Saturday, May 16, 2009

You Call THAT Music?

What passes for music these days.
NOW I know what the geezers from my past were talking about. The music that kids listen to today barely qualifies as music.

Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of artists out there on the popular music scene who can actually make music. John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Grace Potter, and a few others are first-rate musicians and songwriters. These guys are not the focus of this rant.

And I guess that’s what it is that bothers me so badly. A new band may actually have a decent song; tolerable lyrics, lead singer that’s not too annoyingly “urgent” and some musicians who can actually play their instruments. The most maddening detail is the drummer, pounding incessantly on the cymbal with each and every beat with no variation or sense of rhythmic patterns. Just banging on the cymbal. Sometimes through the chorus or even the verse. I hate it. I have even unwittingly ruined a band or two for my oldest daughter. Sorry. But this is a widespread problem, a disturbing trend, and the stuff of geezer chronicle.

Apparently the only requirement to be a drummer these days is to have a drum kit and a pair of sticks. Oh, and enough brain power to carry a beat. But that’s where it ends.

No more Neal Peart, Richie Hayward, Mick Fleetwood or the other greats who could play complex patterns of interesting rhythms, and keep a steady beat at the same time.

These guys were back in the day when guitar players actually played the whole way through the song, not just little breaks at the appropriate places, then a fifteen second bridge. Paul Barrere of Little Feat (a band that many have not heard of, but who were very cutting-edge and influential in the 70s) was a phenomenal guitarist whether playing lead or rhythm. Most of the songs, he is just playing behind the vocals, not just chords, but complex rhythms that are hard to hear unless you are listening with headphones or at volumes to make the neighbors a little angry.

My point is, that musicianship is getting passed over for a decent hook, over-produced music and a cute face/fancy dance moves. The old guys, and I’m going way back to Tommy Dorsey and Bob Wills, the 1930’s and 40’s, were definitely not lookers, nor did they even have singing voices that were beautiful, but they could play their respective instruments and assemble others who could technically and creatively complement them.

Now all you need is an aggressive manager and a good producer.

I don't know the band in the picture, I just wanted to show the young, vapid musicians prowling around these days. They look like they would play the kind of tripe that I described above. For all I know, they could be the next band of geniuseses that make the Moody Blues look like a bar band. Just judging the book by the cover. Geezer stuff.


innominatus said...

>>> My point is, that musicianship is getting passed over for a decent hook, over-produced music and a cute face/fancy dance moves. <<<

[face turning red] Must. Resist. Urge. To go on multi-page rant...Well, the Carter years gave us overproduced dancy disco crap. Now we have what you described, plus the hip-hop junk where no actual instruments are necessary. Just rip a sample off an old pop tune and talk about shooting people and sit back while it goes Platinum.
/end minor rant

Remember how Peart's drums pretty much wrapped all the way around him? I once saw a documentary where they put a nickel-sized piece of tape on the "sweet spot" of each drumhead and cymbal. There were fiber-optic cameras on Peart's sticks, which showed that he was hitting the target every time. Even the stuff behind him. Crazy.

And even if these noise makin' kiddies do become great, I can't see any of them comin' up with the trippy poems that the Moody Blues liked to insert into their material. That would require literacy. Ain't gonna happen.

Rob V. said...

Amen, brother Geezer. You took the words right outa my mouth. On a positive note. I was encouraged to hear that the recent James Taylor concert in downtown Houston sold out shortly after the tickets went on sale. Just shows to go you that there's still a market for real talent -- ballads with a universal message that feature real musicianship and skillful lyrics. Never forget the first time I heard Bobbie Gentry sing "Ode to Billie Joe." That song, and her performance of it is just pure, beautiful art. It never grows old or trite. It's the sort of stuff that pseudo recording artists of today can never generate because they have no real talent.