Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cracking the Code

Certain connections may seem like some kind of cipher. Like you'll hear somebody say that such and such song sounds "exactly" like some other song, or some TV show is really a "rip off" of some movie, and it's really hard for you to see the connection? It's like there's some code, or puzzle that you're missing, right? Well, I'm all about transparency- I don't want there to be a code, just a connection. So, when I say that I'm hearing echoes of the past in some current bands, I'm going to strive to explain exactly what I mean. In particular, I think that Criminal Code sound one heck of a lot like TSOL circa "Dance With Me", and Eagulls sound a lot like Bauhaus circa "In the Flat Fields". That I think so is not important- the why is what I'm getting at.
See, in Criminal Code's case it's single coil guitars overdriving fender amps, with a large amount of chorus, the depth set high, and the rate set fast. With that set up, it'd be hard for almost anyone to avoid sounding like TSOL to me. They were the first that I heard to do that combination, so now, that's what I hear when somebody else does it. I believe that they're using different equipment around that- for example, I sincerely doubt they have a mid 1960's Firebird packing P-90's, which was Ron's primary way of pushing single coil sound into overdrive, whereas Criminal code sound more like either a pedal, or a gain stage in the amp- but the essential nature of the connection I hear is exactly that: single coil, overdrive, Fender, and chorus pedal.
Likewise, songwriting-wise, lots of folks have heard the connection between early post-punk and Eagulls. Mostly, they have mentioned Killing Joke, in that the band outright covered "Requiem"- but I'm hearing Bauhaus more than Killing Joke. Killing Joke is 10" celestions, with a massive amount of gain. Killing Joke is Gibson, all the way down the line, and rockabilly tunings ( G mostly). No, what I heard in Bauhaus, and what I hear in Eagulls is fender guitars, giant Ampeg bass cabinets, solid state amps, two types of delay ( probably digital, these days, but the shorter delay may still be analog) and a fast chorus pedal or two. The real trick, though is the two different delays- one almost a slapback short delay, and the other a giant cavernous delay- done to simulate the complexity of a really well-tuned reverb tank, but yet more huge-sounding. Later on, bands like the Cocteau Twins would add yet more delay ( sometimes as many as 6 different delays) but, when Bauhaus did it on "In the Flat Field" it was two, plus chorus. That's what I'm hearing here. Killing Joke used one delay, and two chorus pedals- and I know that sounds like esoterica- but that's part of the code- see, I don't hear music quite like some others do- I literally hear the equipment used. I know, I know- a really good song is a really good song, whether played on a busted acoustic guitar, or some state-of-the-art digital studio. I know that to be true, but I am a creature of my history, and my history is that equipment- so that's what I hear.  Maybe if I was more of a singer-songwriter type, I'd hear chord structures first and foremost, but I was a soundguy for years, so I hear equipment, first- then I can hear songwriting, and so on. So, my code for the connections I make is largely based around equipment. Make of that what you will.

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