Monday, January 25, 2010

Hey, since this is a blog, after all

Not so much a "review" as remarking that lately, influenced by playing Fallout 3, I've been playing a lot more "traditional" pop music. That is to say- I've been listening to Billie Holiday, Louis Prima, Bob Crosby, Louis Armstrong, etc, etc.
Yes, I do love Rock music, but that doesn't mean I close myself off to anything else.
Some folks can even combine 1940's pop music with really dark heavy rock, too. Like Clint Ruin. Been listening to that, too.


There are some artists that "change the game". For example, while a band like Tortoise was doing what later got called "post rock" for years, the big game-changer was more when Radiohead got into ambient, textural music. Below that, there were a slew of guitar-based bands in the late 1980's who were playing long, Televsion-influenced nearly instrumental rock, all about feel, and cinematic scope. But, Tortoise was more of a game-changer than them, Radiohead more of a game-changer than Tortoise- you understand?
Well, like him or not, Trent Reznor was a big game-changer. Take a look around on any site where musicians self-identify their influences, and you'll read "Trent Reznor" or even more popularly his Nom-de-guerre "Nine Inch Nails". So, at this point, saying that such-and-such sounds like Trent Reznor isn't big news. It's like saying a guitar player is referencing Jimmy Page or Dick Dale- it's a bit of a given. However, some comparisons are closer than others, so when I say that there's a stamp of Trent Reznor on Fresh Body Shop and Pain, it's not just that they're both essentially one-man bands, with an aggressive electronic rock sound.
In the case of Fresh Body Shop, the vocal similarity between Pedro and Trent is uncanny. My wife is a big fan of Nine Inch Nails and when she heard Fresh Body Shop, she asked if it was a new NIN CD. But, I truly appreciate the differences more than the similarities. It's pretty obvious to me that our man Pedro, I mean "Fresh Body Shop" is much more a pop-rock guy than Trent. If there can be a blues-based guitar lick, there will be. Also, a lot of the songs are far more traditional, and far more upbeat than Trent can muster. On top of all that, Pedro likes Accoustic guitars. Some of the best songs, then, sound like some anachronistic little artifact from 1975, where some hippies heard Caberet Voltaire, or something. It's all very hummable, and very light (as opposed to "lite", meaning lesser). The addition of some 8-bit keyboards really completes this, and integrates the electronics with the folksy-ness. Consider Pedro's band Fresh Body Shop highly reccommended if you want some breezy summery Pop music with a bit of rock backbone.
Pain, meanwhile, is pretty much the opposite. Peter Tagtgren already was a successful heavy metal musician with his band Hypocrisy. Where Fresh Body Shop is light and Poppy, Pain is heavy and abrasive. Where Pain relates to Trent Reznor in the strongest fashion, however, is in the lyrics which are cynical and dark to the point of a kind of misanthropic self-parody. But, where Pain gets interesting is in the other influences- the meeting of electronics and loud rock is interesting, I suppose, but certainly not novel. But, melodically, the electronics usually carry some kind of Wagnerian bombast that clearly owes a debt to Scandinavian folksongs, while the guitars are very percussive- it's like adding a supercharger to Sibelius (Jean, not the software!). As a result, the songs carry a symphonic majesty without ever losing the motorik beat of dance rock. Far more traditional than Trent Reznor, but in an entirely different direction than Fresh Body shop.
Ultimately, that's the best use of influences- as a kind of slate to write your own mark upon- the springboard to your own inspiration. I've heard that Shaw said that Mediocrity borrows, and Genius steals- and I think the point is exactly this kind of thing- we all have influences, if we're intelligent. So, if we're only mediocre, our use of our influences is merely borrowing from the influential material- but it remains in the possession of that influence. The Genius, however, takes the raw material of that influence to not merely change the game played, but instead to make a new game. In other words, it's ok to have influences, so long as you're not overwhelmed by them. That is the game I'd much prefer to play.