Sunday, April 16, 2006
DIY
Category: Music

I don’t work on Thursday, so I was out tooling around. Went to Cambridge to look at a couple guitars. Played an American-made Fender P-Bass at Guitar Stop that cost $1K. Wasn’t bowled over by it too terribly much. Went to Cambridge Music. Played a used Fender Jazz fretless that I quite liked. Also cost $1K.

Both basses had round-wound strings. Then played a $200 fretless with flatwound strings. Had horrendous tuning problems. I wouldn’t play the thing again for love or money, but the flatwound sound is the sound for me, I have decided. It sounds more like a standup bass.

On to the point of this screed: On the way down, I was scanning the radio dial for something good, and it all sucked. Everything. WAAF sucked. No big surprise. ‘BCN sucked. Again, what else is new. Jammin 94.5 sucked — also not unexpected. But the college stations sucked as well, so I started to get nervous and worry that civilization might be at an end.

I would, of course, like to expand on exactly what I mean by “sucked.” I think “suck” is a good verb; it describes something that consumes energy instead of producing it. But you should have a better idea of what I mean when I say the music on the radio sucked. It all sounded like no thought or care had gone into it.

Granted, I am an old fucker, but I seem to remember thinking the exact same thing when I was in high school: that the best music calls to mind what has gone before without sounding like what went before. The best British Invasion bands always managed that. The best punk rock bands did it. As for who’s doing it today, I can’t really say. I’m not impressed by much of what I hear. Maybe I have some sort of emotional blockage preventing me from enjoying what’s out there today. I just remember immediately liking stuff like Split Enz, Fingerprintz and Martha and the Muffins — there was no waiting period, no need for things to grow on me or improve with age.

So what I did to remedy the situation was, I dug through the tapes in the box between the two front seats. Found one of an old rehearsal of Jonny Cohen’s Love Machine at the Evil Geniuses studio in Arlington, Va. I am not intentionally tooting my own horn here, but I enjoyed this old, worn-out and badly recorded mix more than anything else I had heard that morning. It just sounded like a bunch of guys getting together and having fun, trying new stuff and seeing what works.

There were tensions in the band and we had our detractors (thanks for heckling us, Eddie Dean), but that 12-plus-year-old tape sounded fresher than anything else I heard that day. Moral of the story: if you want good music, do it your damn self.

On the plus side, the woman at the Guitar Stop had an adorable puppy. Also had lunch at Boca Grande. Goddamn, that place is good.

Anybody know anything about Stranul guitars?

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