Hi everyone, long time no blog, eh?
Just a little post to let you know what I’ve been up to, and what’s coming next for this page.
Hi everyone, long time no blog, eh?
Just a little post to let you know what I’ve been up to, and what’s coming next for this page.
Hello, and welcome to my (admittedly belated) musical review of 2009.
2009 seems to be best summed up as a year of nostalgia. More than any other year in the Noughties, 2009 seemed to be heavily harking back to the 1980s. Synths were making a comeback in all forms of music. 80s stars were hitting the limelight once again, for a variety of reasons from comebacks to deaths. In general, people seemed to wish they were still wearing leg warmers and listening to New Wave in a club somewhere. Maybe we just wanted to be happy in the economic downturn, and with the proliferation of songs telling us to dance appearing in the charts, I think this is a definite possibility.
2009 was the year artists such as Florence and The Machine, Lady Gaga and Susan Boyle came to prominence, showing the power of both originality and the industry’s influence. It was a year of comebacks too, with Blink 182 and Blur reforming, and The Beatles getting a new lease of life through remastered albums and their own video game. As with ever year, the music industry also lost some key bands and musicians to both break-ups and deaths. Oasis finally snapped, as did Chas and Dave. The world also lost the legendary Michael Jackson, and fan favourite drummer ‘The Rev’ of Avenged Sevenfold.
Despite these sad moments, 2009 was a year I think we should all look back on fondly, and so I present to you my awards for the year. Awards which I have dubbed “The Willies”. So without further ado, here are the categories for the First Annual Willy Music Awards:
Over the next few days, you can also find me writing content for my girlfriend’s blog while she’s away. If you want to keep reading my opinions, then click the banner at the bottom of this post.
The content there will be a little different to what you get here, it’s a lot more informal, but still a lot of fun, why don’t you go and give it a read?
Usually, I am a proponent of the idea of adding an orchestra into a rock song when the time is right. It can make a song sound very filmic in a good way, it adds atmosphere and a great feel of the epic. Metal and orchestras always go well together, but then, I’ve always had the theory that metal is the closest popular genre to classical (but that’s a whole other article). Take Dimmu Borgir for example.
Sounds just like something out of Lord Of The Rings in the background doesn’t it? Imagine that song without the orchestra, it would sound a lot blander. To change direction slightly, bands such as Aerosmith can use orchestras brilliantly too. Though, with them, rather than sounding like film sountracks, their songs end up getting chosen as theme songs when they use orchestras (I’m looking at you “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”), but that may be just because they are a bigger and more radio friendly band than Dimmu Borgir.
I’m giving the impression that you need a really thickly produced song already to make an orchestra fit in, but you really don’t. Many a heartfelt acoustic song has moved its way into the category of heartwrenching with the addition of a swelling string section over the top. The classic example of this would be Green Day’s classic “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”, but here’s a unique version of The Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the Love show too, just to show you how strings can be used brilliantly.
A little note on The Beatles here; they are the only popular band I can think of who have made popular rock songs with only an orchestra for backing. I think that’s an achievement not as much for the band, but for the arrangements of George Martin, in his ability to get hit songs for The Beatles without them using their own instruments for a single note. This loops round nicely to the beginning actually, as I had always thought that “Eleanor Rigby” would make a great metal song, but I am yet to hear someone pull it off successfully. Oh well, here’s “She’s Leaving Home” just for argument’s sake too.
Considering all I have just said, how the hell did Ben Folds manage to ruin the single version of his song “Landed” by adding an orchestra? By all rights, this should have made it even more heartfelt and powerful but no, the strings feel tacked on and in the way. The original is bordering on a perfect piano led pop song, why did he feel he had to add strings to the single, the version most people are going to hear, if it ends up sounding like that and turning from heartfelt and charming to overwrought and sappy. Just listen for yourself and form your own opinions on it, I’m going to go back and compare two different versions of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” to see whether my theories work there.
I realised something about myself today. By all rights, I should be a total music snob. There are so many things about my musical taste and lifestyle which should mean I go around with the phrase “Your favourite band sucks” emblazoned on a sandwich board hung over my shoulders, screaming profanities at anyone listening to any band I deem to have ‘sold out’ and bemoaning the death of the British music industry because of the influence of the X Factor. Yet, I like to think that I have avoided this fate.
Oh sure, the snobs and I have a lot in common. One of these things is having a strong opinion on The Beatles. If you are a music snob, you either think that The Beatles are either an overrated pop band who only wish they had been born in London so they could have been The Rolling Stones, or that they are greatest thing since someone came up with the idea of bread, let alone slicing it. While I’m not quite at that extreme, I do really like The Beatles and know a hell of a lot of trivia about them. I have lost track of the amount of times I’ve just sat and listened to Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band all the way through. Knowing my fandom, my girlfriend bought me two Beatles posters and the remastered version of Yellow Submarine. I am so much of a Beatles nerd that I could instantly noticed the differences in the remastered versions of the tracks I knew on the album, and could point out that one of the posters was based on the original cover of Abbey Road, rather than the late rereleases where Paul’s cigarette was edited out. Also, I act like I’m on first name basis with the band and write The Beatles with correct capitalisation every time!
Despite all this, I would never tell anyone not to listen to anything else when they could be listening to The Beatles or something along those lines. Especially not The Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones are a great band, and while I do prefer The Beatles, I wouldn’t want to be without Keith Richards and the rest. Satisfaction, Paint It Black, and my personal favourite, Mother’s Little Helper, I couldn’t imagine not ever listening to these songs again out some weird Beatles fuelled vendetta. Lets put it this way; I refuse to ever say the The Rolling Stones are better than The Beatles. On the other hand, I find it hard to say the opposite either, I just grew up with The Beatles, became obsessed with deconstructing what went into the Love mashup album and got hooked as a big fan during all the hype around the release of the remastered albums, and The Beatles: Rock Band.
Oh sure, there’s more possible music snobbery in me, but when it comes to The Beatles, but I’m not a snob, right? I really hope so, or I’m just lying to myself.
When I posted my review of Them Crooked Vultures, I got thinking about the idea of superbands. The idea of taking the “best” parts of other bands, and putting them together in a new band in the hope that this conglomeration of artists could produce something better than they could on their own. Of course, this is all down to personal taste, the idea of what you consider good about different bands and artists, how you hope they would fit together and the sound you are yearning to get from them.
I’ve been mentioning these ideas to people, and it seems that even when people think they are putting effort into their choices, there seems to be some consensus. It seems that most people’s dream superbands take one of two routes. On the one hand, you have the people I will call “Legend Lovers”, who will give you a list of names of classic artists, most of whom are dead, but all are instantly recognisable. On the other hand, you have the “Virtuoso Votaries”, who will pick the artists who are famous for playing fast and complex, and little else. There is some overlap between these groups, but unless people actually sit down and research artists, all their choices fit into these two groups. When it comes to me, my first instinct was to be a Legend Lover as, to be honest, they are legends for a reason!
Vocals: Freddie Mercury/Robert Plant/Roger Daltry
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix/Brian May/Pete Townshend/Eric Clapton/Jimmy Page
Bass: John Entwistle/Geddy Lee/Paul McCartney
Drums: Keith Moon/Neil Peart/John Bonham
Vocals: Freddy Mercury/Bruce Dickinson/Ian Gillan/Steve Perry
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix/Joe Satriani/Steve Vai/Yngwei Malmsteen/Eddie Van Halen/Herman Li
Bass: Flea/John Petrucci/Geddy Lee/Cliff Burton
Drums: Neil Peart/John Bonham/Mike Portnoy
So, with all this useless research, where does this leave my superband concept? Well, I’ve been putting thought into this, and decided upon some rules for myself. By following these rules, I think I have come up with my personal perfect superband, who could actually have a chance of working together, and is somewhat original.
Rule 1: Avoid Legend Lovers and Virtuoso Votaries lists as much as possible
Rule 2: No dead musicians
Rule 3: Put together a band I think will actually work, musically.
The Band (All Photos Lead To Standout Performances)
Drums: Taking up the rhythm duties for my dream superband is Dresden Dolls drummer, Brian Viglione. I know, I’m off to a slightly obscure start, but hear me out. This guy is a really energetic and expressive drummer, and has enough stage presence to not just disappear at the back of the stage. While primarily a rock drummer, with punk influencing the sheer speed of some of his playing, he is also heavily influenced by Jazz, after his father took him to see “The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine” at the age of 11. Playing with Amanda Palmer in Dresden Dolls has given Viglione a good range. He knows when to play softly and not get in the way, but even in these moments he can add sweet little nuances, and not just cymbal taps. Also, when the time comes, he is able to really thicken up a sound with complex beats, jazzy fills and high-energy rock and roll swagger. He’s the perfect rock to hinge my band on.
Bass: One thing I love is when the bass can create movement in a piece of music. It sounds like an oxymoron, but melodic basslines are something we’ve sadly almost lost, but are one of the things that create that classic rock sound that is slowly dissapearing. Listen to most bands, and all you hear from the bassist is the root note of whatever chord the band is rocking. Add the ability to make any song truly funky and you begin to see that the bass guitar is a wonderful instrument and not one to be neglected like this. With Tim Commerford on Bass duties, I know it definitely won’t be. Bassist for Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, this guy is the king of melodic, funky, alterna-rock basslines. Despite this being quite a narrow category, it’s one that he really does truly own. Ok, in terms of alterna-rock funk, the crown goes to Flea, but it’s moments like the intro to RATM’s Calm Like A Bomb that earn Tim his place in my superband. He’ll probably have to drop the effects box to fit into the sound, but that will just make his great playing easier to hear.
Lead Guitar: This is where I get controversial. The lead guitarist I have picked isn’t a true guitar virtuoso, or even particularly a big name in their own right. However, the perfect guitarist for this band is coming in and breaking the boys club it is becoming so far, as this superband needs the axe stylings of Allison Robertson. The lead guitarist The Donnas has an irresistible classic rock style, drawn from bands like AC/DC, The Ramones and Kiss, but rather than being big headed and pretentious, her playing style is just a hell of a lot of fun. Chords are big and full, solos are fast and fun, and lead lines fit in brilliantly with everything else that’s going on. My superband has a little bit of classic rock lean, and Allison forms the heart of that sound.
Vocals (and Rhythm Guitar): Ok, this band is lacking two things. The first one is star power, the second is a killer front man. This is why we need to call in the services of Dave Grohl. While starting his career as a drummer, Dave has really made it as the singer and guitarist for Foo Fighters. He can disarm you with sweet tones, or scream straight through you, all the while maintaining a sound that very few people will object to. His skilled rhythm playing will round out the sound too, giving Allison the backing she needs for her solos, and help come up with some really memorable riffs to get this band in the public eye and ear. Also, on the subject of singing, all the other band members have had to handle backing vocal duties in their original bands, so there’s potential for some great harmonies and multi-vocal stabs.
I know none of this would ever happen, but it’s a lot of fun to think about and try to put together. Now the question is, who would you want in yours?
Hi, welcome to my new blog!
This blog is mainly here as a collection of my music reviews, but I’m sure other random interesting stuff will end up here too. I’ll cross post the my reviews for LUSH Radio here, as well as my own “freelance-esque” reviews (read: pointless practice). I hope you enjoy it, and it helps inform your future purchases!