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The Song's the Thing

Posted 12 September 2005, 9.52 pm by Alexander

As a songwriter there’s one thing I aspire to – the perfect song - writing a collection of thoughts, notes, rhythms and dynamics that affects someone else. It’s really that simple. That’s the reason I started making music, because I want to have an emotional impact on other people, as my heroes have had an emotional (and often philosophical) impact on me. When people say to me “I’ve had one of your songs stuck in my head all day” it’s fantastic – one of the best feelings in the world is renting out a portion of someone’s subconscious, even if they could just as easily say the same thing about the Crazy Frog.

I believe fundamentally that a good song transcends it’s treatment – it’s arguable that Bob Dylan couldn’t really sing, or play guitar, but he’s written some of the most timeless songs in musical history. I believe a truly great song could be played on a kazoo, and still be great. This is how Abba survive the horrible 70s production, and countless 80s bands have songs that are rediscovered continually, despite the mullets and flecked jumpers. You just can’t kill a good song, unless you’re the Crazy Frog perhaps.

But OK, where does this leave artists like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, SPK, Throbbing Gristle, Boyd Rice? Things get a little more complicated now – these aren’t karaoke classics, you can’t sing along, but yet qualitatively they’re just as important as David Bowie or Jimi Hendrix. Why? Because music is a form of communication. Just as we communicate using body language, nuances of speech and implication, so music communicates through emotion, artifice and intent.

A week or so ago I attended a metal gig, four bands playing incredibly heavy, loud hardcore. Not usually my cup of tea, but it was definitely interesting. The vocalist of each band would give the crowd the long and involved song title, then proceed to grunt, scream and shout unintelligibly for four or five minutes. One of the bands was from Sweden, and I swear I couldn’t tell you which one. I was left thinking – what is being communicated here? Of course I was looking in the wrong place – the message wasn’t necessarily in the sounds being produced, but the energy and aggression and intent of the musicians. The message quite literally was FWAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHH. I’d been a fool. It was awesome.

So yes, the song is the thing, but the song is no longer a story told around a campfire with an acoustic guitar. It’s drop D tuned guitars and five string basses, tortured samplers and asymmetrical fringes. Like our own vocal chords, music has evolved.

HockeyGod
on 13 September 2005, 12.53 pm
It's sad to think of "FWAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHH" as evolution.

I've always been one who prefers lyrics. I guess that's why I'm a big fan of counting crows, and none of my friends have ever heard of them.

I guess it's also why i like country. Those are life songs, the lyrics have meaning.

"FWAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHH" just doesn't have the meaning i'm looking for, neither does "pimp these hoes and smoke those joints".


Anton
on 14 September 2005, 1.11 pm
The message I get from extreme metal is communicated in the pummeling double bass, shredding rffs and brutal blast beats.

Decipherable lyrics don't work that well with death metal, sure being able to pick out the odd word here and there is nice but a cleaner vocal near enough always sounds like shit. Taking that into account 'good' lyrics aren't exactly required, even more so when you realise that a stupidly large proportion of all lyrics are complete and utter wank and usually about love.

That said bands like Death, Kreator, Opeth, Nile, Dying Fetus and a few others definitely put a lot of thought in their lyrics and produce better results than the majority of mainstream musicians who just seem to whine on about the same things.

I'd say the main message delivered by a death metal band is "This is death metal, we're going to rip your fucking face off and you'll love it. Enjoy"

You can't beat sXe hardcore bands for communicating a message subtley though, like the numerously repeated gang chant of "DRUG FREE" in a Throwdown song.


Alexander
on 14 September 2005, 2.04 pm
sXe is fucking gay. That is all.


HockeyGod
on 14 September 2005, 2.40 pm
FWAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHH"


Anton
on 14 September 2005, 5.19 pm
I'm much more a fan of BREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE BREEEEEEEEE

Pig style vocals are awesome although not as awesome as Caninus who actually have 2 dogs on vocals. Now that comminicates a message.


Duncan-O
on 16 September 2005, 3.23 pm
Yes, I believe Pink Floyd were groundbreaking in allowing a pig as a guest vocalist. It was a truly great day as animal rights were finally recognized in the field of artistic expression.

Just because we don't speak the same language as our canine and porcine friends doesn't mean they don't deserve a voice.


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I took this photograph in North Vancouver, by the water. These birds are everywhere, all the time. If you are standing in the middle of a crowd of these birds, you realize just how horrid they are. The photo I took actually makes the birds look respectable and that's why I like it.

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Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness

Hmph

80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

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