June 12, 2006

A Little Too Perfect?

by Chris Randall
 



My wife and I took a break from computers yesterday in search of a source of vitamin D besides the glow of LCD monitors and drove to the Oregon coast for the day. When we go on road trips of any length, we tune our XM radio to Fred (XM44), which is the one station we can both (mostly) agree on. If you're not an XM user, Fred is a station that plays "the history of alternative music." While you are pretty much guaranteed a heavy dose of shitty 80s synth pop, they also play a lot of shit we really like, including a generous slice of deep cuts which you'll not normally hear anywhere. (When was the last time you heard the Eno version of "Third Uncle," followed by Thomas Dolby's cover of the Dan Hicks classic "I Scare Myself" on the radio? I'm gonna guess "never" is the answer to that.)


Anyways, during the course of one power play of late 70s post-punk, we got to talking about why we like some of this music now (e.g. Joy Division) when we didn't particularly care for it when we were younger and it was new. After some discussion, we agreed that we like the fact that it is so raw. The timing drifts, and the recording methods are a long, long ways from state of the art, even for the time, never mind today.


So, my question is thus: is today's music too perfect to be pleasant? Is the relentless use of audio quantization and AutoTune not only removing the need for playing skill, but actually making music unlistenable? I never liked the Who; I generally avoid classic rock like the plague that it is, having toured far too much to like any rock from the 70s any more. But now, when I hear something like "Who Are You" it's such a fucking relief, especially when placed against the ProTooled Perfection of what passes for rock in today's market.

 
 
 

26 comments:

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Jun.12.2006 @ 4:22 PM
antix2
The Emperors new rock track has too many bits for the human ear...

(I've had McDonalds in Japan and the burger you get actually looks just like the one in the picture on the wall.)

Why are you trying to explain why shit stinks?

 
 

 
Jun.12.2006 @ 7:06 PM
DaveAA
I don't think being in time and in tune is going to ruin a song.

I think the difference nowadays is that it's so easy easy to give weak, unoriginal songwriting such a slick veneer that radio programmers and teenagers can mistake it for good music.

 
 

 
Jun.12.2006 @ 7:18 PM
Chris Randall
Radio programmers have been mistaking slick veneer for good music for decades. Nothing new there. The only thing that changes is the definition of "slick veneer." One of the best selling albums of all time is the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, for fuck's sake.

-CR

 
 

 
Jun.12.2006 @ 7:26 PM
valis
Much like the glut of Special Effects laden movies in the late 90s and early 00's, it's very easy to go beyond adding a tweak here and a bit of surrealism there to the point where the whole experience is artificial and exists mostly as a collection of effects with little content from the performers. I don't think this makes surrealism & electronica suck.

Slick veneer comes from the intention of the producers & marketing guys.

 
 

 
Jun.12.2006 @ 10:35 PM
antix2
Conjecture.

I have worked with "artists" whom are made of 'slick veneer' through and through and I know professionals that specialise in 'slick veneer' and love what they do.

Agreeing with valis, I add, suckage is a point of view. Educating the masses doesn't help, people love crap.

 
 

 
Jun.12.2006 @ 11:57 PM
RexRhino
<i>Educating the masses doesn't help, people love crap.</i>

Not really... most people have decent enough taste in music. It is just that the line blurs between music that changed my life, and music as disposable pop-culture.

While I don't like pop music, I can definitly enjoy some disposable Hollywood blockbuster crap movies. I fully know the difference between crap movies and good movies, but I have a taste for both. Good cinema and bad cinema each fufill a different need. I assume that for fans of pop music, it is the same as blockbuster movies are for me.

Personally, have a certain tolerance for blatently pop music that I don't have for other music. I can stomach listening to Brittany Spears or "Light Rock FM" at the dentist office a lot easier than I can stomach some god-aweful Paul Oakenfold or any Goa-Trance track.

 
 

 
Jun.13.2006 @ 12:58 AM
Chris Randall
I find myself in the uncomfortable position of absolutely agreeing 100%. I have nothing to add except that you could swap "RexRhino" for "Chris Randall" in that post.

Of coure, being my web page, I wouldn't be so retarded as to think anyone but me could use HTML in my posts. Obviously, allowing HTML in the comments is asking for all kinds of trouble. Plus, it makes me feel better about being me.

But otherwise, you're on the mark.

-CR

 
 

 
Jun.13.2006 @ 1:55 AM
antix2
Oooh. I stand corrected.
People love _what I define as_ crap.

However, that dentist scenario is the opposite for me.
I find paying $ to be force fed muzak I can't control pretty hard.

<x>Let's not even bring up the Supermarket... </x>

 
 

 
Jun.13.2006 @ 4:11 AM
Downpressor
where I live we get "hardcore rap" in the supermarkets. "Nxxx Nxxx this and Bxxx Fxxx that" as the old couples load their carts full of rice and daikon. Once the context is removed, all thats left is the polish.
 
 

 
Jun.13.2006 @ 6:18 AM
inteliko
Dont laugh..my wife was bumpin a new madonna tune ,i caught myself noddin my head to it,and my wife asked do u like this tune?I said its good but sounds too fuckin clean!Alll her new stuff got loads of good filter sweeps(who dont love filter sweeps)but its too damm clean soundin.Some areas drums sounded overcompressed.
 
 

 
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