11.22.2006

Virtuosity...

I was reading the comments to this post by Matt about covers and I had a few comments. First, a distaste for covers is mostly a rock music thing. The jazz greats all performed other people's songs, in fact rarely writing their own. Country music also has a clear line between songwriters in Nashville and singers. And classical musicians are almost always performing pieces written by someone else. It is really only a rock problem, and I think it stems from problems within the Rockist school of thought. The fact that rock music is the only discipline that has a problem with covering songs is particularly amusing given that just about all of the great rock stars started out playing covers. Check out the track listings on the first two Beatles albums for example. Both are about half covers.

But the real reason that I wanted to mention Yglesias's post is because someone brought up Rush in the comment sections, and nothing irritates me more than anything vaguely complementary about Rush. I really, really hate Rush. The problem with Rush is that anytime anyone praises them it always starts with the fact that they are very talented musicians. This is undeniably true, the guys can play. I remember looking at sheet music for "Limelight" and being impressed with the complexity. I remember thinking "This would take a while to learn." The problem with Rush is that my next thought was "Why would I was so much time to learn such a crappy irritating song?"


With Rush, the song takes a backseat to the virtuosity and that is why I really hate cannot stand the band. Just take a look at the picture of Neil Peart's drum set for example*. I am sorry, but no one needs that many drums. Each Rush song is an exercise in showing off how talented the musicians are rather than writing a good song. Also, Geddy Lee's voice makes me want to stab flaming q-tips in my ear.

The thing is that I love really talented musicians. Unlike some early punks, I think virtuosity is something that every musician should strive for, as long as the skill is secondary to the song. To show you what I mean I am including a YouTube video of Victor Wooten playing "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles, a cover mind you. Victor just might be the most talented electric bass player of all time. I think of him as the Jimi Hendrix of the bass. Saw Victor play before I had ever even heard of him, and I spent the duration of the concert completely blown away. The man is jaw droppingly brilliant. But if you notice, his talent is there to serve the song, not outshine it.

If you need more proof, or just want to waste the day on YouTube, also check out his version of "Amazing Grace" here.

*For some reason the whole image is not showing up, but I think you get the idea from what is there. The man has drums completely surrounding him. The fact that he learned how to play drums behind him perfectly explains everything that is wrong with Rush.

4 comments:

  1. This post is 100% correct, especially on the point about Rush. I have never and will never understand why anyone can be so slavishly devoted to the cult of "But Neil Peart is such a great drummer!" And the TVotR cover of "Mr. Grieves" is better than the Pixies original by miles and miles.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agree with Kanishka on the Mr Grieves front.

    About Neil Peart. The thing is, you *can* use all those drums. The question of "needing" them is kind of besides the point -- I play just a kick and snare, and in some sense don't need more for what I want to play. Neil wants to do really, really grandiose stuff. Four bass drums all sound different, and he relies a lot on different tones, so a case can be made that he needs them. This all distracts from the point that Rush totally blows, and the only good thing ever to come of Rush was the scene on "Freaks & Geeks" where Nick thinks he's Neil Peart but in fact is garbage.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is not that I don't think that Neal Peart can use the drums. In fact, the fact that he can use all of those drums is exactly the problem with Rush. He has spent time that could have been used writing music that is enjoyable to listen to learning how to use all of those drums.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I guess I like Rush, but anyway, I'm commenting here because I wanted to thank you Charles for the links to those sweet youTube videos, and more importantly to the guitar vs. bass flamewars in the comments.

    ReplyDelete