Listening to “In Rainbows” I’m reminded of how difficult it is to write a song. By a song I mean something that can stand alone. wrote songs. wrote songs. A song has its own inner logic—to get a little bit technical—harmonic development and resolution for one. That’s why 12-bar blues always works. There aren’t that many good songs in rock. Think of how many songs you would want to hear no matter who was playing it.
Rock is all about performance. The artist goes into the studio and does their thing and it gets recorded. That one moment, screech, slur, or whatever is preserved forever. If you’re a cover band, you can’t cover a performance the way you would a song. You would just be trying to imitate a performance. That’s why cover bands play the same old stuff.
Take the “great” Robert Johnson and the non-stop praise he gets from the likes of and because you can’t imitate him. You can play the songs easy enough, but you can’t imitate Johnson’s performances. Just like if I went into the studio and recorded “Crossroads Blues” nobody would be able to imitate me. I wouldn’t even be able to imitate me a second time.
I think understands the difference between song and performance. To be a great you have to write songs. They want to be great. But songs are dangerous because they exist out on their own. To submit to a 32-bar song form or a 12-bar blues is to risk becoming predictable. To submit to the form and still make something original is really, really hard. It’s much easier to create some musical landscape/wallpaper in the studio and use your taste to make sure nothing “cheesy,” predictable, used by someone else not cool doesn’t slip in.
I wanted to hear In Rainbows because I think is the last rock band. I think that they know that. I like hearing them squirm to stay cool in a genre that has so desperately painted itself in a corner it’s suffocating.
Tune in tomorrow for part 2.