Smoke Or Burn Under Pressure #1
what makes good music?
i’ve heard a lot of shit but i can’t think of what makes something good or not.
obviously its all a matter of opinion, and opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one and everyone’s stinks.
its like: “congratulations you have a brain, so here’s a laundry list of your stupid little hang-ups.”
i don’t mean to be negative, but i can’t help it.
so here’s my laundry list, here’s my stupid little hang-ups:
- Melody Uber Alles - melody is key to me over everything else, more important than lyrics. melody is what people remember easiest, and it can be for voice or instrument. you hum a melody, not the solo
- The Feel - its hard to put this into words, but its the vibe that the song conveys. it can be a down feeling, the kind of song that kinda brings you down and uplifts you at the same time. a lot of blues songs are like this, obviously. it can also be any other number of feelings: scathing, bitter, sorrowful, manic, awe-inspiring, angelic. its just the feeling you get from the song, which is more about you than the song itself
- The Riff - this is obvious and is the most mindless of qualities, outside of aggression, but its important to be in tune with that sort of mindlessness in music. music is best when its primal, its felt not interpreted or translated from one plane to another with some difficulty. no, the riff is not cerebral. its a kick in the ribs, it gets your attention and makes sure you’re clued in and if you’re not it drives you off
- Aggression - a lot of people forget the importance of aggression. why would you say whats on your mind when you can show it and make your audience feel it. music should have teeth. in a lot of cases, it should confront the listener. music should be about black and white, you can be ambiguous in the construct of a song but you can’t generate ambiguity in your listener. the black and white is everything in a song. if you give your listener a grey feeling, you’ve failed. the grey feeling in a listener is the death of music. a song should be loved or hated, if it generates ambivalence then its a failure and should be tossed like a used rubber. i just love that energy, that vibrance
- Words - its funny being a vaguely literary person, that this should be last but whatever. i like lyrics that i can remember and sing to. i like concise, poetic images and i fucking hate abstraction and wordiness which is also strange since i am abstract and wordy. i guess i hate myself, but maybe that’s important and maybe that’s the point: “don’t be comfortable, don’t rest, don’t relent”
- Pop Sensibility - its gotta be meant for everybody, like everyone can get behind it. thats the point of communication, to transmit a message. whether thats a melody or a feeling is irrelevant, you just have to transmit that certain element
so there’s a great big heap of crap. and what are you or i supposed to do about it. that’s great.
i just spewed some crap at you. but how do you apply it? well here’s some more crap for you.
here’s some songs that illustrate what i’m talking about:
- The Beltones - “Fuck You Anyway” - great vocal melody and pained voice, has a great ‘down’ feel too
- No Enemy! - “Actual Pain” - another great vocal melody featuring a pained voice. you seeing a theme yet
- Pretty Boy Thorson And The Falling Angels - “Sweetheart” - got me through some of the worst times in recent memory. a shame this band doesn’t really tour or play outside Minneapolis
- Good Riddance - “Paean To The Enlightment” - they have a lot of great melodic lines on the guitar
- Potential Johns - “Sit Quietly”
- Shellac - “Copper” - possesses a scathing quality
- The Kobanes - “Joey/Brittany” - great ‘down’ feeling, great melody - ‘and maybe this time around, i’m gonna take it slow’
- Leftover Crack - “Supermarket Song” - frantic cover, borders manic
- The Creeps - “In The Graveyard” - great guitar tone when the riff kicks in, this song gets me worked up. i imagine i’m singing it and the last chorus makes me lose my shit. total emo moment
- The Sass Dragons - “Jam It In” - this is a band that ought to have a small nation of child servants to do their bidding, that’s how awesome they are
- The Minutemen - “Cut”
- The Reatards - “You Fucked Up My Dreams”
- The Dwarves - “That’s Rock ‘N Roll”
- Big Black - “The Power Of Independent Trucking” - big black is awesome on too many levels to elaborate at this moment. the drums in this song stomp my teeth in
- Ceremony - “Kersed” - kind of a cop out to include them under the aggression section but fuck it, its a great example. this song makes me wanna head butt a brick wall
- The Brokedowns - “Who Let The Dicks Out” - this seems unfair also since every song by this band slips the knife in and twists the handle. if you don’t like this band, you’re a shitty person and nothing can help you
- Hüsker Dü - “Find Me”
- Pretty Boy Thorson And The Falling Angels - “Remember the Lillies of the Goddamn Field” - Jesse Thorson’s got heartache and regret down pat, i tip my hat to this magnificent bastard
- Jawbreaker - “Shield Your Eyes” - everyone knows how great a writer Blake is. my words can’t do him justice, so fuck me
- Elton Motello - “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” - any song that permeates the cultural consciousness is awesome. how many covers of this song have there been? how many different languages has it been sung in?
- The Queers - “I Only Drink Bud”
- The Ramones - “Surfin Bird” - though a totally mindless song, mindlessness is key to writing pop songs. no one at a party cares about the meaning of words, all they want is energy, passion and something to sing along to
not an exhaustive list, but a good place to start when understanding how i see these concepts.