Home / The Friday Morning Listen: Various Artists – Inverse Musical Resonance

The Friday Morning Listen: Various Artists – Inverse Musical Resonance

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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.”

The Smiths

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.

Roxy Music

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.

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About Mark Saleski

  • An interesting take on things Mark. I don’t agree with a lot of it, but then that is probably because I am not you.

    When I hear The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway for example, the very first thing I notice is Steve Hackett’s guitar — the way he plays is so economical, there is not a single note played that does not belong there. And his use of sustain is so damn sweet, so understated. Hackett is in fact probably my overall favorite guitar player.

    As for the Collins era Genesis? I lasted up through Duke. After that it just wasn’t the same band for me anymore. Though I’ll admit I find the occasional song like “Land of Confusion” enjoyable enough not to switch the channel when its played on the classic rock station.

    But again, that is because I am me, and I am not you.

    Springsteen’s Tunnel Of Love likewise appeals to me. But that is because I am admittedly, in fact kind of a “lyrics guy.” But I also like the music a lot. You mention the twang on “Tougher Than The Rest,” but what gets me is the “resonance” of his vocal here. The songs also hit me on a personal level. And there’s that whole “but that’s me” argument again.

    Conversely, there are also plenty of groups and artists that I’ve been told I am supposed to “get” but never really have. The late sixties for example are probably my favorite overall period of music. Hendrix. Janis. The Doors. The Airplane…

    Yet, I’ve never been able to “get” the Grateful Dead. And I have tried. I even went to a couple of their concerts. What I saw was hours of pointless jamming with nary a song to be found. Not to mention a lot of dirty, smelly, stoned, and sometimes naked people that I am sure wouldn’t be able to remember a single note they heard the next morning.

    Likewise, I’ve never been able to “get” Steely Dan. I am well aware they write great songs, with very clever lyrics that are expertly played. For me anything with that much gloss on it kinda leaves me cold though, in a rock and roll context at least. Can’t these guys even just once, make a mistake or blow a note so as to indicate that they are actually human?

    But again, that’s just me.

    Your article does an excellent job of putting this conundrum of individual taste into the personal context that it belongs.

    Good stuff Mr. Saleski.


  • I never “got” the Grateful Dead. I know most die-hard Dead fans despise “Touch of Grey,” but that’s the one song of theirs I actually like (I was maybe 9 when that song came out, so I thought this cool-looking bunch of old dudes had just put out this kickin’ debut single).

    I’ve tried time and again to listen to their “classic” stuff. I even own some of it, I just don’t get what the phenomenon was all about (and I’ll never understand tailgating at a concert). If you’re aware of what sensibilities are necessary to appreciate this band, let me know. I sometimes feel like I have a chip missing in my otherwise widespread appreciation of music.

    (And I don’t particularly enjoy early Genesis either. I’d much rather hear “Domino” or “Mama” over “I Know What I Like In Your Wardrobe”).

    – Donald

  • Glen, I hadn’t read your passage on the Dead when I was writing and posting my comment. Weird.

    – Donald

  • Suuuuure you didn’t Donald…uh, huh…

    Just kidding. It actually doesn’t surprise me you never got the Dead either. I’ve read enough of your reviews to know that song structure is important to you. And they just don’t have it…well, except for “Touch Of Grey” of course (okay, and maybe “Casey Jones” too)…


  • Oh and Donald, the sensibilities needed to get the Dead? These would be called drugs. Preferably, of the psychedelic variety…


  • Yeah, I’m not much of a jam band guy. I enjoy it in the context of the blues, like Clapton in Cream or listening to Buddy Guy improvise through a song. But I don’t get the meandering kind of stuff from the Dead.

    How do you not get Steely Dan? I’ve always considered their stuff more akin to jazz than rock (hence the strict attention to detail). It’s hard not to groove when I hear “Peg” or “Time Out Of Mind”…

    You can read my review of their show after I see them on June 9…

    – Donald

  • Honestly, I’ve tried (to get Dan). Their records are just too damn slick for me. It’s weird too, because I honestly think they have some great songs. I love Nash Kato’s (the Urge Overkill guy) version of “Dirty Work” for example. My favorite parts of De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising are when they sample Steely Dan (well, that and the Turtles).

    But to me they produce records that are slick to the point of being sterile. I saw them live once, and half the band was redaing freaking sheet music! Which is fine at the symphony, but not at a rock show.

    Again, that’s just me though. I respect Dan a lot, and I certainly know they are great musicians.

    It just don’t “move me,” ya’ know??


  • The sheet music image reminds me of the one time I saw Linda Ronstadt a couple years ago. I guess it’s rare these days for her to tour and she’d never been in my area (it was a big deal around here). The theatre was sold out, I’m sitting there waiting to hear “You’re No Good,” “Different Drum,” “Long Long Time”…The curtain opens and there sits this orchestra and she sings the frickin’ “Great American Songbook” for an hour and leaves. It was such a letdown.

    – Donald

  • Robert Allen

    Hmmn…an interesting take on things, and a well-written one. It must be, because several of the albums and artists you don’t appear to care for are ones I dearly love (all except Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy).

    But the whole point of Bryan Ferry’s voice is that it’s supposed to be void of emotion. Here is a guy who wears a tux on stage, for chrissakes! Roxy Music works because of the disconnect between the singer and what he’s saying. It worked better in the early incarnation, when Eno and Manzanera would be providing frantic, riff-heavy songs rather than the lounge act sound of the Avalon-era, but it did work to the end. I mean, what kind of voice are you supposed to sing love songs to inflatable dolls in?

    I also second Glen’s comments on Steve Hackett – I don’t think there’s a more economical solo with bite than the one at the end of “The Lamia”…

  • I saw Ronstadt open for the Eagles in the Kingdome, which is (or was) a huge, enclosed cement domed stadium built for Seahawks football games that they have since thankfully blown up. She played those songs you mention, but there was so much echo you wouldn’t have been able to recognize them.


  • Robert, are you the same guy I used to know at the Rocket? Just wonderin…


  • Robert Allen

    Echo in the Kingdome? Yep, I saw the 1982 Who/Clash show from the 200 level. It was amazing, and not in a good way. Not only was my seat a half-mile from the stage (well, it felt like it, anyway) but it was just underneath a concrete overhang. One of the best shows and worst concerts I’ve ever been to…

    Hi, Glen!

  • Robert Allen

    Hi, Glen – of course! Isn’t the Genesis and Roxy Music a dead giveaway?

  • Robert,

    If this really is you, reply with the initials of my girlfriend back then…then I’ll know for sure (and said former girlfriend won’t get pissed by seeing her name in print).

    If this is you Robert, I extend an invitation to contribute some articles for us. The pay sucks (but it did at the Rocket too, right?), but the large readership could open some doors.

    (Seriously folks, this guy was one of the Rocket’s best writers…well besides me anyway).

    Think about it okay Robert?


  • Robert Allen


    I haven’t written much for publication in the past few years (since about 2004), but I’d love to contribute something if there was an act or release that I felt I could say something intelligent about…

  • Damn it is you. Wow!

    Nice hearin from you again. I don’t want to hijack Saleski’s thread anymore than I fear I already have, but if you could drop me an e-mail I know Blogcritics would love to have a guy like you contribute some articles. You’ll find my e-mail address next to my name at the top of the BC Music masthead.

    I stopped writing for about ten years, but found my voice again here at BC. I suspect that would as well. E-mail me and lets talk about setting that inner-writer of yours free again…


  • Robert Allen

    Thanks for the invitation Glen, and also for the kind words. I’ll certainly drop you a line in the next couple of days. Take care,


  • Cool Robert. I look forward to it.


  • i’m hoping mr. brewster chimes in here on The Dead.

    first of all, i’ve never done any psychedelics so that part is out for me. i dunno, i guess what i like about them is how they blend so many influences in there to make their own thing. specifically, on records like American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead, you have tidbits of rock, folk, blues, jazz, and bluegrass.

    they say that their studio stuff wasn’t nearly as good as the live material. i’d say it’s just different.

    the longer jams, i can definitely see how somebody wouldn’t like them.

  • Eric Gagne

    mark. i’m one of the bonny billy friends. i love that dude, and i’ll probably buy everything his name is attached to until i die. it’s just one of those things for me. but what i really want to say is, thank you for the genesis comment. i have friends that think genesis is the most incredible band to emerge from that english prog business. it’s so strange to me. they sound ridiculous. actually most of that music sounds terribly silly to me. all with exception of king crimson. they are the heaviest goddamn band on the planet sometimes (69-77). how anyone can have a different opinion on that is beyond me.

  • “Inverse Musical Resonance”…I wonder if a prog-metal band has claimed that for their name yet ;&)

  • I think “silliness” is an intentional component of early Genesis, Eric. There’s a very thought-out campiness going on in the Gabriel-era Genesis songs, and I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of that era. What I do like I LOVE, however, but I consider that era far spottier than most fans. As for The Lamb, the first half is very strong while I can hardly remember a thing about the second half. It just loses steam and, thus, I lose interest.

    As for The Smiths, I find Morrissey simultaneously intriguing and annoying. I think his sense of melody is stunning, but at times he just overdoes it, cramming too much lilting melody into every cranny of the song. I only got into them because of Neil Finn’s really lovely cover of “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” on 7 Worlds Collide. Otherwise, I might never have bothered at all.

    And, yeah, as for Steely Dan, my reaction will likely never change: great musicians but they gross me out.

  • “song structure is important to you. And they just don’t have it.”

    Sounds like you only heard them live, Glen, and were too wasted at the time to pay attention because anyone who has listened to the albums Mark mentions or their greatest hits knows that line is a bunch of ill-informed hogwash. It’s not like every song has a 30-min jam in the middle of it.

    Now I understand people not liking jamming, but that means they are only fans of music as a final product, and they don’t appreciate the process. You see the band create during jams, communicate and interact without words. Is it always successful? Of course, not but it isn’t supposed to be. They are like deleted scenes from a movie, early brush strokes on a canvas. It’s about the moment: what it offers and what you bring to it.

    “I just don’t get what the phenomenon was all about (and I’ll never understand tailgating at a concert).”

    They were an unpretentious band who understood that they were a part something bigger, providing a soundtrack to people’s lives. Much like the unheard tree falling, music means little if no one is there to hear it. Their music belongs to everyone, which is why they led the way in authorized bootlegs. Hell, there’s over 2k shows of theirs online.

    Plus, there’s a mindset, similar to “On the Road,” that’s there’s an adventure out there waiting for you. The Dead were like a traveling circus, a musical Brigadoon, setting up for a whole weekend in different towns as the house band for whatever you wanted to make out of the day.There was a sense of freedom, and the rabbit hole was there if you chose to go down it. No show was ever the same and it went beyond the set list.

    What’s not to get about tailgating? Are you clean and sober fellow who just parks and runs inside the auditorium. How is it different than a sporting event? Are you not curious about the people who also enjoy the same music? Much like Jimmy Buffet, the parking lot scene was at least half the fun of the event. Rare was it to see more smiling faces, induced by whatever means, and more friendly, outgoing people at a concert than a Dead show. There’s a reason that regardless of record sales, they were consistently a top-ten concert draw every year.

    If you didn’t get the Dead, half the fault is yours.

  • Its not that I don’t like jamming or improvisation, Bicho. Quite the opposite actually.

    It’s just that for me to appreciate it at least, it needs to have some point of reference. I am very much into musical experimentation and the whole idea of expanding boundaries…which is why my CD collection includes everything from Radiohead to Miles Davis to Robert Fripp to some of those other sixties bands that I thought did a far better job of it (Airplane, Quicksilver, Cream’s “headier” stuff for example).

    What I saw at the two Dead concerts I attended was five plus hours (or so I’m told, cause I lasted about two) of cosmic noodling without much of a common point of reference at all. Like I said, I just disn’t “get it”.

    And that is probably because I was in fact, not wasted. That’s where I probably messed up and as a result missed the “experience.” As for the whole community deal, all I know is that when the hippie chick caked from head to toe in mud offered me a $1. burrito from what looked like the sort of grease pan you’d see in an engine shop, I wasn’t buying.

    No sir.


  • while i can appreciate that you don’t “get” them glen, your characterization of the music isn’t really close to what really goes on. i’d say on most nights, well over 95% of the material is song-based…very much like the records i pointed out.

    sounds to me like the scene freaked you out too much.

    and the need to be in an altered state is just bullshit.

  • I tried them out at two shows and what I saw — and heard — is what I saw.

    I actually found the experience to be culturally entertaining, devoid of any mind altering substances as I was. Watching time flash backwards and stand still is in fact quite fun from a distance. I just wouldn’t want to live there. Bottom line though, is I just didn’t care for the music all that much.

    Now that said, do I know these guys are good musicians? Of course I do. And have I heard well constructed songs on their records? On occasion, I have.

    Again, I just don’t like their music all that much. And I have tried giving it a chance, both on record, and when that failed, in concert (because the Dead, like Bruce, simply must be experienced live right?).

    Just didn’t work for me.

    And that was basically the point of the article, right?


  • Come to think of it, the shared community thing works much better for me at a Springsteen show. That shared experience gives me a joy, and brings a shit eating grin to my face for those couple of hours that I simply can’t adquately put into words.


  • “I am very much into musical experimentation and the whole idea of expanding boundaries…which is why my CD collection”

    You not getting it might be because you don’t appear to understand what they were doing from what you are writing. It wasn’t so much about experiments and expanding as it was creating something from scratch. They didn’t release CDs of their “space” jams because they were temporary art pieces not completed works. I can’t verify what went on at the shows you attended (although if you can remember the dates, I might be able to find them at the Archive) but they don’t resemble the shows I went to during the late ’80s/early ’90s.

    The Boss fan trying to recapture his glory days from high school by getting drunk in the parking lot on Natural Light and Jack Daniels doesn’t impress me much, either.

  • “The Boss fan trying to recapture his glory days from high school by getting drunk in the parking lot on Natural Light and Jack Daniels doesn’t impress me much, either.”

    And here I thought you liked tailgating, Bicho.

  • I do enjoy tailgating. I just don’t see any difference between music fans beyond their surface.

  • the funny thing here is that i wouldn’t know if the Dead were any better in concert or not because i never got a chance to see a show. only had one chance up at school and couldn’t afford it (man, i think it was 15 bucks! woo!)

    anyway, i’m not arguing that you should like them, because that’s just silly. was just pointing out that they were not high percentage freeform jamming.

  • I can understand tailgating at all-day events, like festivals or whatnot. But if a concert starts at 8 and the doors open around 6:30, I don’t need to be in the parking lot at noon to shoot the breeze with people while eating cold burgers behind some random guy’s van.

    Just because I like the same music as 20,000 other people on the same night doesn’t mean I have to be their buddy for the whole day. Being in a venue among thousands of people during a concert is a great rush. Excluding the performance, that rush doesn’t translate to the parking lot.

  • Sorry I’m late, but I’ll throw in my nickel’s worth on the dead.

    That bit about needing to be high to get the dead is utter BS. I don’t do psychedelics and I love the Grateful Dead. There is an old quote about the band that goes something like – the dead are like black licorice, not everyone likes it, but those who do really like it.

    They wrote some great songs. I’d put Hunter/Garcia right up there with Lennon/McCartney and Dylan. And that’s not including the great stuff Bob Weir has written over the years. They were very eclectic as Mark mentions. In their songs you can hear old timey folk music, jazz, the blues, and of course rock. I mean these are guys who have covered Dylan, Warren Zevon, Martha and the Vandellas, and Blind Gary Davis.

    Their studio work is a bit spotty. Albums like American Beauty, Working Man’s Dead and Blues for Allah are pretty brilliant in my opinion, but later albums like Go to Heaven and Built to Last are marred by terrible production.

    Live is really where they’re at and this comes from a guy who never attended one of their concerts (I’ve seen the various incarnations post-Garcia but never saw the fat man himself.) What I do have is a thousand odd hours of recorded concerts and even without the benefit of being surrounded by a thousand friends and being high, the music moves me like no other.

    Concerts were like grand experiments with the audience just as much a part as the band. They never had written setlists and no one ever know what was going to happen. This certainly meant that sometimes they failed horrible, but it also brought them to amazing peaks.

    As for the noodling, sure it was there sometimes. They improved pretty much on every song. Sometimes this was very little, and the songs stayed pretty much like it was written, sometimes the song lost all sense of its structure and you cold hardly even call it a song. When they were on it was like every member of the band was psychically connected to each other playing just the right note at just the right time.

    They certainly aren’t for every one, they aren’t even for me all the time, but man sometimes they hit just the right spot. As Bill Graham used to say the Dead aren’t the best at what they do, they’re the only ones who do what they do.

  • Donald I think lots of those folks hanging out all day are actually on tour with the band. I know people used to tour with the Dead and still do with other jam bands They camp out when they can or sleep in their vans, and then with nothing better to do until the show starts they hang out. Or sell veggie burritos. Or t-shirts. Or drugs.

    I always dig a good lot scene, and have tried the burritos, Glen (not bad actually) but yeah I only need a half hour or so of that before I’m ready to go inside.

  • Just for the record, the whole thing about the drugs was meant to be somewhat tongue in cheek. Partially as a bad attempt at humor after something Donald said, and partially to clarify that I, in fact, was not high when I saw them (after Bicho had indicated I might’ve been).

    Also for the record, my Mama once told me never to eat a burrito served by a girl caked in mud, sitting in one of those grill plates you see at the engine shop, complete with the black oil stains.

    I love a half-naked hippie chick as much as anybody, but if she is going to serve me a burrito, she had best be a CLEAN half-naked hippie chick.


  • oh nuts, mat brings up Blues For Allah, my favorite studio Dead. i once “tricked” a professed Dead-hater with that album. i played him part of “King Soloman’s Marbles,” which is from their jazzier side…and he loved it.

    the look on his face when he found out it was the Dead, freakin’ priceless.

  • JC Mosquito

    Blues for A – urk.

    But I luv the first Dead album – and Bear’s choice version of Smokestack Lightnin’.

    I don’t think the problem people have with the Dead is the jam thing… but I don’t know what it is. I periodically try their albums, but never care for them. But I was like that with Bob Marley for years, and now I get the point – it just took me 20 plus years.

  • Life is an all-day event, and Deadheads enjoy grabbing a chair and watching it go by with like-minded folk. The concert is just one part of the festivities.

    No one is telling you to adopt strangers into your home, but what’s the harm in meeting new people, seeing new sights, having some beers and laughs with friends? It’s a big world. Don’t be scared of it.

  • I think a lot of people don’t realize how jazzy the dead could be. In a lot of ways they way they played together was very jazz-like even if the sound wasn’t always so. Mark, did you ever hear the Garcia/Grisman disk So What? Lots of cool jazzy stuff on there.

  • “Life is an all-day event, and Deadheads enjoy grabbing a chair and watching it go by with like-minded folk.”

    just like we do up here in new england. chairs in front of the garage, watching the traffic go by.

    wait, new englanders can’t be the only ones….

  • “Mark, did you ever hear the Garcia/Grisman disk So What?”

    oh gawd yes! i have that and also The Pizza Tapes. at some point, i’d love to get everything they put out. really great stuff, and totally reveals Garcia’s old timey/jazz/bluegrass influences.

  • They really are quite fantastic. Old and in the way was a cool bluegrass side project too. Oh, and I’ve got a couple of shows of Garcia on broadway that have him doing a lot of really old stuff too. Lots of fun.

    Garcia was like an encyclopedia of all sorts of music.