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Monday, November 21, 2005

We're not that far off

Last week I wondered if we are close to a time when the pomp and posy excesses of '70s and '80s stadium rock are once again en vogue. Folks, we're even closer after I saw Dropsonic play Friday night and read an article on Avenged Sevenfold in Rolling Stone. You've been warned. Here's why:

Dropsonic is a pretty tight trio from Atlanta, GA, with mathy and glammy leanings. I don't think I've ever seen a band combine the shifting rhythms found in math rock along with the kind of guitar solos and flamboyant vocals found in glam rock. I thought they put on an impressive set as they played on the bill with powerhouses Traindodge and Saboteur. Traindodge rocked hard with their mix of melodic, dropped-D post-hardcore and Saboteur blazed through their inspired, punk-fueled post-hardcore. Dropsonic fit very well on the bill, but one certain thing set them apart (for good and bad reasons) was the presence of guitar and drum solos.

I'm not talking eight bars of a little flash here-I'm talking three to five minutes of just pure wankery. Dropsonic's drummer was great but after three minutes of his solo, I had enough. I know, I know; three to five minute solos aren't too bad right? Well, I was enjoying their songs until certain members decided to take a chicken-choking break. If this was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, please tell me.

Yes, I'm totally out of line here because there was a time when I loved to play drum solos. In high school, I thought a rock drummer's worth was in how hard, how fast and how steady he or she could play in a given period. Well, that's a way to think of it. I choose to think in terms of how a drum part or a guitar part fits in within a verse-chorus-verse song structure. When you give one another breathing room instead of stepping all over each other, that's a more relatable model of a band.

I'm not a virtuoso drummer. I can't play like Neil Peart from Rush or Buddy Rich, so if a disciple of their styles of drumming wants a drum-off, I would lose. I don't like to play simple, boring beats either. I like to play stuff that supports or compliments what the guitarists and vocalists are doing. I try to add whatever colors I can and I don't try to outdo anyone. There are plenty of virtuoso musicians out there, but not everybody is a virtuoso in the classical sense. Some may say Marky Ramone of the Ramones was a genius player while others would scoff at such a claim. In my view, it's not how many notes you play-it's which notes you play.

Don't think that I'm anti-solos in all kinds of music. In jazz, solos are welcome. There's a set (and bearable) space for a player to get a little loose from the main melody and come back to it. I haven't sat through extremely long jazz sets (maybe Kev has) and don't have many jazz records and I have yet to come across a bad solo live or on record. I'm sure there are some bad ones out there, but since jazz is more based on loose and looser rhythms, solos make sense.

But I'm talking about rock music here. The kind of music that affected me as a youth and continues to affect me today. Of course people are going to get a little out of hand with their egos and make wild claims about their lifestyles and music. So when I read a line courtesy of Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows in Rolling Stone, "We love rock & roll from the late Eighties and early Nineties. We love the rock stars, and all the shit that goes with it. We're trying to take what we know from that era, bypass the whole anti-rock star era and take people into the next one," I couldn't believe my eyes.

The members of Avenged Sevenfold make no bones about wanting to live the kind of lifestyle popularized by the hair metal bands in the 1980s: big hair, cocky attitudes, having lots of money, driving fast cars, living in mansions, banging hot girls and so on. Well guys, if enough people believe in that kind of debauchery, enough people will think that this lifestyle is something for everyone in the longrun. I don't believe in it for a minute. While those things may be cool to be spoiled with for a while, there is too much damage to deal with down the line. Don't believe me? Just read Motley Crue's The Dirt.

Us old fogies in our twenties and thirties remember how silly (but fun at times) hair metal was in the 1980s. We also remember how seriously amazing Nirvana was in 1992 without the cheeseball songs and the big hair. Maybe it's time for a younger generation to understand this the hard way.

1 comment:

Kev said...

" I haven't sat through extremely long jazz sets (maybe Kev has) and don't have many jazz records and I have yet to come across a bad solo live or on record."

The best jazz players make time stop, in a way. I saw the legendary tenorist Sonny Rollins a few years ago in Vermont, and, at the age of 72 or so, he played a blues solo for fifteen minutes! And it never got old; he still had "something to say" by the end.

Also, until recently, studio time was very expensive, so anyone who was really bad probably never got recorded. ;-)