One thing I find mildly distressing about modern pop music is something that harks back to the 1960s. No, I’m not going into a rant about how music was inherently better then, at least they could play their instruments, blah blah blah. There are some very talented musicians and singers around now. There’s also Kanye West, Akon, and Pitbull, but we can’t have everything, can we? No, the thing is most modern singles aren’t noisy enough.
I don’t mean noisy in the sense that Motorhead were noisy. I mean there doesn’t seem to be enough going on. Where’s the noise gone? Partly this is result of better recording equipment, better production, and sadly the near ubiquitous use of Auto-Tune to smooth out bum notes and make every chorus sound identical. Even the wonderful Jess Glynne seems to have succumbed to the charms of Auto-Tune.
Way back, things were more homely. Tape ruled, and hence analogue sound was the warm norm. No digitisation. What you played was what you got. But I’m not referring to the crackle and hiss of old 45 rpm singles, or 33 rpm albums, or the occasional sound of a truck going past somewhere in the mix. The music back then just had more going on.
I was watching a music retrospective about a week ago, and was really pleased by the sheer racket that top ten groups and singers used to create back in the 60s. Let’s have a think.
The Faces, one of the noisiest and most chaotic bands ever to walk this earth. The Nice, an early prog rock band with Keith Emerson (later of ELP) having the sheer chutzpah to cover Aaron Copland’s ‘America.’ That made it into the charts. The Who. They were quite heavy at times, but mainly they were just noisy, even on their ballady tracks. Hendrix. Bugger me, he was noisy. Even the somewhat lame (though I have a soft spot for them) Moody Blues were noisy.
The Grateful Dead. I hated their psychedelic jugband sound, but they were noisy. Cream were noisy as well as heavy. The Beatles were incredibly noisy, thanks to George Martin’s wizardry and multilayering production. On that subject, anything Phil Spector touched was extremely noisy.
Barry Ryan’s ‘Eloise.’ Richard Harris’s ‘MacArthur Park.’ Bloody hell, even Joni Mitchell was noisy. And she could do glissando key changes brilliantly, without resorting to warbling like Mariah Carey.
Mariah, you may have a five octave vocal range, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it in every bloody syllable. That’s just vocal gymnastics for the sake of it. Do us all a favour and take up yodelling. You’d be good at that. And you’d be in the Alps.