Monday, October 26, 2009

Lothar and the Hand People, Jimmy Eat World

Originally posted on December 14, 2007

What makes a band unique? In 1969 Lothar and the Hand People did it with a theremin and (gasp) synthesizers. Today it might be harder to use technology as a way into a new sound, since everybody seems to get the same gadgets and “electronics” is starting to sound like another word for “clone sound.” Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of ways someone can use electronics to create a different musical feel but most musicians/producers don’t seem to be doing it.

So back to the question. There’s one answer from a band I missed and am now catching up on. Jimmy Eat World, at least on their 1999 release Clarity (Capitol), keep tempos slow to medium, more or less retain a heavy backbeat, then add minimalist, trance-like repetitive elements. The long closing track “Goodbye Sag Harbor” (16:11) is an especially good example. There are no startling electronic effects. It is purely a matter of melodic riff elements in a conventional rock band instrumentation.

Musical imagination need not be scarce. Musicians should have the courage to bypass the whole “Who Wants to Be a Star” phony glitz. And I swear to you, innovation ain't gonna come from no "robot guitar" neither! If you can't tune your guitar and need a robot to take care of that, it might mean you are tone deaf and so maybe you should take something else up. Bands who innovate don’t follow; they lead. We need that more than ever today.

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