I was inspired by Caroline’s post last week to explore what it is about the music I like that causes me to become attached to it. Ever since I picked up my first pair of drumsticks at age 9 (and recently, bought my first guitar), musical performance has been an integral part of my life, and will likely remain so as long as I have the physical ability to hold an instrument. So it was interesting for me to take a look at musical taste from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have experience playing anything at all. My personal journey through genres and artists has been a short yet complex one, and I hope to continue to be challenged the more I delve into my favorite performers.
I suppose it would make sense to start from the beginning. I’m not sure I had a sense of musical “taste” until the summer of 2000. That’s the summer I heard this song on WDVE (FM 102.5 if you’re ever near Pittsburgh), and I realized I wanted to play music, too. It’s strange to be fan of a band like Rush. They’re polarizing – it seems people only love them or hate them, with no room in between for compromise. It isn’t hard to see why, either. Their songs, even their radio hits, are complicated and rarely give listeners time to catch up. With fluid ease, the band (only three people, at that) switches back and forth between time signatures and keys, with Neil Peart’s lyrics overlapping throughout. On that note, NEIL PEART, whom I have a man-crush on likely the greatest drummer in the history of classic rock, is the reason I play. There were famous drummers before Neil Peart, but he is one of the first drummers to not only be known, but to become an integral part of the band’s composing process.
And now for something completely different! I suppose what draws me to ska/punk is the raw energy the music has. Nothing about it feels forced or overdone, it’s loud and powerful and makes you want to run around and break things. But the great part is the camaraderie the music promotes that goes beyond the boundaries that separate us from complete strangers. I went to one of their concerts a couple years ago, and every single person in the audience knew the lyrics to every song. The dancing was wild and practically out of control, and I’m fairly certain I participated in a mosh that lasted for over half an hour. Any time a person was knocked to the ground, however, everything stopped and three others were there to pick them back up again. The audience looked out for each other; no fights, no injuries, just a general feeling of awesomeness. I went to the show alone and I felt like I made 2,000 friends that night.
I’m discovering by doing this piece that the bands I enjoy listening to are ones which tend to blend several genres of music together, rather than playing towards one specific audience. I like music that pushes boundaries and isn’t afraid to mix and match a variety of influences together, and RHCP fits the bill perfectly. The RHCP I grew up listening to isn’t the RHCP of today, and that says something about their ability to evolve in and of itself. I was introduced to this album in middle school by a friend who had become obsessed with Flea’s slap-bass technique, and I fell in love immediately. Everyone should give Blood Sugar Sex Magik a complete listen at some point; it’s violent, sexy, and beautiful, and has a sense of humor that can’t be matched. I read Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography, Scar Tissue, this summer. It told a tale which was already too evident within the themes of RHCP’s music, that of addiction, uncontrollable lust, and a desire to bring joy to every human being on the planet. RHCP is one of the few bands which was able to confront the lifestyle of the “rockstar” and emerge even stronger than before, and that alone warrants a listen.
I also like music that tells a story. Whether it be Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Dream Theater’s Scenes from a Memory, I have a soft spot for artists who attempt to paint a complete thematic picture through their albums. Porcupine Tree is no exception, and they are a band that I’ve been giving a great deal of attention to lately. Many of their songs – including this one – are in excess of ten minutes long. They are constructions weaving in and out of electronica, metal, acoustic rock, and pop. I can’t help but become drawn into the sonic worlds that they create. It says something that in an era of music more suited for persons with severe ADHD (I’m looking at you, dubstep), someone is still creating music that takes patience and a careful ear. One cannot simply put on their ‘phones and listen to a few minutes of Porcupine Tree.
These guys give me hope for the future. I often worry about where the state of music will be in ten years or more. I worry that all I’ll have to listen to in the years to come are albums which have been created long before, and that nothing new will be able to spark my interest in the same way that the music of past generations has been able to. But at least I know I won’t have to worry about Dredg. They are a strange combination of Rush, The Police, Panic at the Disco, Tool, and Coldplay. And at the same time, they don’t sound like anything I’ve heard before. There’s something in the atmosphere their sound creates that sucks me in, however, and is plain addicting, to be honest. I like groups that are well-rounded. Anyone can become good at performing in a niche, but bands that transcend their limitations and can switch freely between styles truly impress me.
I guess that’s all I have to share, for now. Give these artists a listen, and most importantly, share your own! I want to hear what you’re all listening to. I want to hear where your influences come from. Use that comment section and tell me, and everyone else on the blog, what music is currently flowing through your life.