Saturday, June 12, 2010

Meditation on Loud Rock and Roll

I like loud and distorted guitar the old school way, in the form of jamming power trios,  guitar-bass-drums shootouts where the downbeats started at debated counts, and the length of the improvised middle section was unpredictable. Ad-libbed solos, riffing, vamping, monochromatic chord mongering, the center portions of this species of random noise took a cue from several generations of black American blues geniuses. The young Turks to the clear, elegantly expressed formulations of anger, pain, dread, and joy and tweaked the pentatonic elements to a narrowed strain of white male rage, performed at volume levels beyond endurance levels, with the nimble, simple, eloquent rhythms and solo configurations of guitar, harmonica, banjo being replaced with a wave of distorted notes bent to their furthermost pitch of emotional credibility. It was perfect for the smoky ballrooms I went to in the late '60s, where the likes of Cream, Blue Cheer, Sir Lord Baltimore, T.Rex, and Mountain belched, groaned, and assaulted a beleaguered audience of addled brains with their instrumental abuse; on some nights the commotion and clamor reminded you more of a demolition derby instead of a unique engagement with a fleeting muse. The impact was more important than configuration. There was joy when I came upon the MC5 and the Stooges in Detroit, where I lived. The 5 were every car Detroit had manufactured being tossed off the top of the Penobscot Building, the tallest building in the city at the time. The MC5 had a speed and power only the fury of an accumulating gravity could provide, and half the fun of watching these guys batter, abuse, and flail their instruments while the wiggling and wrenching in hip-thrusting deliriums. This was the guitar version of Demolition Derby. The Stooges were, on the other hand, the guitar that was tossed off with a violent fling at a lousy rehearsal and left on, still plugged into the amp, humming and crackling the whole night. Ron Ashton's guitar work was perfect, imperfect, with a wood-chipper rhythm, an excellent three and two-chord background for Iggy Pop, whose psycho-sexual explorations into teenage impatience would make you think of a zombie severed arm. It still twitches across the blood, the hand is still making grasping motions for your neck, you realize that even death cannot stop this force that requires your attention.


  1. "This next tune is called 'Female Minister'..."

  2. This next tune was written by our bass player. It's "Sister Box Cutter".


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