One: The Lumping of Singer/Songwriters
I've been mulling over something Troy posted about a little bit ago: "Truth be told I rarely like the whole singer/songwriter genre, male or female--it typically seems uninspired and recycled."
I agree with him, but started wondering where this reflexive dismissal comes from.
For starters, there's the seventh child syndrome. I can't say exactly why previous First Name Surname stars loom so large, but if you play music with a single face as a focus, there are giants to overcome. An anecdote: I had my mother-in-law over a while ago and put on SYF and all-world fave In The Aeroplane Over the Sea during dinner. After two minutes, she said, between bites of salad, "What's this fake Dylan trying to do?" Somehow, I don't imagine that Kyuss had to endure Led Zeppelin barbs from the grandmotherly population.
Why? I wouldn't stake my life on this analysis, but a single face is much easier to parse, to like or dislike on first contact, while the cluster of a band has a much better chance of communicating its vibe, of getting an actual listen.
The other major hurdle I came up with applies specifically to band members striking out on their own. I'll admit to the reforming comic book addict's desire for completeness, so I'm usually compelled to check out any solo work by members of bands I like, but it's very hard to listen to those songs clearly without the finest moments of said band hovering. Case in point: the shambling, sometimes transcendent Rodan and band member Tara Jane O'Neil. I can safely say that many of my favorite Rodan moments are the result of her voice and phrasing among the somewhat (intentionally I think) monochromatic noise. See if you agree with me about "Tron" (here pulled from the outstanding Half-Cocked soundtrack).
Tron - Rodan
Generally loping and forceful, it's truly dramatic when Tara Jane cuts through like in the line "same as your skin" which triggers the coda.
Now, Tara Jane's project is obviously totally different on Peregrine, her quiet, first solo album, and I was prepared to weather that along as the songs carried some of the same drama in a different form. Not fair on my part, perhaps, and perhaps impossible to deliver. After all, those Rodan moments are great largely due to contrast and a solo record, with that one force up front, is about anything but contrast. I'm likely asking for too much and these songs do have some of the space and drama of Rodan's Rusty, but the singularity of voice definitely sounds like a factor in the "uninspired and recycled" lumping.
Sunday Song - Tara Jane O'Neil
Two: My Money Note
In my post way back when, I mention the money note, a phrase defining an incredibly expensive, hyper-produced moment that makes for a memorable, popping single. For better or worse, I'm still thinking about it, or, more accurately, about how it bothers the shit out of me that the work of scientists, engineers and creative people have led us to such arid, toxic, wonderless places. I'm not surprised, but still it rankles.
However, a bunch of recent Mission of Burma news had me recall what I think a money note should be: an unexpected moment of pure brilliance. So, here's mine, the strange, tuneful turnaround in Burma's B-side, "Anti-Aircraft Warning."
Anti-Aircraft Warning - Mission of Burma