More overdue replying bizness ... Even more wall-o-text-y than usual ... No religion talk tho! Yay right? All music shit this time
I'd hate to think how long it's been since I made this offer, but a few decades or so ago I invited anyone who felt like it to tell me about a few of their favorite musical things, and I offered to respond to those things with comments and recommendations. Happily, one person responded, and I'm just now getting around to replying back, but better late than never, I hope!
Also, for your amusement, Rick, here's a quick top-5 list of my fave bands and artists, in no particular order (you could probably guess most of them just from talking to me, lol):
Hello again Starlequin, I hope my last lengthy post here addressed to you didn't repulse you so much that you've stopped checking this blog altogether, because then you'll never see these clever comments of mine, but then again, maybe someone else will ... or maybe I'll just amuse myself by writing them, even if nobody ever sees them! That's probably the most sensible way to approach everything in E blogs, I reckon.
Aerosmith -- greatest thing to come out of Boston since...frankly, ever. WTF else do I know about Boston? I'm from Mississippi!
Aerosmith: I don't consider myself a fan, but as with most bands whose music I've heard plenty of but whom I don't consider myself a fan of, there are many things I like and don't like about this band. Likes: they're really a great pop band masquerading as a rock and roll band. What I mean by that is that they're all about hooks that you can shake yer booty to, and in that sense, they follow directly in the line of all the great pop-rock bands, from the Beatles and Stones on down. They got sex appeal to spare, and that never seems to wane, even though they're all thousands of years old by now, hehehehe. There aren't enough successful rock bands left, and I sure as hell wish there were lots more, so there's a lot to be thankful for that these guys have lasted for so long; there are fewer than five active rock bands in the world with their level of fame or success overall. (I assume they're still active, because I heard that Tyler left his TV gig to go back to Aerosmith, but I don't keep up with them, so I may be out-of-date.) Dislikes: they're over-rated. Actually, that criticism is really out of date by now, because it's no longer possible to be over-rated as a rock band, since all rock bands nowadays are impoverished and totally unappreciated compared to 10 or especially 20 or 30 years ago, and even Aerosmith has suffered along with everyone else as the music industry has gone down the pan. However, back when Aerosmith had their biggest hits -- circa mid-80s to mid-90s -- they were outselling a whole lot of better bands who were active at the time, and I thought that was a shame. Like I said, that's totally dated criticism; for all I know, Aerosmith might be the world's best remaining rock band in 2012, and if so, more power to 'em! Recommendations: make sure you've heard their early hits (before
the mid-80s); they're much more raw and less pop-oriented and more rocking, and they're my personal favorite stuff in the band's catalog, at least from what I've heard. Also, if
you like Aerosmith's early
hits, and if you aren't already a gigantic Led Zeppelin fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up at least one Zep hits CD and give it a few spins. Led Zep were gods of rock, inimitable masters of the form, and IMO, Aerosmith pales in comparison, although almost everyone does, so that's hardly a strike against them.
I don't know nuthin' about Boston either, but one of my favorite bands came from there, I think -- a defunct and utterly unique band called Morphine, who should have sold more records than Aerosmith, IMO. :) But obviously the record-buying public disagrees strongly with that opinion, since few people ever even heard of Morphine, and who hasn't heard of Aerosmith? C'est la vie.
Dire Straits -- I have a sneaking suspicion that my life is somehow playing out according to their discography. I can remember at least five separate major events that occurred just before, during or after listening to one of their songs. So either I'm wrong, there actually is a god, and Mark Knopfler is it...or I just listen to way too fucking much DS. Frankly, I'm good either way.
Good for you! Dire Straits is one of those bands whom I couldn't possibly respect more, because I think that highly of the small handful of their songs that I'm familiar with, but I also must confess that I've never heard most of their albums. Someday I might. I'm also madly in love with a few of Knopfler's largely-overlooked solo albums (haven't heard most of them yet either tho), not to mention that quirky wonderful thing he did called Notting Hillbillies. Can't go wrong with that dude. My biggest problem with him and with Dire Straits is that the music is sometimes so subtle and understated that it seems boring at first, when in fact it's rich with genius, but it requires close and careful attention to appreciate that genius. Come to think of it, that's just the opposite of a band like Aerosmith, who are so in-your-face with all their best qualities -- giant hooks that grab you by the throat. Knopfler is so sly that many people overlook his hooks altogether, to their misfortune.
Nickelback -- Everywhere I look, it seems I see hardcore Nickelback hate. Even Maple-Syrupia, homeland of da band, appears to retch every time Chad stands within five feet of a stringed instrument. I don't know what to say, except: fuck y'all haters. I know the music can be derivative, some of the lyrics are cookie-cutter and for all I know the band may even be filled with assholes. But it's also good, dumb fun music, and I appreciate the messages of some of the songs, even if nobody else does.
Lacuna Coil -- I really don't know that much about this band; I listen to music, I don't stalk musicians. But the music is powerful, the lyrics are (to me) profound, and the vocals are hauntingly beautiful. Rather like another favorite band of mine, Evanescence.
Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts -- Anyone who's ever seen an episode of Cowboy Bebop knows the Seatbelts. The first band to ever make me admit I like jazz, and believe me that's no mean feat. My personal definition of 'smooth' (sad as that may or may not be).
Rock and roll has always been about "good, dumb fun," and it's very important to realize that every band that succeeds makes a valuable and worthwhile connection with certain people, and that's all
to the good
, even if other people hate on that band and/or its fans.
That said, I also think it's perfectly fine for people to love one band and hate the crap out of another band, because music is relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things, so it's okay to love and hate stuff. No matter how much I love music, and I certainly do, I try not to get it confused with much more important things, such as politics, ethics, philosophy, or the like -- anything having to do with the ways people live their lives and interact with each other.
So anyway, I hope it doesn't upset anyone too much to find out that Nickelback and Evanescence are among the many many groups whose music sticks in my craw. That doesn't mean it should necessarily stick in anyone else's craw; to each his own; one of my best friends in the world is a big Nickelback fan. The only reason I can't stand either band is because I know exactly which bands those two bands stole from in order to become successful. This is a tradition as old as rock and roll, or more generally, as old as music or art or entertainment: somebody thinks up a new style or sound that becomes successful, and then somebody else decides to imitate that style or sound almost exactly without adding anything new to it, and very often, the imitator becomes more successful than the originator. Ask all the black musicians whom Elvis stole from, or all the successful black musicians back then who stole from their
less-successful forebears. The more you learn about the history of music (or art), the more you discover how different people stole from others. It's not even a bad thing, necessarily, because eventually, those artists who start out stealing from others will eventually add something new to their sound or style, and that innovation may be truly valuable, and it might not have ever been possible if the artist didn't start out by ripping someone off. This is certainly the case with many of the most popular artists who start out by ripping someone else off. I'm a huge Elvis fan, and I'm also a huge fan of many other artists and groups who shamelessly appropriated the styles of other artists; sometimes I know exactly who they ripped off, and I just don't care, because they also added something new or interesting along the way; or other times -- and this happens so, so often with pop music -- I'll become a big fan of a group and then years later discover that they might have been ripping off a previous group completely, when all along I believed their creativity and genius was completely original to themselves. Pop music is such an incestuous beast that it's nearly impossible to find an artist who didn't at least borrow things from other artists.
Now, having said all that, I think most people have had the following experience, if you spend a few years listening to pop music: You fall in love with a new band which becomes somewhat popular, but not super-mega-popular; and then, a few months or years later, a second band turns up and shamelessly steals everything that was good about the first band's sound, style, songwriting, look, artwork, clothing, vocal style, guitar effects, down to the lead vocalist's hairstyle and shoe size; and then, lo and behold, that second band becomes super-mega-popular, so much so that almost nobody even remembers the first band or realizes that the second band didn't come up with all that great stuff themselves.
Back when the music industry was relatively healthy, this sort of thing used to happen all the time, like, every month or two. Nickelback started out as a third- or fourth-generation imitator of the early-90s so-called "grunge" bands, and Evanescence built their sound by smooshing together the styles of two or three specific bands who were popular in the early-to-mid-90s. Both bands probably added lots of original ideas and concepts to their sound eventually, if not initially, because that happens to any band that lasts for long enough: they have to evolve in order to survive and stay relevant and fresh. (Of course, there are some bands who pull that off by simply stealing the sound or style from other
, different groups, just like they first did in order to become popular originally; it's a criticism you could level at lots of artists who have had very long careers in pop music. I don't know enough about Nickelback or Evanescence to say whether they were serial rip-offs or just initial rip-offs.)
Anyway, I think that whole phenomenon of imitation versus influence is worth commenting upon because it's widely misunderstood and underappreciated. Some people firmly believe, as Bono once quipped (probably stealing from someone else), that "every artist is a cannibal / every poet is a thief / all kill their inspiration / and sing about the grief". Personally I think there's something awful about one artist deliberately imitating the sound of another artist in order to become commercially successful without adding anything new or different to that sound, but I'm not a purist about it, because I'm a fan of a few bands who did precisely that. So, more power to ya, Nickelback and Evanescence fans; personally, I'm happy listening to the bands those bands borrowed from, but I can't look down my nose at you or anything. :)
Wow I said a hell of a lot of stuff, huh? Sorry if that bored anybody. I love talking about music and have very strong and detailed opinions about it, partly because I think it's fun to develop strong opinions about things that are so trivial compared to all the really important issues in the world, issues which one must consider very carefully and seriously before reaching conclusions or forming opinions about, such as which political party to support or which philosophy to espouse. Thank god we've got silly fun stuff like music and movies and RPing and books and sports and whatnot, stuff where we can let our hair down and opine freely and be jerks about stuff and rib each other about stuff without worrying too terribly much about hurting anyone's feelings or mistreating anybody in any serious way. I know lots and lots and lots of people take music or movies or books or whatever so seriously that they can get their feelings hurt when other people disagree with their personal likes or dislikes in those fields, but I'm not like that, and I actually think it's a bit unhealthy to be too much like that; it's a sign of misplaced personal priorities, IMO, to elevate art or entertainment to such a level that one risks taking personal offense over another person's opinions in those areas. But that's just my opinion! You can and should disagree completely with me if you want to. :)
Oh by the way, I know Lacuna Coil has been around for a very long time, so I respect them for that reason alone, although I don't recall ever hearing their music. I'm probably a fan of at least one or two bands who do something similar to what they do, based on their reputation, at least, but I might be wrong about that. Anyway, it's nice to have the recommendation; next time I have a chance to hear LC, I'll pay extra attention to them. :) Also I don't know the other band you mentioned at all, Star, the jazz group, although I love the heck out of jazz sometimes, even though I don't claim to understand it or know much about it at all.
Oh finally, since I can't stop running my mouth, here's some recommendations based upon liking Nickelback or Evanescence. NB built their sound originally on the grunge bands of the early 90s, and IMO, there were four big ones that embodied that sound, at least for the general public: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains. I worship all four, and I also think that none of those bands really had much in common with each other, once you get past a few of their most superficial traits. If you want a good introduction to what people consider "grunge," you can't do better than to pick up Pearl Jam's Ten
or Nirvana's Nevermind
, both of which were truly spectacular albums. I personally like AIC slightly more than PJ, PJ slightly more than Nirvana, and Soundgarden more than all the other three combined, but I love them all to death, and I even love some of the less famous "grunge" bands, but I am a big hater of the second- and third- and fourth-generation imitators, because I'm such a big fan of the first wave. The big problem in comparing Nickelback to those earlier bands is that NB took some superficial qualities from those bands and then grafted those things -- guitar sounds and production approaches, mostly -- onto a much different style of songwriting, one much closer to pop music of the 80s and 90s -- stuff that wasn't considered rock at all when it was first done. As a result, Nickelback (and almost all the other later grunge bands) have a style that is much, much, much more instantly likable and instantly pleasing to the ear, because it's really built on pop music hooks and pop songwriting. The first grunge bands, in contrast, were totally invested in highly unpopular and grating types of music, especially punk and ultra-raw 70s guitar rock; their songwriting and overall sound is not very instantly likable at all, in my opinion. Then again, the early grunge bands brought a lot of real creativity and integrity and sincerity to their music, far moreso than any of their later imitators, in my opinion, so I for one find much more to like in the work of those early bands rather than the later ones, but I don't expect most people -- especially anyone just two or three years younger than me, or more -- to share those views of mine. Pop music used to really transform itself and reinvent itself every two or three years, as soon as a whole new group of kids entered high school, so it was common for people to love whatever was popular for three or four years, and then suddenly not like the stuff that became popular right after that. That tradition seems to have largely disappeared since the music industry hit the skids. Oh, if you like Evanescence, you might like early Tori Amos or Nine Inch Nails (both of whom I adore), but again, neither of those earlier artists had a sound that was anywhere near as instantly pleasing or immediately gratifying as Evanescence, who grafted goth and industrial imagery and production approaches onto much more palatable pop songwriting, from what I could gather.