROQ's all about pushing the boundaries," says Worden. "I don't think that song could be four minutes long, or you'd want to slit your wrists. A minute and a half, and you've got it."

Not that any of this is life-changing for Lynch. Recording and publishing deals based on the single's early success mean he was able to pay off his house. But Lynch will not tour, beyond a handful of television appearances, possibly backed by members of No Doubt.

The song already has inspired some parodies, including one by a British TV show that lampoons President Bush sneering his own "whatevers" over foreign policy. But Lynch insists there is no political intent to the song.

The only message he intends is that anyone could do the same thing at home, without the help of a the record industry: "United States of Whatever" was made with his Macintosh computer.

"The truth is, people don't need a recording studio," Lynch says. "They can sell things online or in stores. You can burn your own discs at home. I hope that my album is a good symbol of that. It reminds people you can do things on your own."

"Fake Songs" comes with a DVD that pulls together nearly two hours of skits and bits documenting the making of the album, including sessions with Ringo Starr and Jack Black. The album's title refers to several tracks of "caricature songs" that parody artists such as Bjork, the Pixies and Talking Heads, but there are also some tightly crafted rock and pop songs.

"I truly don't care what people think about me," says Lynch. "I'm fine with letting a song out. I'm not a perfectionist by any means." Whatever.

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