Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musical Mystery Tour

Had some interesting musical voyages lately.

At this year's Guy's Campout (a much-needed yearly big-boys-only retreat), the musical selection leaned heavily towards metal riffage and a certain style of vocal based on those of James Hetfield of Metallica. Now, I sometimes like a steamin' slab of screaming guitars under attack by gatling gun drums, but when we entered the third hour of someone sounding like they'd deep-throated the mic and were trying to hork it up, I asked for a reprieve, which resulted in the discovery of Meniskus, a happy accident.

So, when I came upon this recent reviewlet of "Mastodon" by Blood Mountain in the Oct. 20 "Entertainment Weekly": "A concept disc about a quest for a 'crystal skull,' this is a slam dunk if you practice mixolydian scales and own 20-sided dice; for others, liquid arpeggios and rhythmic shifts may not outweigh Cookie Monster vocals." (Sean Howe) - I howled with recognition.

Ever since this vocal style regurgitated onto the scene, I've been trying to put my finger on what it reminded me of. Now and forever, when I hear it again, I will envision a blue-furred, google-eyed pastry abuser. Perhaps these bands should all get together and do a Sesame Street cover album.
Update: Whisky Prajer provided a great link to an article on the phenomenon of the Cookie Monster vocal. Thanks Whisky!

As a music lover, it just bothers the hell out of me that I'm increasingly out of touch with what I presume are the popular tastes.

Take Beyonce's lates release, "B'Day." Please.

It did great on the charts. Critical reviews were glowing. Amazon reviews are mostly positive.

But, to me, it trots out every freakin' hip hop cliché that I detest. Canned beats (which never fail to remind me of those sad fake drums available on electronic organs in churches everywhere). Song topics limited to "let's fuck," "I'm leaving you," "I have no self-esteem issues whatsoever." The melodies, such as they are, are often sing-songy retreads of established hip hop melodies, or variants on the schoolyard taunt "nyah nyah nyah nyah."

Y'know, even the blues, when is sticks to just eight bars of the same notes, can have complexity and shading of meaning I just don't hear in most hip hop.

Why is this compelling music for so many kids? The simplicity and repetition? Is it because it's like a lot of children's music in that regard?

Oh, on top of all that, Beyonce's singing is nothing special. If her voice was as pretty as she is, then she might have something.

Saw Jonathan Demme's Neil Young concert film Heart of Gold.

It was enjoyable. Neil's songs are good. It's amazing that Emmylou Harris is still such a hottie at her age.

But this outing is not the revelation that Demme's Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense is. And, Neil is a love'em or hate'em kinda guy due to that voice.

Fans should check it out. Everyone else should see Stop Making Sense, if they haven't.

Oh, and if you're a fan, Young's new greatest hits is a nice set. The remastering alone is worth the purchase. This, along with Lucky Thirteen, a compilation of his controversial Geffen years, will get you a good collection of his best stuff. (Completists will want to nab a copy of Everybody's Rockin' before they're no longer available.)

Finally, if you're interested in kind of an instant record collection, you could do worse than buying a used copy of this vanity set (it's not worth the full price): Capitol Records 1942-2002. I wouldn't go much over $40.

(Or do what I did and borrow it from the library and cherry pick the songs you don't have yet. This is the only place I've found Radiohead's "Creep" anthologized.)

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