And I don’t just mean the selection. I mean the sonics are crap.
Flick through the dial. In a bid to get you to stop on their station, the Top 40 stuff sounds super bright and super in-your-face. They take music that’s already heavily processed, and process the gunt out of it. The result is that Pink’s songs are like 40% white noise.
And the classic rock stations aren’t much better, at least where I live. They compress the ever loving fuck out of everything, altering the musicians original performance. For example, “Hey Jude” is a song that starts off somewhat quiet and slowly builds into one of the most memorable conclusions in pop music. Or at least it’s supposed to. On my local station they cram so much compression on it that the beginning is just as loud as the end, which is the opposite effect that The Beatles were going for. It makes the performance monotonous and eliminates the build up.
It’s the music equivalent of jizzing in your pants before you even get your clothes off.
Good job, radio sound-man. After all, The Beatles didn’t know what they were doing. It’s best that you fix it for them so that we can all hear how you think it should sound.
They do the same thing to “Stairway to Heaven” and every other classic you can imagine.
Some North America stations are even guilty of speeding up songs so they can cram more advertising in the day. That raises the pitch and again, alters the original performance.
Conclusion 1: Radio is not about the music, it’s about using cheap tricks to try and squeeze in a few extra advertising dollars.
Conclusion 2: Radio blows, get your music from the internet like a normal person.
*End cantankerous old man rant.*
…is a line that no writer should ever, ever use. Want to hear the musical equivalent?
Skip to 3:03-3:08.
I love ya Nelly, but no. Just no. This isn’t her first offence either. The first 2 seconds of this one:
Musicians, if you put this kind of studio banter in your songs I will find out where you live and pee in your shoes.
(Where I press “shuffle” on my iPod and review the first 3 songs that come up.)
1. Heresy by Nine Inch Nails (from The Downward Spiral)
Trent’s early days. Angry and noisy. Sonically it’s an industrial masterpiece. The beginning used to throw me off before I realized that the downbeat is on the uppy-doodly part of the synth riff.
Trent and Flood’s production is outttttttstanding. I hear something new in the background on each listen. It’s noisy, but it’s controlled noise. The descending riff in the chorus is more prominent in the live set, but what really reels me in on this track is the chunky riffy part that comes in on the second half of each phrase in the chorus. GOD I(duh-duh-duh-duh, duh duh)S DEAD…..AND NO O(duh-duh-duh-duh, duh duh)NE CARES.
Then, right after the first chorus that swinging guitar part kicks in and continues all the way through verse 2. That is funky as fuck.
Lyrically, it’s pretty obvious that TR is not a religious man.
Trent uses noise orchestral-ly, and no one does it better.
2. Roots Radicals by Rancid (from …And Out Come the Wolves)
I love Rancid’s guitar sound. Incredibly raw (everybody says their own guitar sound is raw, but man…Rancid’s is raw).
One of things I really like about Rancid is that structure-wise, these are pop songs. Catchy, short and to the point. Wonder why they’re one of the biggest punk acts ever? It’s the songs, stupid.
5 forehead tattoos out of 5.
3. Spoonman by Soundgarden (from Superunknown)
This came out when I was just a kid. I think it was one of the first albums I ever owned, actually.
Hearing it with different ears now. This is an example of how to make a rock record. 4 or 5 guys, simple rigs, great singer, solid drummer. If you can do that, you’re ahead of most.
Sonically, this was released just before people started going nuts with compression. It’s dynamic – the louds are loud and the quiets are quiet. Soundgarden have a new song out (it plays over the credits of The Avengers) and its levels are totally brickwalled. The loud sections are loud and the quiet sections are loud. In music, a very effective trick can be to follow a quiet verse WITH A SLAMMING CHORUS. Compressing the gizzard out of your music removes this option.
Spoonman is my favourite track from Superunknown. The off-kilter rhythm and stoppyness of it is what attracted me to SG in the first place. More like this one, Cornell and Co.!
As an independent musician at the beginning of my career I keep getting asked what my position on music piracy is. So here goes (deep breath):
IT’S FUCKING AMAZING.
You have the entire history of recorded music at your fingertips. Think of any piece of music and seconds later you’re listening to it on YouTube.. That. Is. Unfuckingbelievable. Imagine how many round pieces of plastic you would have to own to be able to say that.
“But that’s not fair” says new artists (and formerly me). Of course it’s not fair! But as we all know: that’s life. Music is 1′s and 0′s now. It’s in the ether. It’s free and there’s no going back.
And would we really want to go back anyway? To a time when we had to grovel in front of record labels on our knees and beg for an shitty deal? Nuts to that. These are AMAZING times to be a musician. You don’t need a million dollars to make a record. Your laptop is a recording studio and a video camera. Don’t know how to use a microphone? Not sure how to edit a video? Google that shit. Anyone and everyone can easily place their music up for grabs on the internet.
The downside of course, is that we have to navigate the Seven Seas of Shit. A daunting task to be sure. But if an act is truly good enough, people will hear about them and they’ll find an audience (google Pretty Lights).
As for those musicians who complain that we’re not all rich, what did they think they were getting into? If you want a Ferrari, become a banker.
Of course the dinosaur labels are moaning about all this. “THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END BECAUSE PIRATE BAY”. Fuck ‘em. They’ve been overcharging you, suing you, pumping out the same shit over-and-over again, living like kings off the backs of artists for decades. You owe them nothing.
So if you like an artist and want to support them, go see them live. That’s the way they made money in the past, it’s the way we’ll make money in the future.
Music is free now. Enjoy it.
Last weekend I got the chance to check out the band Sheezer. They’re an all-girl Weezer cover band, and yes it’s as awesome as it sounds.
During the show something struck me. The crowd was super into the music (myself included) more so than any other show I’d seen in St. John’s in a while. I realized the reason for it: THE SONGS.
Sheezer only play songs from the first two Weezer albums (the Blue Album and Pinkerton). That’s pretty telling. Those records were full of good songs, something that you can’t really say about Weezer’s later stuff.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SONG! Great verses that lead into even better chorus’. Weezer did that really well in the beginning. The Beatles did it all the time. Nirvana did it better than anyone in the 90′s. Top 40 tries to do it. The best DJ’s can pick the best parts of the best songs and make something pretty cool out of it. Girl Talk anyone?
Most of the bands spamming my twitter account with “buy my song from iTunes” don’t have the chorus’. Or the verses. Or the BRIDGES.
Sheezer know it’s all about the song.
(NOTE -they play them well too. Very important.)
I hear a lot of first draft-y, potential good ideas from bands. Not enough fully fledged, fleshed out tunes.
New bands! Make it about the song and you’ll stand out from almost everyone else at the same level…and make us take notice.
Damn, Pearl Jam know how to write a song.
Until today, I hadn’t heard “Better Man” since I was kid (“Vitalogy” was the first CD I ever owned). I was heading home from lunch when it came on the radio. Talk about well matched lyrics and music. The part where the first verse transitions into the chorus by having the organ take over? Brilliant. ”She lies and says she’s in love with him” – wish I’d written that.
Oftentimes I find myself amazed at some of the music I knew as a kid. Hearing this stuff with the ears I have now, it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time.