Anonymous Goy would like to take this opportunity to spiel with the musicians among you, so if you're not a musician, in the immortal word of Alex from "Last Exit to Brooklyn"--Scattah.
Okay, is all the riffraff outta here and reading something else? Good! Okay! Hi, fellow musicians! Happy January! (Assuming, it's still January and not May when this column comes out.) Hope you had a good holiday season and you had time to make some New Year's Resolutions.
What's that? You didn't make any resolutions? Well, of course you didn't. That's why very little exciting is happening now. You're self-satisfied and content to crap out the same ol' rehashed 12th-generation SLOP. You're taking no chances, treading on the same tired ground thousands of bands better and ballsier than you already mined dry. Therefore, your pop ain't popping, and your weirdness ain't all that weird.
The problem ain't the fashion. Don't worry about that. You all know how to dress. The problem is, yepper, the music. (Of course, there are many of exceptions, many of whom will be mentioned below, or were mentioned in my "Best of 2005.") That's right, the music, and no reviewer's gonna tell you that either, because reviewers are inherently lazy. This is one of the bigger reasons why most reviewers never get around to doing anything as SIMPLE as starting a stupid punk band. I mean, how many 100-200 word reviews even discuss music?!? It's so much easier to namedrop producers ("...and it's produced by Steve Albini!"), or give sucky bands importance just because they used to be in better bands ("...this features members of The Glowgirls, Hot Nutz, and Krispy Kreme and the Melting Rainbow Cones, so you know it MUST be good!"), or namedrop other bands du jour in the same town ("Man! I don't know what it is about the Big Macs in Dubuque, but if you took the jarring menace of Shit Stainz, and mixed it up with the wanton destruction of Cocksmack Station, and fed em 10 sheets of acid while watching "The Filth and the Fury," you'd have something like what Hot Water Buttsex is pulling off...", so if the self-appointed critics ain't gonna give ya the lowdown, ya know your friends won't, and your girlfriends sure as shit won't, so who cares about the intricacies of your music becasue nobody knows no how.
[Columnist Note: Yes yes, there are some exceptions to my generalizations about reviewers...Filthy Rich, Cardwell, Coppens, Todd Killings, and Jessica Hopper immediately come to mind with reviewers who know what they're doing...]
Therefore, songs are produced lazily and drunkenly and your 20-25 friends have so deluded you, you think you're a "rockstar" in your little secret club...but deep down, you're everything Husker Du sang about in "The Biggest Lie."
But hey, there's hope, so put the heroin needle away, Skippy. Read on, because I have some suggestions about the music itself, and I promise I won't sound like some Guitar Center jive turkey, if only because I'm just a drummer and don't have Zappa-like knowledge of what I'm about to say, and I'll try to keep this as entertaining as possible because you need resolutions for the new year and I need good, ORIGINAL, music.
Keep in mind, you shouldn't appropriate all of these. Some will work better than others. Give them the ol' college try, and let us know how they work out for you. So here goes:
RESOLUTIONS FOR THE DISCERNING GARRIDGE PUNK MUSICIAN
1. Key Changes: "Weekend" by The Dicatators! "Danny Says" by The Ramones! "Surrender" by Cheap Trick! Many of the Spector productions! "Down on the Boulevard" by The Pop! (I think.) What makes these songs great, and your songs just ok, is the use of a nicely-timed keychange, building in the ear and physiognomy of the listener a feeling of triumph, elation, tension, release, a high that we listen to music for in the first place!
The lack of key changes is the #1 problem with today's modern punk rock-related musics. The only time you hear key changes anymore is in either "American Idol" schlock or boring prog rock, but they have their place in the songs you're writing. Listen to what's mentioned above, learn the songs, and take note of when and why the musician's saw fit to change keys! Do it! If The Ramones could pull of a key change, you can too, so don't hide behind your self-proclaimed "stupidity."
2. 6/8 time signatures. Would it kill you guys to do a song not in 4/4? I'm not saying by any stretch you should be math rock (Goddamn no!), but the only band playing a song not in 4/4 as far as I know is Vee Dee with "Cleveland Outer Space," and it's one of the best songs as yet unrecorded. 6/8 is the time signature of "Love Reign O'er Me," for example. It's heavy, man. It's doo-wop too, It has it's place. Mix it up! No more "1234!" Let's hear more "123456!"
3. 7th Chords. As near as I can tell, King Louie and the Country Teasers are the only ones who bother with 7th chords. Why do all you gotta keep everything so major, so unmodulated? 7th chords, see, they moan and they yearn. For example, listen to the first chord in the Stones' "Heart of Stone." That's a G7 chord. Great, isn't it? And so easy to apply in your own songs.
4. 9th Chords. Justifiably so, 9th chords have a bad rep due to their overuse by white-boy funk bands of the 90s, and they're commonly associated with the wackawacka sounds of blaxploitation films and porno music, but lots of great bands had success with 9th chords from the early Rough Trade years to The Minutemen to The Metrosquad. It's a tough chord to make with your fingers, but it ain't coal mining. Just google up a 9th chord and make something happen, because nobody else is, except maybe the Tyrades, but that might just be because Jim's guitar is hopelessly out of tune.
5. Harmolodic Dischord. This is for you weirdo bands next time you wanna take your music way out there past the Milky Way into Ornetteville via Beefheartland. Do this: get all your instruments together, play the same riff together, but everybody play it in a different key.
For example if you play the I-IV-V chord progression of "Blitzkrieg Bop," one person plays, A-D-E, somebody else plays G-C-D, and somebody else plays B-E-F#. It creates dischord and weird sound clusters and it really has an effect on the listener besides just "Wow, these guys no how to make feedback!" I believe this was used to great effect in the Residents' record "Third Reich and Roll."
Typically, nobody but free jazzbos do this. Now, you! Go!
6. Tympanis. Next time you record, put a tympani in there at the appropriate dramatic time, just like Motown arrangements. I think only the Clone Defects have used a tympani in recent years, and before that, you gotta go back to the Ramones cover of "Baby, I Love You." Tympanis are fun, and they're fun to play, like glockenspiels, woodblocks, chimes, gongs, claves, crash cymbals, marimbas, sleigh bells, shit, all percussion belongs on your next album.
7. Make One (and only one) Concept Album. I don't think anybody has done one since "Zen Arcade." If anything, maybe it'll be a good way to write lyrics about something besides how angry you are, or your lovelife or lack thereof. No, don't be Queensryche or mid-70's Ray Davies about it, for cryin' out loud, but, I don't know dude, look at Eno, look at "Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)." The shit's about Chinese espionage, dream interpretation, and a bunch of other claptrap me no gett! Who cares! Just tell a story, and write 12 songs telling that story. Maybe you could even do it like the "Tropicalia" record and get all your friends involved. Take a chance, for once, come on!
8. Major/minor chord shifts. I think only The Ponys do this, and again, maybe the Country Teasers. It probably has a bad rep because of The Beatles constant use of it, but that was 40 years ago. Who cares...just play a D, then a D Minor. Pretty, isn't it?
9. Ballads. Nobody writes ballads anymore. Maybe it's due to the gross excessiveness of emo, but it would take a lot of guts ( a lot more than running out into the audience with a meat cleaver) if a band did a song kinda like "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" or "Lonely Planet Boy" or "Hospital." Look: Not playing a ballad isn't gonna make us think you're not a Big Fag, so just lose your macho hangups and be a balladeer, already.
10. Write a Hit Song. At some point in the late-60's, rocknroll transcended/outgrew the marketplace, and punk's inability to crack the Top 40 was the final nail in the coffin. But there used to be a time when bands tried to write hit songs, with appeal to more than just your 20-25 friends in your town who share your love of Black Flag.
Now, nobody even thinks about it, not out of artistic integrity (what's that?) so much due to the simple fact they just can't do it. But you can, buddy. You just need to record your songs in more than one take. Put some time and effort into it. Crack the market! Write the next "Louie Louie" or "Turning Japanese" and you're set for life while all your jerkass elitist musicsnob friends are still waiting tables! Who cares! It beats working, right!
Okay, well, I'm tired, so do these and let us know how it works for you! Good luck in 2006, and until next time, I'll see you in the hottub!
To read past installments of Anonymous Goy go here.
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