Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My Problem with Rock Music

I recently started subscribing to Rhapsody, a service that lets you listen to all the music you want from an 850,000 song catalogue. I've been using this to try out a lot of music that I've been meaning to listen to for a while, especially the Rush album Moving Pictures. They're supposed to be really good, and their lyricist has a lot of Objectivist influences, which should appeal to me. I wanted to like them. I really did. The lyrics are good, the drumming is excellent, and the music is pretty aggressive, which I like. But I really couldn't make myself at all interested.

On reflection, I think I figured out why I've historically been bored by most rock music: I don't like guitars. Oh, there's nothing wrong with them; they're great as background for something more interesting, like piano or vocals. Guitars are incredibly good at providing background chords to lay stuff over. But I have no real desire to listen to the guitars themselves. I suspect this is largely because I sing and play piano: when I'm listening to a singer or pianist I can tell what's going on. I'm not too familiar with guitars, and don't know what to listen for, and so can't get too interested. This makes me totally uninterested in a whole lot of otherwise great music: if it's not vocals- or piano-centered, I'm not interested.


Anonymous David said...

Jay, you're a twat. The guitar is a perfectly good instrument, the problem is that Rush is a prog band, and as such, will use a really crunchy and heavy guitar sound. Listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan or Paco de Lucia before condemning entire bands and genres.

July 16, 2005 3:11 PM  
Blogger Jadagul said...

David: First, please don't engage in pointless insults here. If you're trying to let of steam, I have no problem with that. There are lots of forums devoted specifically to that. This isn't one of them. On the other hand, if you want to actually convince someone of something, beginning with an insult is an extremely poor method.

Second, I have listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan. I really like the drums and the vocals. The guitar for the most part doesn't interest me at all. I won't like, there were a couple of mildly cool riffs, but nothing that really made me sit up and take notice. I wasn't forming this judgment based solely on Rush; Rush is just the band that helped me figure out why I'm so uninterested in so much music that so many people like.

July 21, 2005 5:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think david's recommendation of vaughan is an excellent point - for in this case the guitar is the voice - the main voice- vaughan is only adding his voice and lyrics as backround for the sound and movement the guitar is producing and taking you too. lucia is very much the same - the musical theme is in the flow of the guitar and drum, bass, vocals only enhance what the guitar is trying to accomplish. sometimes itis like listening to the vocals of billy holiday- close your eyes and listen to where her voice is taking you in the song, how she makes you feel- early. early eric clapton even as derrik and the dominos (although david you may not agree with that) or my favorite harrisons "while my guitar gentally weeps" all do the same for me-
uncle steve adds joe satriani as a perfect example pure guitar as voice in a rock (not blues) genre-
oops- i've rambled too long

July 30, 2005 7:22 PM  
Anonymous patty said...

ok, that was patty

July 30, 2005 7:23 PM  
Blogger Jadagul said...

I think were actually agreeing. A lot of music, especially pop, rock, and blues music, is driven by the guitar and uses the guitar as its main "voice." When you listen to the song you're supposed to listen to the guitar as the main element, and I don't. I ignore the guitar to listen to the other stuff‐the piano and the drums and the lyrics—and when the other stuff is just there to enhance the guitar, that leaves out a lot.

July 30, 2005 8:59 PM  
Blogger keith said...

Jay, Rush is actually a really bad place to start. Their lyrics are a little Objectivist but a lot prosaic. They're not much for melody or hooks. They come off a little cold and dispassionate. To compound the problem, they take themselves way too seriously. In short, they lack most of the things that make rock 'n' roll fun.

The recommendations I see here are great ones. They're sort of the two sides of the coin. Joe Satriani (following in the footsteps of his hard rock and fusion influences) gets his point across with lots of notes . Stevie Ray Vaughan (following in the footsteps of his blues influences) gets his point across with one or two. Satriani's genius, for my money, is his flawless technique (the kind of riffs that will, to use your phrase, make you sit up and take notice) and killer melodic sense. Meanshile, Stevie Ray's genius is that with those one or two notes he conveys the same amount of emotion (and maybe even more).

If you want the whole package, guitarlyricsvocalssound, I would recommend, off the top of my head and in no particular order, Matthew Sweet, Richard Thompson, and Jeff Buckley.

July 31, 2005 9:29 PM  
Blogger McAfee said...

Rush is fine, but more than a little dated.  If you're looking for something similar but more contemporary, I'd check out a band called Coheed and Cambria.  Coheed's most recent CD, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 came out in 2003.  It's a science fiction theme album reminiscent of Rush's 2112.  The singer is a guy named Claudio Sanchez and he's got high-pitched power vocals that I think trump Geddy Lee.  The record weaves a dark sci-fi story that ranges from mysterious to incomprehensible, with track titles like "Cuts Marked in the March of Men" and "The Velourium Camper I:  Faint of Hearts."  The best track is the secret song at the end, "2113" (A Rush reference perhaps?).  It's an epic song that rises and falls, twisting through ten moods in nine minutes.  The music is solid, complex and melodic throughout the album and even if you don't grasp the story, it's a great listen.  If you like In Keeping Secrets, you should also check out Coheed's earlier release, Second Stage Turbine Blade, and the new album, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star iV, Volume One:  From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, scheduled for release in September.

August 21, 2005 5:51 AM  

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