Friday, November 18, 2011

Simpler is not always better.

When it comes to contracts and tax forms and drinking-nights-out, simpler is definitely better. Not so in music.

I was driving home today, and the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'" came on my iPod. Now, by any measure, this is a great song, even if the lyrics are a little nonsensical; but you know my stance on lyrics, namely, they don't mean anything and I don't listen to them and I don't care what they say. Besides, I'm too busy listening to the music (also alluded-to in another awesome Doobies' song).

But, what struck me about the song was that, in comparison to a lot of modern popular stuff, there was a hell of a lot going on, musically. I SoundCloud'd the intro, first verse and first chorus for your listening pleasure:

db by frisbeepilot

Layered guitars of all types, actual melodies, some form of technical skill required. On top of that, it's pleasing to the ear (at least to me).

Now, I thought to myself, What band is the complete opposite of this, musically? Naturally, exactly one (1) band came to mind:

With great distaste and much nausea, I headed over to YouTube to, ahem, "borrow" a little snippet of music so I could edit it neatly, SoundCloud it up, and present it to you. Alas, Nickelback's pretty possessive of their copyrighted material, and SoundCloud recognized the music in the clip as belonging to this horrific excuse for a musical act. So, I had to just embed the YouTube clip here... be forewarned, it is very, very loud, so please turn down your volume. (You can stop it at the 1:09 mark, but you'll want to do so much sooner.)

Awful, I know. But, let me try to explain why.

The lyrics are awful. So awful that I actually care. But, aside from that, here's what's going on:
  • The intro riff sounds like something the guitarist came up with two minutes before they started recording. Most likely it was something that sounds very similar to a riff he'd made for another song; this band has a history of things like that.
  • The music behind the lyrics in the verse is exactly the same as the intro riff, just turned down a bit. Nothing new is happening. At all.
  • All four lines in the first verse sound exactly the same. It's the same thing, repeated. A boring thing got repeated. Over and over.
  • The overall sound of the thing is... hard to describe. "Overprocessed" is the technical term for it, I guess. "Homogenous" is a little closer to what I want to say. "Steamroller-y" might get me almost there. "Shitty" is too obvious and not descriptive enough, but yet perfectly bang-on.
  • Chad Kroger's voice is legendarily grating, of course. But what gets me is that he's essentially shout-growling one note. There's no lyrical melody at all.
  • The bass and rhythm guitar are just chugging along, playing (a.) the exact same thing as each other, and (b.) the same note over and over. Go back and compare it with the Doobie Brothers' track, where there are multiple little hills and valleys, chords cycle through, and the bass has a melody all its own.
Who keeps buying all these Nickelback records, anyway? Certainly nobody I know. Anyway, if you need me, I'll be relaxing in my music nook.


Eve said...

The great thing about Long Train Running, aside from the fact that it's an awesome song, is that there is a version of the song on a DDR game. And it is the funnest song they have. There's lots of syncopated tapping and much joy.

Eve said...

Eve said...

It strikes me that this song would be excellent mashed up with Nighttrain by Public Enemy, itself a mashup with James Brown.