Tuesday, May 24, 2005

let's slow things down a bit

Okay, so if you've been hanging around here with any regularity you've probably noticed I've got a bit of a 'problem' with music. A problem like how Barry Bonds loves the cream and the clear. A problem like Chet Baker. A problem like Ron Popille and swimming. I like the stuff. Consequently, I dig about on various music sites and take in as much information as I can about what's new, what's not, and pretty much everything that's good and out there for consumption.

Today I came across this article on Stylus magazine, a magazine that's not as smug and snarky as Pitchfork, but every bit as committed to the new stuff on the indie and weird music scene that's out there. I've only been visiting there every so often for a month or so now, but this story kind of took me off guard. It's basically a 'think piece' on the massive influence and talent of REM, specifically, their wonderful album "Reckoning."

Now, I adore REM. They were probably the first band I stumbled upon and decided I had to have just about everything they'd laid down to CD (yes, my 'problem' doesn't include vinyl, which I think may be a line of sorts). So, yeah, I loved "Reckoning." Listen to it soon if you get a chance, the thing holds up really well for something that was committed to tape in 1985. It doesn't sound like something that paired with a year marked by Miami Vice and Miami Sound Machine. In short, it's great. Now maybe here's what seperates me from the Big Boys on the music doofus scale, but apart from some more analysis as far as how things sound, if I wanted to go that route, that's what you'd expect out of a deconstruction of the album.

Stylus, for better or for worse, goes one step further. There's talk of syncopation. There's talk of sixteenth notes and something called 'I-ii-V' in song structure. Right about there is where I stopped giving a shit.

I love the album, and I'm right there with you, but you've just taken all the blood out of the patient, doctor. I admire the writer's skills for breaking down the chemical elements of what makes "Harborcoat" and "So. Central Rain" great tunes, but all the joy, the visceral pleasure, the gutteral reaction to what makes the songs wonderful are stripped away, leaving only a crude and interesting looking metal frame. It's interesting, but it's also very very cold, and you can hardly see what made the work beautiful. No on diagrams a sentence from Salinger, Bellow or Steven King to find out why it rang so wonderfully, at least no one who I want to talk to. They just enjoy it.

Maybe I'm wrong. I don't have a musical education, a turntable, or a hermetically sealed stash of albums I used to spin at four in the morning on my college radio station. Sometimes I wish I did, I'd be able to jump and play in those lands. But, I'd probably get to go outside a lot less. Okay, I'm kidding there. But let me pledge that you won't hear me stepping up to the chalkboard to showcase my qualifications in that manner. I'll just tell you something's good, why I subjectively think so, and invite debate. If you counter with a discussion of where, say, Bill Berry's high hat falls on the beat and how that makes everything sound that much better, you will be ignored. Oh you will.


At 5:10 PM, Blogger rajeev said...

yeah i had the exact same reaction to that stylus piece. usually they avoid that type of stuff though ... definitely a great site.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger chris said...

Yeah, that's the curse--I regularly check the site since their reviews are such a nice alternative to Pitchfork and its ways...but I'm keeping an eye on that tendency.


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