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Monday, August 24, 2009

Quiet Little Voices

After seeing so many bands and have enjoyed many of them, unfortunately, I still have a deep-rooted prejudice with loud, dynamic rock bands. I must confess again that I hate it when a rock drummer only uses one cymbal. More specifically, besides a hi-hat, this drummer thinks that all he or she needs to rock out is one cymbal. Yes, just one cymbal can hit like a crash but also be played like a ride.

Well, not everybody's music is like the Flaming Lips, with all sorts of coloring by guitars and keyboards and programming. And not every drummer is as crafty on the drums as Steven Drozd. And not everybody can play like Centro-matic's Matt Pence either. So that said, I get rather annoyed when I see somebody holding him or herself back from rocking completely out with just sticking to one cymbal. Dynamic-wise, it's just not enough in a rock band.

To recap, because I've blogged about this before (and I'm too well aware of that): on a cymbal, you have three primary spots to get three different sounds. There's the edge, the top side, and the bell. Trying to play a cymbal as a crash and a ride at the same time is difficult because the cymbal moves when hit and it starts ringing the second it is hit. So why a lot of indie rock drummers think this is the way to go, I'm just not sure. (Yes, I once played an entire set of Rolling Stones covers with just one cymbal, but that was to honor Charlie Watts's style of not playing on a lot of cymbals.)

So this leads me to something I experienced over the weekend. While watching a local duo who has received plenty of love from people in the last few months, I was very underwhelmed. Not only did this duo suffer from not having a bassist, but the drummer played too simply and (sarcastic gasp) with only one cymbal. Accents and dynamics just seemed tripped over and slopped over, and that was not for the best in this band's case.

Couple of days later, I'm finally getting around to hearing the much-praised We Were Promised Jetpacks' debut album. (I had heard half of the record before, but I had yet to listen to it from start to finish.) Yes, this band is very, very good and lives up to the hype, but something made me wonder while I was listening to the songs. The drummer doesn't play with a lot of cymbals, could he possibly be another one of these guys that thinks all you need is one cymbal? The horror! I even listened very closely, and I could not totally tell.

Perusing YouTube today, I found the video for "Quiet Little Voices." To my relief, I was happy to see that the band's drummer uses one small cymbal as a crash and one larger cymbal as a crash/ride.

Why does all of this still get to me/make me wonder? Because I truly value the role of a drummer in a rock band. My time in rock bands since 1994 is a big reason why I get really uppity about it. If the drummer is holding back by dropping beats and accents, that's something that holds the whole band back. You're only as good as your drummer, as (Saint) Joe Strummer put it on the Westway to the World documentary. Like many other things about life and music, he was totally right.

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