Thursday, August 09, 2007

Why we list

so, what--as it were--is the deal with lists?

i've been thinking a bit about of 'em b/c i've come across two interesting ones lately. first, check out this interesting "New Sounds" episode on the topic of the infamous "Desert Island Disc," i.e. that one album that you would hold on to forever if you hypothetically had to ditch all others. host John Schaefer talks to Phil Freeman, who recently edited an anthology of essays on this topic--a sort of sequel to Greil Marcus's 1979 collection "Stranded"--as well as fun critics like Greg Tate and Ian Christe.

now i don't agree with any of the picks (Freeman: Motorhead, Christe: Iron Maiden, Tate: Bitches Brew), but reading this list and the one i'm about to discuss, i realized something. this is going to seem really stupid... so stupid that i'm afraid to type it. ok, here goes: what i realized is that the point of lists is that you're not SUPPOSED to agree with them. what the best ones do is start a ball rolling and everyone it passes--however much they want to tsk-tsk or whatnot--is burning to join in the conversation. it forces you to ante up, in other words.

now, now, i ain't about to come out with my desert island pick--though i gotta say that Tate's choice intrigues me given the many blissful hours i've spent obsessing over the four-disc "Complete Bitches Brew Sessions" set--but i will respond to this other list that's been published recently, which pertains to something near and dear. that is... Stylus's list of the 50 Greatest Rock Drummers of All [Freakin'] Time.

first off, i want to commend the architects of this list for an elegant gesture of omission/specificity/narrowing-of-the-field. to be more specific, thank fucking god that they specify that this is a list of "Rock" drummers only! if there is one. thing. i cannot. stand. above all else. is the general tendency among people who write about rock music to pretend that they know anything about any other type of music. Pitchfork knows their indie rock (i guess). but i cannot stand when i see kneejerk coverage of jazz on that site, just sort of sheepishly slinking around in the margins as a gesture of well-roundedness. Rolling Stone has often been guilty of the same crime vis a vis jazz, blues, reggae, etc. stick to your bread and butter, folks, as Stylus has done. take away the word "rock" and their endeavor is laughable (i.e., you'd inevitably see like three token jazz drummers--maybe Elvin, Tony and Max-- thrown in and that would open up a huge can of worms and screw up the whole thing); insert it, and you've set your limits and you're ready for some fuckin' fruitful discourse.

my comments on the list itself ain't actually that extensive to be honest. overall, i'm just glad it exists as a jumping-off point. BUT i will say that i'm thrilled to see a few of favorites represented, namely Levon (some days, he's my #1 drummer crush), Neil Peart (uh, duh), Damon Che (fucking Don Cab!), Brendan Canty and of course the obvious Bonzo at number 1 (you really can't argue much with that).

though i did want to bring up three omissions:

1) Dale Crover (Melvins) - very surprised not to see him on there, to be honest. i figured heavy music would be underrepresented, but he's someone who everyone seems to be wise to. i never understood how thunder was created via two toms until i heard him. fucking Tubs of Doom for all timez.

2) Thymme Jones (Cheer-Accident, Brise-Glace, You Fantastic) - yeah, he's not well-known enough (yet), but for sheer mechanized and sickly off-kilter pocket-ness, he is my favorite. an unbelievable master of counterintuitive groove that grooves harder than intuitive groove.

3) Charles Hayward (This Heat) - the future was now with this guy. wiry presagement of electronica or something. scary chops funneled into wiry, wiry beats of sinew. thin and ugly.

4) Bill "Drum Ogre" Stevenson (ALL, Descendents, Black Flag) - incredibly sophisticated and unreproducible funneling of prog-rock flash into speed-punk momentums. i'm not sure i can think of another drummer who has given me so many "what in the fucking hell was that thing he just played?!?" moments. Joe, Tony and Ben can attest: how many times have we rewound the intro to that one song from "Allroy Saves"?

5) Pete Sandoval - i wish i could find this clip online, but i once saw a video where he told the host of Headbanger's Ball that he invented and perfected the blast beat "for love." don't sleep on his slow beats either--sick, sick shit.

anyway, kudos to Stylus for fucking initiating this discourse. now i just gotta think about my desert-island disc...


here's a p.s. list "for love"...
five (of many!) mindblowing drummers currently active in NYC:

Phil Kennedy (From Cocaine to Rogaine)
Oran Canfield (Child Abuse)
Kevin Shea (People, Talibam and many others)
Aron Wahl (Aa)
Ben Greenberg (Archaeopteryx, the Fugue)


the improvising guitarist said...

so, what--as it were--is the deal with lists?

I also wondered about this.
Certainly I agree with your assertion that “point of lists is that you're not supposed to agree with them”, and I find your description of lists as a kind of arms war escalation pretty humorous, but compelling, but, in addition to helping us distinguish us apart, lists simultaneously affirm sameness.

S, tig

Jason said...

Where's the love for Helen Wiggin and John French?!

Anonymous said...

Nice post, as ever. In addition to forcing folks to ante up, lists also offer people who were otherwise minding their own business a chance to show off their particular brand of arcane knowledge and/or connoisseurship. Me, I'm missing the whomp of Paul Thompson (cf. Roxy's "The Thrill of It All," "Both Ends Burning").