Archive for April, 2000

What’s the deal with punk?

Saturday, April 29th, 2000

A problem I have: there seems to be a huge dichotomy between two kinds of “punk rock” to my entirely uninitiated mind. First of all, there’s the old punk rock, the one blamed by so many for killing progressive rock, which emerged in 1977 and involved many musicians with little or no talent playing simple, down-to-earth, aggressive rawk. Secondly, it seems to me that much of the underground rock scene these days calls itself “punk rock” as well - you know, high school and college-aged bands also playing down-to-earth, loud, aggressive rock. Problem is, many of these “punk” bands seem to care about composition, and actually write songs that are relatively nuanced and require some amount of instrumental skill to play. Indeed, some of the most impressively talented youth bands in my area were categorized as punkish. I don’t get it. Is there some kind of evolutionary relationship here, or is it just a convenient term?

Correction

Friday, April 28th, 2000

I stand corrected, thanks to Dominique: “Actually, it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to the “dramatic sonata-allegro” as just “sonata form”. It’s kind of like calling a pianoforte a piano. Most people call it a piano, and most people call it sonata form.” Guess I just had an anal music professor.

“All of the Above” apes “Close to the Edge”?

Thursday, April 27th, 2000

Whenever I hear the intro to Transatlantic’s “All of the Above”, I keep expecting to hear Steve Howe’s jagged guitar line that bursts into the pastoral intro of “Close of the Edge”. Despite the fact that there are no nature noises in the former song, it seems like the intros to the two pieces are quite similar.

On another “Close to the Edge” note, it bothers me how Ed Macan consistently refers to “sonata” form as the basis for the structure of the piece, whereas I learned - over and over - that “sonata-allegro” is the correct term, with “sonata”, of course, meaning something entirely different. Nitpicks.

What’s spinning, April 25 all-nighter edition

Tuesday, April 25th, 2000

Pulled an all-nighter last night to finish up a sociology term paper on the evolution of American corporate power. Music to keep me awake (all loud, fast, and relatively simple):

  • Angra - Holy Land
  • Liquid Tension Experiment - LTE 2
  • Metallica - Master of Puppets
  • Rush - Counterparts
  • Skyclad - Prince of the Poverty Line
  • Symphony X - The Damnation Game

Yet more music I need to explore

Saturday, April 22nd, 2000

Thankfully my 90-minute ride to Kingston, Rhode Island for the South New England Sectional college Ultimate tournament took place in the car of someone that likes good music. On the list: some live Phish, a bit of Zappa, world music artist Fela Kuti (pretty interesting stuff) , and some Tom Waits. The unfortunate but inevitable side effect is that I’m now even more interested in exploring the latter three artists than I was before. Sigh.

No more Napster here

Friday, April 21st, 2000

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by Metallica, Yale has “temporarily” banned students from accessing Napster. Mwahahaha… and about time. It’s not that I feel guilty about ripping off the major labels (which is what’s happening since it seems like very little non-mainstream music goes through Napster), but the whole scheme would set a disturbing intellectual-property precedent if it were allowed to continue freely.

Our custodian friend has not returned for me to give him his copy of Hybris. Hmm.

Protest music

Wednesday, April 19th, 2000

Unexpected place to hear diverse music: the protests in Washington, DC this weekend, which I attended from Friday until Monday (hence the lack of any site activity - oh yeah, and there’s my term paper due next Tuesday too). A couple of those ragtag bands beating on garbage cans were actually pretty neat. Far from the most interesting part of my experience, but still.

What exactly makes “cheesy” music “cheesy”? Trite ideas, or just a certain type of sound? I wonder because I have a difficult time sometimes, trying to describe why I dislike an album or song because it sounds “cheesy” to me. Hmm…

Going out at the top

Thursday, April 13th, 2000

Is it better for a band to break up at their peak, or after a long drawn-out period of sub-par dinosaur albums? More simply: if King Crimson (1972-74 version) or Änglagård had stuck around for a few more albums, would it have meant a couple more stunning classics, or would it have meant something horrifying a la In the Hot Seat or Union? One can only guess…

Similarly, do listeners prefer that a band produce a number of albums of the same type, if said type works particularly well for that band, or that a band constantly evolve its sound, never releasing two albums that sound alike (even if one or two of them obviously hit on a great formula)?

Sorry, John

Wednesday, April 12th, 2000

Apologies to John Bollenberg, who claims that he in fact authored the Devil Doll article to begin with. I tried to be as non-accusatory as possible, but I suppose I still came off as suspicious (which, to be honest, I was). My apologies.

I’ve finally put my finger on what really bothers me about the jazz class I’m taking this semester: all we talk about are individual pieces that the professor feels are salient. We never put anything in its appropriate social or cultural context, creating the odd illusion that all this music exists in and evolved from a vaccuum. The only thing preventing this feeling from being total is the fact that our textbook (which is purely optional reading given the way the tests are structured) is Ted Gioia’s wonderful History of Jazz. In any case, another thing bothered me today, since today was all about smooth jazz. Suffice it to say that I’d rather listen to Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, or any number of vapid pop groups than the crap we listened to today: the piece I recall most vividly, thanks to my gut-churning reaction, is The Crusaders‘ “Street Life”. Good God, man! The horror!

Weirdness at ProgressiveWorld

Monday, April 10th, 2000

The latest update of ProgressiveWorld includes an overview of Devil Doll by John Bollenberg, a decent reviewer that has been flamed on rec.music.progressive a number of times thanks to his poor Usenet etiquette. Eager for any information about this enigmatic band, I checked out the article and an odd sense of deja vu crept over me. I did a bit of searching and found almost the exact same article, dated 1995, at this fan site (click “writings” and read the 1995 article). A bit suspicious, I reread the article at ProgressiveWorld and found that the last bit was new, with more info but written in a very different style. Additionally, the “original” article has a link to another interview on the same fan site, whereas in the ProgressiveWorld article that link doesn’t exist for whatever reason (my overly suspicious guess would be: to cover up the location of the original article).

It’s certainly possible that Mr. Bollenberg penned the article in 1995 and just now added a few new sentences and submitted it to ProgressiveWorld, of course. Still, the whole thing smells fishy.

There was a huge Ultimate Frisbee tournament at Yale this weekend (26 schools, 40 teams, 500-600 athletes), which is why there were no updates. The party Saturday night featured a live band, Mori Stylez, from whom I wasn’t expecting much, but they surprised me pleasantly. They played a pretty hot brand of funk-fusion, including a great short-version cover of Herbie Hancock’s famous “Chameleon” from Head Hunters, in which Hancock’s infectious keyboard groove was translated into an even more funkified bass line. Instrumentation was guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, with the guitarist doubling on bassoon and the mandolin player (mandolinist?) doubling on clarinet. Wind instruments were barely audible but added a neat dimension to the music.

Unfortunately I was unable to stay for the entire set, given that I had to wake up at 6:30 the next morning to get ready to play. Also, I don’t know why I didn’t pick up their CD, considering it was a scant five bucks (!); I’ll mail order it and perhaps review it here should I decide that it’s close enough to the fringes of prog to merit interest from the prog audience. In any case, it was a surprisingly good experience.