Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Sound of Music

Describing music in normal genre terms (ie. pop, rock, jazz) is akin to telling someone how to cook a meal by using only the terminology of the four food groups (ie. cook a meat with some reduced vegetables and put that on top of a grain. Voila!) It might be technically correct, but it lacks the details to help one truly understand what is being described.

Instead, I prefer to speak of various musicians using absolutely no musical terms. The more precise and absurd the better. Does this really help anyone, probably not. But it's a lot more colorful than saying so and so is a "rock band."

The Fiery Furnaces- a piano being pushed down the stairs, repeatedly, and with amazing accuracy.
Portishead- the busy signal* when you call your girlfriend and she is on the line with the person she will ultimately leave you for.
The Decemberists- a Dickens' novel crashes into a pirate ship filled with drama geeks. Tragedy ensues.
The Mars Volta- try to explain every idea you ever had in you entire life, in no particular order or structure, to someone over the course of an hour while patting yourself on the back.
Radiohead- It's the end of the world! Let's get sad about it and type away at our computers while shunning humanity and warmth.

I only mention all this because as I was watching the band Isis Monday night, I started to think that they sounded like a boulder slowly rolling over me while the Cookie Monster was narrating the action. This mental image made me start laughing at an inopportune moment (said "Cookie Monster"- please refer to picture- was looking directly at me). Perhaps, at that particular instant, just listening to a "rock band" wouldn't have been a bad thing.

*Yes, a busy signal is a dated reference point which one will rarely encounter anymore. But should you have knowledge of the term "land line" or the fact that cell phones were once the size of a shoe and weighed 35 pounds, you should understand this.

posted by jw