August 23, 2005

CD Review, pt 1

Munuvia's resident drummer CD and his buddy Ryan have put together a new collection of songs that they've been working on over the summer. He's inviting any and all critiques so, naturally, as a third-rate musician myself, I've decided to give it a go.

The opening track is called Chainsaw. The lyric can be found here, and the download of the mp3 can be found here. I'm going to review the 7 songs one-by-one. The first is tonight; the second tomorrow night and the third Thursday night. As I'll be away for the weekend to attend the funeral wedding of my cousin Andy, the remaining tracks will be downloaded and reviewed Monday through next Thursday.

Since CD is one of my favorite bloggers (when he blogs **shakes fist**), I've wondered if I should be as brutally honest as I would be about the music of an anonymous stranger. (Of course, CD and I are strangers -- we've never met -- but, still, the blogosphere has a way of making everyone semi-familiar. Or as Ted said at our first luncheon meeting a couple o'weeks ago [paraphrasing]: "It's strange to meet a familiar blogger and be so surprised. You know how they think, but you don't know who they are.")

Before I begin blathering my opinion all over this album let me tell ya where I am, musically.

In high school I listened to the Sex Pistols, Ramones, the Clash, the Stranglers, X, the Dickies, etc etc. And
I had a wide range of records by bands that I guarantee you've never heard of. Some time in college I went looking for something else. This about the time that Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Bad Brains were all the rage among those who insisted the punk would never die.

Since college I've been drawn more to Brian Wilson's music and the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading (pre-The Key) and, for laughs, King Missile.

When Nirvana came along, I thought there was hopr for "alternative" music. I still think there is and, if a young guy was in fluenced by Nirvana, that's a good thing as far as I can tell.

The worst band in the world, in my opinion, was Weezer. They played power-pop songs to a grunge-punk instrumentation. I suppose they thought they were uniting the best of both words. All they did was piss off three sets of music fans. You're either power-pop or you're punk. The two don't mix on my board.

Anywho, on to CD Review, Pt 1: Chainsaw

CD singled out this one several times in his (above linked) post as the one to give the most elbow room. The microphones on the drums were lacking; vocals were out of his range in the chorus; etc, etc. I think he actually sounded better in the chorus then he did in the verses. Shouting seems to inspire a young man to perfection it seems. CD's vocal performance in the verses is less than a bit...... um.... stellar (to which he admits). While acknowledging no vocal training can excuse the tambre of a voice, it can't excuse to pitch control.

But let me say this: CD has excellent tambre -- his performance in the chorus proves it. I wish I had a voice that could get that much intestinal fortitude behind it. The problem is his tunefullness -- his ability to hit the notes. There's an almost tone-deaf sloppiness to his singing that he can, probably (like I did), get behind him through practice. But, as is, CD ain't no lead singer -- and he readily admits it and asks us to focus the lyric itself, not the sound. So, I will.

The thing that strikes me most about Chainsaw is that it's so non-specific to anything. It's an angry lyric about idiotarianism that doesn't mention one single idiotarian position. There's no anchor to this song other than frustration with not being able to get your own point across to someone who's unable to get their point across to you because you are too insistent on getting your point across to them. This is a song about an impasse -- due to a stubborn I'm-right-and-why-can't-you-see-it-ness -- that doesn't even realixe it.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Granted, it's good to be angry when you can explain why -- as CD does so well on his blog.
It's not so great to be angry when you can't be bothered to articulate the reason(s) why. All-in-all, I think that this song is a shadow of what it could have been. It chooses an emotion, yet neglects to anchor it in anything specific.

I suppose some might call that a virtue; That the listener -- from all sides of the political spectrum -- can hear their own voice in that universal feeling. That partisan philosophical anger. I'll grant that that was what they were going for even though they prob'ly weren't. ;)

I like to think that I am my own worst critic. As an "artist", I know that that's usually not true, though. But, at least, I do try to listen to those who know that I want honest feedback. Maybe they don't underdstand my work; but I'll assume that they understand my need to communicate the best way I can.

Posted by Tuning Spork at August 23, 2005 08:27 PM | TrackBack

As I explained on my blog yesterday, I've had some Internet problems and couldn't respond to this right away, but I wanted to mention a couple things.

First of all, thanks for being honest. I appreciate that.

Second, I want to make something clear: The vocals are not that important. Seriously. I know they suck, and I know that they take away from the overall experience, but that's because we only had three days to record them, and we hadn't rehearsed them at all before that. However, we spent several months on the instrumental parts, so please, please, please, PLEASE focus on the music! It will help us a lot more than telling us what we already know about our lack of singing ability. We're looking for a permanent lead singer anyway, so we'll probably never do the vocals ourselves again.

That being said, I actually was hitting the correct notes in the verses of Chainsaw. It's supposed to sound like that. If it doesn't appeal to you, that's cool, but that was one of the few songs that ended up sounding the way I wanted it to. I guess that says more about my songwriting skills than my singing skills. In the other songs, however, if it sounds like I'm not hitting the right notes, I'm probably not.

As far as the non-specific aspect of the lyrics, you can talk to Ryan about that. He isn't quite as interested in politics as me, and he was uncomfortable doing songs that would limit us to a smaller audience, so we compromised and did mostly songs that didn't apply to any particular issue.

In any case, what issue do you think Chainsaw should be about? The way I see it, spouting talking points and interrupting the other person is an idiotarian position, and it doesn't really matter what the discussion is about.

Anyway, the main point, as I said, is that we're really looking for opinions of the music before anything else. I've heard plenty of negative criticism about the vocals and barely anything about the instrumental tracks. Remember, I'm a drummer and Ryan is a guitarist, so if we're not doing those things well, you can complain. But we know that the singing sucks.

Sorry if this sounded harsh, but I'm sitting in a college computer cluster right now surrounded by people talking, so I can't really come up with anything better. I'll write more when my dorm connection is back up, and I look forward to the rest of your reviews.


Posted by: CD at August 27, 2005 06:05 PM

I should mention something else about the lyrics. I realize that there are several ways to interpret this song, but I was really trying to make it a musical rant against people who willingly deny facts in order to get a point across. It's not about lies in the childish "anyone who disagrees with me is a liar" sense; It's more about people who say blatantly untrue things over and over even after they've been proven wrong (e.g. "Bush said Iraq was an imminent threat," etc.).

Just thought I'd add that.

Posted by: CD at August 31, 2005 12:29 AM
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