I use the word “resonance” a lot when writing about music. Sometimes, the phenomenon is a relatively straightforward thing: you hear, say, a blues record. The guitar player has that exact sort of twang & torque that you’ve always liked. Maybe it reminds you of T-Bone Walker a little. In any event, you know why the music appeals to you.
Then there’s music you hear, are captivated by, but have no concrete idea as to why. The example I fall back on is Thomas Newman’s score to American Beauty. Lucky for me that I saw that film at home instead of the movie theatre, because the music pulled my attention completely away from the visuals. I had to restart the movie after about 30 minutes because I just couldn’t not focus on the music. Was it the percussive aspects that got me? The ambient, dreamlike quality of the sound? The answer is probably all of the above, plus some other thing that’ll never be known to me. I guess the mystery is part of the appeal.
But what about lack of resonance? Yesterday, I gave a friend of mine a copy of a CD that I truly love. Her first comment was that the woman’s voice irritated her. While it’s hard for me to accept, I just have to because I’ve reacted that way to many, many recordings. There doesn’t have to be any sort of logic involved: the reaction just IS.
So despite my optimistic musical outlook and reputation for avoiding negative reviews, I have experienced plenty of negative resonance over the years. Mostly, I keep it to myself because hey, what good’s going to come of it?
With all of this in mind, I now present five records/artists that have had “inverse musical resonance” for me. Now, this isn’t an attempt to redefine reality by controlling the terminlogy (That’s better left to the shape-shifters of politics). No, it’s just an attempt to describe my reactions. This also isn’t one of those sacred cow/let’s piss people off kind of things. No, they’re just pieces of music that I’ve never enjoyed — and believe me, I’ve tried.
Anybody else have similar experiences?
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – Genesis
I know, I know…the is supposed to be the pinnacle of Genesis. The high point of 1970′s progressive rock. It’s also heresy to say that I’d rather listen to the music from the poppier Phil Collins era…but it’s true. I’ve probably listened to this record twenty or thirty times. After each pass, I can remember almost nothing. Yes, I’m aware that I’m supposed to genuflect before the guitar genius of Steve Hackett. I don’t hear that either. I mean, yes, I can see that he’s a talented player. It just doesn’t happen to do anything for me.
Ease Down The Road – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
A couple of friends of mine really, really dig this guy. When I hear him sing, it seems completely devoid of emotion. Nothing there. Empty. I told this to the guy who first loaned it to me and his response was “Did you get to the part about the girl going down on him?” Answer: “I have no idea.”
Johnny Marr is supposed to be this fabulous guitar player. For all I know, he might be. The big problem is that I’ve got to listen to Morrisey. My entire soul shrivels when I hear that voice. I think, hmmm…maybe it’s an acquired taste? No, I try every year or so and have the same reaction. I’ve got to put on some Ramones to return my soul to its original size and shape.
In the “voices with no resonance” department, we have a cousin here to The Smiths. Brian Ferry’s voice irritates the begeezuz out of me mostly because it transmits not a single iota of emotion. It sounds like he just doesn’t care. Of course, with the pile of records they’ve put out, it’s pretty obvious that he does care. Still, that intellectual exercise can’t change the fact that I hear a void.
Tunnel of Love – Bruce Springsteen
I’ve had arguments with my Bruce-loving cohorts about this many times, but I’ll say it again here: this is, by far, the worst Bruce Springsteen record. Released a few years after the juggernaut that was Born In The USA, this was supposed to be Bruce’s step up to maturity. Surely he was going through a rough patch in the relationship area, but, not being a lyrics guy, this hardly matters to me. After my twice-yearly attempt at this record, here’s what remains: the Bo-Diddley beat of the opening “Ain’t Got You,” the rocker of “Spare Parts” (somewhat ruined by an atrocious guitar sound that must be blamed on too many effects pedals), and the nice Duane Eddy twang of the guitar solo during “Tougher Than The Rest.” That’s it. The rest of the album has so much acoustic rhythm guitar, light backing drums, and well…not much else.
If this record had been done with just Bruce, his acoustic guitar and harmonica, I would have had a different reaction. In fact, I’ve heard some of these songs performed in that context and really liked them. As recorded though, Tunnel of Love always struck me as a great idea, poorly executed.