Sunday, May 10, 2009

More Than Words . . . Five Badass Instrumentals

This post has nothing, repeat nothing to do with Extreme. But I just wanted to post that album cover anyway. Nothing says musical credibility like sour faces and poofy mullets with headbands. I love the angry guy on the right in the non-ironic Nigel Tufnel skeleton shirt. He's driving the ladies wild by flashing us a little ankle skin above his gigantic white basketball shoes. And is his friend in the yellow next to him cradling his knee? I think he is. Extreme was a very sensitive band. I mean what would you say? If I took those words away? Then you couldn't make things new. Just by saying I love you. La da de da. More than words. Sensitive and brilliant.*

But onto the show. Just about every band that has released three or four albums has at least one instrumental on their set lists. It gives the lead singer a chance to get a smoke break (blowjob) when they play concerts. But there is a difference between a really thoughtful instrumental and the lyricless filler that many of them are. One trusts its audience as it builds a mood and develops over time. The other is just a sloppy jam session that includes an obligatory and tedious drum solo. Now I have nothing but love for a good drum solo, but by definition, a good drum solo cannot last any longer than 20 seconds. I'm talking to you, Neil Pert.

Though a fair amount of sloppy instrumentals exist, the good ones deserve a spotlight. So here are five, cool instrumental songs from various musical genres.

The Ox by The Who - 1965

Keith Moon, you magnificent bastard. This video is a tribute to The Who's bass player, John Entwistle nicknamed the Ox. But it's the drums that make this song. Loud, fast paced, relentless and angry. Just the way Rock and Roll is supposed to sound.

Ghost Riders In The Sky by Dick Dale - 1963

Surf Rock is so damn cool. Let's hope the Black Eye Peas leave their greedy little hands off the rest of Dick Dale's catalog. This is one of the best covers I have ever heard. It stays true to tone of Stan Jones' original classic, but it totally reinvents it.

Man, it would have been nice to have been in your early twenties in Southern California circa 1963ish. It wasn't crowded or over priced, yet. No angry hippies burning draft cards. No race riots, yet. You just spend your day surfing (very slowly) on those gigantic surf boards, eating tacos, smoking weed and listening to Dick Dale. Yeah, that's the good life. (I'm joking about the weed, Mom.) Yeah, nothing at all to worry about. Except the constant threat of nuclear inhalation and a dead president. Funny how nostalgia can gloss over those little details.

To make one important point; The Beach Boys are not Surf Rock. They are Surf Pop. There's a big difference. Now I have nothing but love for the Beach Boys. Pet Sounds, Smiley Smile and Wild Honey are some of the best records from that decade. But Surf Rock is almost exclusively instrumental. To make that Surf Rock sound, you need to begin by turning the reverb on you Strat up to eleven. Then you need a cool tenor sax to counter the melody of your guitar. You then play a miseginated blend of Rock and Roll crossed with Flamenco with a little Mariachi mixed in over Polynesian rhythms. Add some Greek and Turkish Folk with a little twang of Old Timey Country and that's when you start sounding like Surf Rock. That doesn't sound anything like Surfin' Safari.

Like most people my age, I discovered Surf Rock in 1994 when Quentin Tarantino used Dick Dale's Misirlou as the main theme for Pulp Fiction. That soundtrack included several other badass Surf Rock songs. It's a genre that is often minimized by being associated with Gidget reruns and a dancing Pee Wee Herman. Block out any preconceived associations you may have and focus on the music alone. This is a genre that is very worth investigating. I have a ton of cool Surf Rock that I would be happy to lend out. (I love my bittorrent.)

Some other badass surf instrumentals include: Pipeline, Rumble, Walk Don't Run, Bullwinkle Part II, Bombora and Bustin Surfboards. I realize many of those are also from Pulp Fiction but they were the only ones I could find on Youtube.

Pretty, Little Ditty by The Red Hot Chili Peppers - 1989

So have you ever heard a song that you instinctively knew you were supposed to hate, and yet there was a quiet, shameful little part of you that kind of liked it? I'm reluctant to admit that this is how I felt about Crazy Town's stupid Butterfly song. You know the one. (Seriously, what a bunch of chodes.) When I first heard that song, I was deeply conflicted. Every music loving instinct I had cried out, "These guys are tools! Do not fall for that cool hook at the beginning. They suck!". And yet, I secretly really liked that dreamy guitar work. Then about three years ago I listened to the Chili Peppers' album, Mother's Milk in its entirety. I know, I was about 15 years late on that one. It is a tragically overlooked record. Well, to my endless relief, I discovered that the dreamy guitar hook that I was so conflicted over was the work of Hillel Slovak, the Chili's original guitarist. All hesitation left me when I got to the tenth track called Pretty Little Ditty. I was incredibly relieved. The reason I liked that damn Crazy Town hook was because it was ripped off of a really cool song from a truly great band.

By the way, Crazy Town are a bunch of frauds. They didn't cover that hook. It's a straight sample. They recorded it directly from Mother's Milk. You can hear Flea's trumpet in the background. Which is fine. I guess. I'm not a huge fan of sampling but whatever. But watch their video again (for as long as you can stand it). You'll note the shirtless, tattooed dildos pretending to play the guitar and bass. Shenanigans! They are lying!

Look, if you're going to sample a hook, a DJ does it while you rap over it. Those are the rules. You don't pretend to make the music that you are stealing. Did you ever see Puff Daddy pretend to play the hook from "Every Breath You Take" on an unplugged guitar? Did Vanilla Ice ever pretend to play Queen's baseline? No. This means Crazy Town are a bigger bunch of ripoff liars than Puff Daddy and Vanilla Ice combined. Ouch.

Sabrosa by the Beastie Boys - 1994
Be careful to not strain your neck while listening to this bad boy. For some reason I want to grow a dirty mustache, feather my hair and deliver a pizza. If you catch my meaning. That is the undeniable effect of a good wha pedal. By the way, it is really weird that the members of the band that sang "Fight For Your Right To Party" are all in their mid forties. Sunrise, sunset.

First Breath After a Coma by Explosions in the Sky - 2003

This is a song that takes its sweet time in developing. But man is it worth it. This is classified as Space Rock or Post Rock. I think. I actually don't know much about this kind of music, but I know I really like this song. Let it run in your headphones while you check your email today. It will not disappoint.

*We really need to figure out a universal "sarcastic" font. It never really comes through in regular in old Times.


Chris M. G said...

How 'bout "Anesthesia"? It's Cliff at his finest. Metallica always used to have one instrumental, that's my favorite.

For some reason I also kind of like Bongo Joe.

BusterBluth52 said...

Kill Em All kicks ass.

I'm also a fan of "Call of Ktulu". I imagine Ktulu is the Danish God of being a total dick. Clearly Lars is a devout follower.

Gregg said...

The Beastie Boys actually have 2 full length instrumental albums that are awesome, check them out fo sure. And if you like Explosions in the Sky, I could recommend: Troubles, Mono, El Ten Eleven, Mogwai, Saxon Shore, and of course Our Dark Horse... there are many others.

BusterBluth52 said...

Gregg, my blog is for the shameless promotion of my own bullshit, not for the shameless promotion of your band. I kid. Our Dark Horse is groundbreaking. I think. Don't think I've actually listened to you guys.

By the way, I saw that Mogwai was in town, I imagine you say them, how were they live?