Welcome to our first Grapevine of the new year. It’s been a while since I’ve been really excited about the beginning of a new year. First there’s the continuing nonsense and horror that’s been going on for a few years now. At this point it’s not even worth discussing. We can only continue to hope and work for change, but it’s definitely become a full time and long term job. Second, I live in the northeast. This time of year is overcast, cold, rain, snow, slush. Lack of sunshine is not a good prescription for ambition and happiness. So creativity can also become a somewhat difficult job too. But, as with every new year, we will persevere. Some of our monthly Grapevines follow a musical style or theme. I thought January would be a good month for a theme. So for this month musically, we’re going to simplify. Sometimes I just want to hear a good, simple sampling of garage rock. Straight forward, to the point. The kind you listen to and go, “I could learn to play that”. Start the year simple and build to complex. So for 2022, let’s hit the ground running…..
First Up: The Shadracks – ‘No Time’
Guitar, bass, drums, vocals. And there you are. I’d refer to it as garage rock. Some people might say punk rock, but I think in this day and age the word ‘punk’ has been twisted, bent, flattened and beat up so much that it’s almost devoid of meaning. Originally the word was more about attitude than sound. This song gives me attitude from that first chord strike. It actually sounds more like someone dropping their guitar on the floor. That’ll catch your attention. The band starts rolling in to the song. Four chords is all it takes. It’s like going downhill and slowly picking up speed. There’s a good amount of fuzz and dirt on both the guitar and bass. Then at the :50 second mark it seems like we’re going to step on the gas. But that only lasts about ten seconds. Then they slow down and start the tempo build up again. But it’s another false start and we’re back to the beginning verse style. These great tempo changes continue through the entire song. Even the vocals don’t really have a consistent pattern. If I was recording this I’d be saying “I get it, no click track on this song”. The recording is very crisp throughout. Not a lot of bottom end on any of the instruments. That works perfectly for this style. Brilliant way to keep your listeners off balance.
Next Up: Wavves – ‘Hideaway’
Let’s keep rolling on this month’s theme. Wavves “Hideaway’ gives us the straight forward guitar rock we’re looking for. There’s a bit more separation for the bass guitar as compared to the previous song. I like the double tap on the snare as that gives the beat a bit different feeling. When a song has a relatively simple structure, and that’s what we’re looking at this month, a simple change like the beat on the snare can have a larger influence on the feel of the song. The vocals are placed at a nice level in the mix. You can hear the lyrics, but they don’t overpower the musical end of the tune. The guitar playing has the same feel in the verses and the choruses, with the difference being a subtle change in the chords and some snare rolls added to the drums. Even though the production is simple, there’s some cool subtle effects and background in the production. The guitar sounds as if there is a second ‘ghost guitar’ in back of it. I like the sonics of the vocals. When all the other instruments are playing full out you don’t hear it as much. Listen when the second verse starts at 1:30. The vocal sounds like it is doubled (with some nice effects on it). However they create the vocal effect, it is perfect for this song. At the beginning of the second verse the instruments are pulled back to put the lyrics out front. “The field looks so pretty but it’s covered in land mines” is a great line. Listen closely to the lyrics as this is the theme throughout the song. ‘Hideaway’ does a good job of combining lyrics and music to create emotions in the listener.
Finally: Colleen Green – ‘I Wanna Be A Dog”
Let’s close up our newer selections with a song that has a bit more of an upbeat pop feel to it. This song is another example of how simple a good song can be. The guitar part is straightforward bar chords. There are both clean and distorted guitar sounds in the mix. The second guitar is either a clean electric or possibly an acoustic. And I would guess they they tracked the guitar several times. But the simple idea of multiplying the guitar part makes the song sound so much fuller. If you listen on headphones or stereo speakers you can really hear how they take the guitar parts and pan them left and right in he stereo field It sounds like there is a bass guitar holding down the bottom end, but it is just matching the root note of the chords being played. We also get a nice simple little ‘lead’ guitar riff in the middle of the song. They definitely want to highlight the vocals in this song. It’s a great melody and her singing is more pop sounding than garage shouting. The other thing that drew me to this song was the chorus. Such a great reference to Iggy Pop’s ‘Now I Wanna Be Your Dog’. I don’t believe that is an accident as not just the lyrics but the melody reference The Stooges’ song. Finally, I love any video filled with dogs running around. So Happy!
Retro: The Breeders – ‘Cannonball’
I thought I’d throw in one of the touchstone songs when you talk about combinations of garage, pop and indie rock. The Breeders were a band that were started when Kim Deal left Pixies. If you listen to bands, especially from the ‘grunge’ era, Pixies are usually named as one of the biggest influences. They were one of the best known bands for the ‘quiet verse, loud chorus’ style of song. Kim Deal certainly brought that style to this song by The Breeders. I don’t think they really thought this would cross over to a general rock audience as much as it did. I think the biggest factor in that happening was the vocals being more pop/rock sounding than the songs Pixies created. This song is fun from beginning to end. The quirky ‘vocal check’ to lone bass/spare drums intro is great. It has simple well sung verses with the Deal sisters combined vocals. And then the chorus kicks in……… and the rest is history.