Posts Tagged ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’

Maybe it’s a sign of aging, but I find myself longing for music of the past more and more these days. I’ve never hidden the fact that the current state of music is deplorable compared to when I grew up. But this isn’t a post about that. It’s a post about trying to (rhetorically) figure out what truly connects a person to music, and if that changes over time, across generations and through individuals.

(Note: Everyone’s experience with music is different; I’m not trying to make all-encompassing blanket statements. These are just my observations over the years.)

When I was a kid, all my musical influences lay in the hands of my older family members. As such, it was all 80s rock – U2, INXS, Duran Duran, etc. At that time, cassette tapes were the only vehicle for music, and I still remember this INXS tape we had – 1987’s Kick album, loaded with classics like “Need You Tonight” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” I used to play that tape over and over and over again on my small pink tape player (that came with earbuds!) I would just lay on the ground, headphones in, and listen.

I continued on like this, album after album (including The Little Mermaid Soundtrack) until U2 essentially took over my entire world. I had this one U2 mixtape that I spent hours upon hours crafting, timing every track to perfection. I must’ve listened to it countless times over years and years. At the time, I had a shiny silver Sony Walkman that automatically switched the tape’s sides. I knew every single word to every single song on that tape – they were my first favourite band of all time, and felt like a part of me.

Adolescence is a time when one is easily influenced, inspired. We hang on to things that (we think) mean something to us. If we’re angry, we like loud music. If we like to dance, we pick dance music. Our minds are so malleable and spongey, we can absorb anything. During such a precious time, it’s also easy to just follow what your friends are doing, so you won’t feel left out. For me, it was a combination – my entire school listened to grunge in the 90s, therefore I did too. However, I also enjoyed the music, and felt some connection to it, because it became about learning about an entire genre, and all the bands involved.

But here’s what I’m trying to figure out: when I hear 90s music now, do I love it because of that previous connection to it, because of nostalgia? Is it attached to specific memories, or a more care-free time? Or do I truly think it’s better than a lot of the music of today? If I heard that same music now, what would I think? Would I enjoy it the same way, would it speak to me in the same way? Or was it just a right time, right place scenario? Let’s be real, grunge doesn’t exist anymore (in spite of some pitiful attempts at a comeback); it died a long time ago – is that why it has such a pull over me?

Same would go for those who are fans of 60s-70s music – maybe that attachment comes from the notion that there currently isn’t any music out there that resembles anything from back then. Maybe they feel like they experienced the birth and demise of a genre. Its evolution and inability to survive in the current world. Maybe they just miss it. In previous decades, music had so much more to say. Musicians used their voices to make statements.

Nowadays, the industry has gotten soft. No one (rather, not many) talk about anything real, which is why everything is so interchangeable and unrecognizable. It all kind of blurs together. For example, millennials all think Drake is the almighty – but will they still think that in 10 years? Or is it because they hear his songs at clubs and bars right now? In 10 year’s time though, will they still be going to clubs? Moreover, even if they did, would Drake still be playing over the speakers? Has the music scene just changed now?

These days, music can be heard anywhere and everywhere – which is great. But that also makes a lot of room for noise. I wonder if in this day and age, it’s possible to really connect to an artist, and still feel connected years later. If it is possible, I feel like it’ll still be different than how music was felt in the past; when you earned the ability to listen to a track over and over. You had to save up. You had to really want it, and if the album wasn’t all that good, you wouldn’t delete it or toss it, you’d make yourself listen because you invested in it. You would give it a real, solid chance.

Year after year, there’s so much turnover in tracks too, so many singles released, that it’s tough to really feel the impact of any of them, due to so much output volume. It seems as though Selena Gomez releases a track every week, so how does one even keep track? With programs like Spotify, essentially every single song you could ever want in life, can be found there. You don’t have to buy the album and only play it on your CD player, or if you’re lucky, in your car. You don’t have to commit to an artist.

You can download a track just as easily as you can delete it. No one has Walkmen/Discmen (RIP) anymore, so all music on-the-go comes from their phones. The flow of which can easily be interrupted by phone calls, txt msgs and taking photos. How are young people supposed to understand how to truly value music? People these days don’t get obsessed with albums; they get obsessed with songs. One track.

Don’t get me wrong, I use Spotify too – guilty as charged. It’s the easiest, fastest way to get a track I want when I want it. I don’t have invest so much time/energy in its acquisition. But here’s the thing: I kind of miss that process. I kind of miss getting to know the music, the artist. I kind of miss opening the plastic wrap around the CD. I kind of miss analyzing the album art, and flipping through the lyric books and footnotes. I kind of really miss that connection.

 

 

There are many famous sidekicks out there: Robin, Dr. Watson, Goose. In music, it’s the supporting band members. Sidekicks may not be front and center, they may not be the voice or face of the band, but without them the band can’t exist, it isn’t the same. They’re the backbone, the behind-the-scenes, they bring songs to life. Hats off to a few of my favourites.

Boyd Tinsley.

Most of you may not recognize this name, but you should. He’s the bad-ass violinist for Dave Matthews Band. He takes each song to the next level while rocking out on his violin. During live performances he solos often while the whole crowd listens encouragingly and in awe. In a band with several other instruments, it’s challenging to stand out, but Tinsley has no problem rising to the occasion. Dave takes a step back, gives Tinsley the spotlight and they feed off each other in a beautifully symbiotic way. They need each other, their combined energy and charisma ignites a spark that runs through anyone present, automatically giving everyone chills. When he’s on stage, he can’t stop smiling; he’s not just happy and excited, he’s completely head over heels ecstatic to be doing what he’s doing and it shows in a magnificent way. There’s no greater pleasure than watching a musician become his music. Everyone needs a dude like him in their life.

Flea.

Bassist for the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers. There’s never a dull moment with him on stage: he’s always jumping around, buzzing all over the place like a, well, flea. He enjoys partial and occasionally full nudity, he wears all sorts of costumes/outfits on stage and isn’t afraid to use his flexibility to his advantage. A lot of their tracks have a strong bass presence and that’s because Flea is an animal on it. Slapping, plucking, popping, tapping, you name it. He makes the most complicated solos seem easy as pie and often jams with drummer Chad Smith or lead guitarist (currently Josh Klinghoffer.) He’s the perfect sidekick to lead singer Anthony Kiedis because he entertains without overshadowing – all eyes don’t need to be on him, though they often are. Other than Kiedis, Flea is the only other original band member still standing, even in spite of Kiedis’ substance abuse issues. Talk about loyalty. Who wouldn’t want this Flea around?

Tony Kanal.

Born in London, raised in Anaheim (with a brief stint in Toronto) and of East Indian origin, Kanal plays bass for uber successful band No Doubt. The whole planet knows Gwen Stefani’s the face, the voice, the star; what most people don’t know is Kanal is too. He’s a songwriter, record producer and also plays keyboard, sometimes on the same track he’s playing bass. He’s a hell of a performer, rocks a faux-hawk like nobody’s business and his fashion sense is at par with Stefani’s. Kanal and Stefani have been friends since high school and dated for years, well into the band’s early days. Eventually they split up and Kanal not wanting to make things awkward, volunteered to the leave the band. What a guy. Thankfully, Stefani didn’t let that happen, but instead wrote “Don’t Speak” to commemorate their demise. Years later, she wrote “Cool,” alluding to the state of her relationship with Kanal. I’ve been saying it for years: Tony Kanal is so freakin’ underrated.

I know it has to come eventually, I know I can’t avoid it, I know it’s all part of life: I’m turning 30 this week and have no idea how to feel about it. People keep saying 30s are the new 20s, you’re only as old as you feel and age is just a number. To them I say, yeah right. Getting older only makes me think of the years gone by and I can’t help but reflect. If I’ve learned anything in the last 30 years, it’s that being yourself is more important than blending in. I tend to live in my head most of the time and have always found that music is capable of doing all the talking for me. What I listen to is a reflection of who I am and how I feel, and the five following albums have all been instrumental in reminding me of that.

1. Achtung Baby. U2. 1991

U2 was my very first favourite band. Most would argue that 1987’s The Joshua Tree was their best album and though it had better individual singles, as a whole, Achtung Baby came out on top. It was my first real glance into rock music and I haven’t looked back since – you can’t compete with  powerful vocals, backed by a killer electric guitar, intense bass and bewildering drums. My exposure to U2 has opened my mind to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M. and pretty well any other rock band I know.
Favourite Track: ‘One’
Honourable Mention: ‘Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World’

2. Welcome to the Cruel World. Ben Harper. 1994.

This was the first Ben Harper album I ever bought and thank goodness I did. Throughout the album, his voice is incredibly soft and effortless, yet also strong; his lyrics are simple but meaningful, like he’s inside my head and able to express exactly what’s going on in there. Some of his tracks are just him and his guitar – a combination also adopted by City and Colour, Jack Johnson and Damien Rice, that never fails to give me chills. But most importantly, Ben Harper is why I fell in love with the acoustic guitar.
Favourite Track: ‘Walk Away’
Honourable Mention: ‘Forever’

3. Live at Luther College. Dave Matthews Band. 1996.

I’ll admit that it took more time than it should have to become a fan of DMB, but after listening to this two-disc album there was no way I could avoid it. Dave tells stories of how some of their tracks came to fruition, and performs them with only Tim Reynolds accompanying him on acoustic guitar. He sings his profoundly beautiful lyrics with so much conviction, and gets so overwhelmingly involved in his music, that every feeling gets translated through his guitar. Music to my ears.
Favourite Track: ‘Lover Lay Down’
Honourable Mention: ‘Seek Up’

4. Boxer. The National. 2007.

What can I say? My gateway album into Indie music and everything it has to offer. It’s emotional, deep, sometimes dark but always delivered so eloquently. The National have this infinite ability to capture a sentiment and build an entire song around it – their way with words is such a focal point of their music, a refreshing quality in today’s day and age. Since them I have discovered Bon Iver, The Civil Wars and so many other bands who understand the impact of expressing themselves as honestly and meticulously as they do.
Favourite Track: ‘Slow Show’
Honourable Mention: ‘Brainy’

5. Intimacy. Bloc Party. 2008.
The first time I heard Bloc Party, was on the television in a hotel room in Nice. I couldn’t help but be captivated by what I was hearing: my first insight into rock music blended with electronic sounds coming together in perfect harmony. Thematically, the album mostly deals with loss, but somehow the music masks the heaviness of it all, without taking away its significance. My admiration for Bloc Party led me to Metric, The xx and other bands who concentrate just as much on the sounds they create and the music they make, as what they say and how they say it.
Favourite Track: ‘Signs’
Honourable Mention: ‘Biko’

These albums have stood out to me most in the last 30 years because I had to do a double take, I had to listen to them once and then once again. I couldn’t have imagined my last 30 years without this music and I don’t foresee myself not needing them in the next 30. It’s what I relate to, what I feel most comfortable around. These albums have opened my mind to so many other possibilities and that’s what being yourself does – people respect you and appreciate your honesty, even if they’re not on the same page. My advice to those also on their way to 30: surround yourself with what makes you feel most like you, because the best thing you’ll ever be at is yourself.