More Serj, Please

MusicI love music from the band System of a Down. Their tunes are wonderfully heavy but maintain incredible melody. Their lyrics are politically charged and meaningful. Serj Tankian has an exhilerating delivery with many facets, just listen to "Chop Suey" for a sample of what I'm referring to. He's the Chuck D of SOAD, the voice the perfect accompanies Daron Malakian's music. There's no voice like Tankian's in rock right now.

I've noticed an unfortunate trend with System of a Down releases in 2005. Where Tankian was "the voice" on previous releases, Malkian now sings on just about every song and sometimes his voice is more prominent than that of Tankian. Tankian's awesome vocals are getting buried by Malkian's weak and diluted voice. I sing just about as well as Malakian and that's not saying much.

My hope for the future of System of a Down is that they go back to what worked so brilliantly and let Tankian handle the vast majority of vocals while Malakian sticks to song writing and guitar.


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freiherrin

Cannot agree with you! This band has the sound of excruciating verbal diarrhea, a pretentious form of vocals that is supposed to make you think that they have something profound to say (this band has a lot of company). And to add to the 'urgency' of their message, they ramp up the vocals in the mix so that they aren't just pretentious and bad, they're 'in-your-face' p&b.

If one has something meaningful to say, screaming and other vocal/musical gymnastics are really unnecessary, though they are quite effective if used as an ancillary to the entire song, as opposed to a manner of covering up poor performance, sloppy composition etc.

Example: Kurt Cobain, Nirvana. When hundreds of SOADs have gone down the cosmic drain, Nirvana will remain standing as a highlight of Twentieth-Century personal angst, primarily due to Cobain. He certainly felt a highly keyed need to communicate and share his pain, but Nirvana also performed "Unplugged", which many bands attempt and few succeed at. Why did Nirvana succeed? Because what Cobain had to say went beyond the merely personal to communicating thoughts and feelings that have a more universal aspect, which is one of the hallmarks of a lasting work of art.

Anyone can compose a song; in the end it is not that difficult. But the songs of most people - even if they are pleasant, or catchy - remain 'their song' without adding anything meaningful to the astounding, civilization-long dialogue that we call 'the arts'. The same is true of literature, dance, opera, visual arts. Unlike some critics/commentators, I wouldn't draw a line and say that popular culture was disposable; much popular culture eventually is recognized as art, as opposed to a cute picture/exciting mystery/hit single.


It is the content that ultimately determines its place, not its stylistic attributes.


(In this regard, the following is a good example of the triumph of style: the much-ballyhooed 'Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies. Fun to listen to; a topic of much discussion as to the meaning of its lyrics, but ultimately an exercise in style as opposed to content, not that there is anything wrong with its superficiality, it's quite catchy and inventive. But having heard their execrable version on a 'live' and unplugged Toronto radio program I can only assume they've hit the road to Texas in search of cover, because without its stylistic electric-instrument garniture, it's just a badly sung bit of drivel. And thus it goes with so much creative work. Ultimately, time is the winnower and reaper of meaningful contributions to culture.)
Copyright ©2006 by freiherrin

May 18, 2006 @ 5:36 PM

Mike Boon

I take it you're not a fan...

We'll agree to disagree...and we'll also disagree about "Possum Kingdom". You may not have liked their live version from The Edge but that's a great tune, IMHO.

May 18, 2006 @ 9:07 PM

freiherrin

Of SOAD I am definitely not a fan.

But Possum Kingdom: Of course it's a great tune; I have no argument against it. As a matter of fact I find it very catchy, and the oddity of the rhythm playing against the main melody gives it much of its charm. But when it is performed more or less a capella, it loses that aspect of the instrumental and becomes a mediocre little tune. To me the acoustic version highlights everything wrong with it: the singer can't keep a tune, the words are jejune, and the multi-layered buildup of the electric guitars and the slightly off-kilter beat are missing.

My point is that especially in popular music, most of which is electrified, all manner of problems and weaknesses can be disguised by clever mixing in the studio.

This is where a song like Pennyroyal Tea, for example, actually stands up well when performed acoustically and unaccompanied - because the music is good, and so are the lyrics, which become much more obvious when not woven into the electric onslaught.

IMHO
(Took me a minute to figure out the acronym ;-}

Copyright ©2006 by freiherrin

May 19, 2006 @ 8:01 PM

freiherrin

Of SOAD I am definitely not a fan.

But Possum Kingdom: Of course it's a great tune; I have no argument against it. As a matter of fact I find it very catchy, and the oddity of the rhythm playing against the main melody gives it much of its charm. But when it is performed more or less a capella, it loses that aspect of the instrumental and becomes a mediocre little tune. To me the acoustic version highlights everything wrong with it: the singer can't keep a tune, the words are jejune, and the multi-layered buildup of the electric guitars and the slightly off-kilter beat are missing.

My point is that especially in popular music, most of which is electrified, all manner of problems and weaknesses can be disguised by clever mixing in the studio.

This is where Pennyroyal Tea, for example, actually stands up well when performed acoustically and unaccompanied - because the music is good, and so are the lyrics, which become much more obvious when not woven into the electric onslaught.

IMHO
(Took me a minute to figure out the acronym ;-}

Copyright ©2006 by freiherrin

May 19, 2006 @ 8:03 PM

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