Thursday, August 14, 2008

she's holding on my heart like a hand grenade

I've been driving to work fairly often lately. Probably way more than I should, considering we still have the country's most expensive gas (it's down to a little over $4 right now but just a couple months ago it was pushing $4.70), but I just really love driving to work. Even though I lived on campus for the last four years of college, I still rode the train to and from class all the time, so commuting to work/school via Metra and CTA still feels kind of the same. Driving feels like something different, like a step forward, which for many reasons makes me feel much better about myself and my current state in life.

Gas for a month of commuting (based on my not-horribly-accurate observations) at this point probably comes out to around $200, more if there are additional trips to and from the city, which there often are. Monthly passes for CTA and Metra come out to $170. So really, driving isn't all that much more expensive for me, but it sucks that a decade ago it'd be like $40-$50 for the month. Guess not everything about the 90s sucked. Not that I can talk since I currently look like Eddie effing Vedder, but whatever.

Speaking of unintentional segues, I've got a bone to pick with music. Driving around I've been listening to the radio a lot lately. Usually I stick to 97.1, or as I like to call it "the station with good music" (it's the best local classic rock station), but sometimes I get adventurous and try to hunt down some modern stuff. There are really only three options for this. 103.5 is 99% rap, so I can skip that one easily (I'm sorry but it's gotten to the point where it's rare to find anything rap-ish that is remotely musical). 101.9 is the... er, well, it's something I could see middle-aged women listening to. 101.1 is the only real station left for modern rock, and it isn't a modern rock station anymore really, they play 80s/90s "alternative" too, and they take that term rather liberally and pretty much play any shit from whenever the hell they want.

When you can actually get one or two new songs, they are mostly the same in that they suck. Most modern American rock artists have fortgotten how to be interesting, or they simply choose not to be and instead focus on their look. The most popular bands I hear people talking about seem to not know how to play their instruments. It is exactly like what our parents said about music in the 90s, that it's all three chords and all sounds the same, except now it's actually true (for the most part).

This might come across better in person when I can vocalize, but I'll do my best to get my point across. When you hear a singer, does he only sing three or four different notes?

Hey, I'm singing, hey, I'm singing, hey, I'm singing, hey, I'm singing!
Hey, I'm singing, hey, I'm singing, hey, I'm singing, hey, I'm singing!

I think most people would agree that it would sound very strange, right? What people expect is for the singer go through a huge series of notes, up and down and all around. However my gripe is with the fact that people are inexplicably okay with that from the instruments.

Nuhnuhnuhnuh nuhnuhnuhnuh nuhnuhnuhnuh nuhnuhnuhnuh

nahnahnahnah nuhnuhnuhnuh nahnahnahnah nuhnuhnuhnuh



(same as chorus, but drop one or more instruments, optionally add effect to vocals)


Most people are okay with songs that go like that. Now, I'm not saying that songs with that basic structure and repetitive sounds don't have their place at all, sometimes you can really use a basic, punchy song like that. My problem is that most bands only do songs like that.

There is this thing that old people liked in their music, now a forgotten relic of the past, called a "solo." A solo often was a designated section where the guitarist would go off on a multi-note spree, different from the rest of the song, and it could also be used for bass and drums. It was then that musicians would demonstrate that they in fact knew how to play their instruments, and it often had brilliant results. Modern bands seem to largely ignore solos, and on the off chance that they do it now and then, they're usually painfully simplistic or just a couple notes but really really fast. Again, that's okay sometimes, but not all the time.

I should mention that I don't criticize modern bands for only lacking solos. I just use the term solo most of the time since a lot of bands seem to have the idea that the only part where they are potentially allowed any musical variety is during a solo. Personally, I like variety throughout the entire song. Just a few different chords can only get you so far. Many bands nowadays rarely even have full chords anymore, power-chord-exclusive songs seem to be getting more and more common. I could play a halfway decent song full of power chords. I don't know how to play guitar, but I can figure out how to hold down two strings two frets apart.

There are still some modern bands that actually have decent music. Foo Fighters is probably the best example. While their albums always had the same kind of "sound" to them, their songs were always fairly varied and featured some pretty good playing. They were on the verge of being a tad too repetitive to me, but with their last album, they switched things up a bit, and the result was timeless and freaking awesome. In my mind they've gone up to the level of "classic rock," up there with Petty, Stones, etc. Their popularity is one of my huge hopes in modern music. There's also stuff like System of a Down, which I personally don't like, but I have to give them credit for being unique and actually having some variety in their songs.

Also, I've heard a few Avenged Sevenfold songs lately... is it just me, or is there suddenly a pop-metal genre? I choose to plug my ears, go "la la la la la," and keep listening to 1981-1988 Metallica albums.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Emo is gay.
Rich (I didn't want to sign up.)