Sunday, August 9, 2009

#144. 'Goodbye sunshine, I've put it out again'

If there's one thing that pisses me off the most as far as music fans are concerned it's those who will cast entire genres of music into the 'not worthy' pile based on a few bands. I don't care if it's hip-hop, emo, death metal or Tuuvan throat singing, the idea that an entire genre is not worth your time based on a couple of bands you hate is ludicrous and makes me a bit sad for you. I think as far as teh 00s go, the go to genre for blanket hatred other than emo (which I'll discuss a bit later, trust me) was probably nu-metal. I'll get this out of the way right now: I hate that title for the "genre" as it's commonly used. It's just shorthand for 'aggressive-yet-kinda-poppy music that was popular around the turn of the millennium', and any label that I've heard applied to Limp Bizkit (rap-metal,) Deftones (shoegaze-adjacent alternative,) Incubus (funk-rock that slowly morphed into adult contemporary) and Mudvayne (alternative metal with a touch of prog) all in one breath isn't so much a genre as it is lazy. This makes the blanket hatred of it more egregious to me, because 90% of the time what those people are really saying is "I hate Korn and Limp Bizkit so fuck the rest of the genre." As a result they're discounting a lot of bands that are only guilty by association or coming out at the wrong time to be aggressive-yet-accessible.

Mudvayne especially fit the 'wrong place wrong time' qualifier. Not only did their debut album come out just as nu-metal was becoming the dominant force of modern rock stations, they also had the bad fortune to be coming out shortly after Slipknot made their waves. If not for the fact that both bands had a theatrical element to their appearance I don't think anyone would have made the comparisons that got leveled at Mudvayne initially. 'They're like Slipknot but with wierd time signatures!' so many cried at the release of L.D.50, never mind that the two bands sounded pretty much nothing alike. A comparison to the other band who used masks as an identifiying trait was all but guaranteed regardless of any actual similarities between them. It probably didn't help that L.D.50's lead single "Dig" was pretty much angst by numbers without a lot of the more intricate riffing and composition that the band was capable of. It took til the lead single of their second album, "Not Falling" to fully bring this to the foreground.

Of course "Not Falling" isn't excessively complex, there's the odd measure in 5/8 stuck into the normal 4/4 verse section to make things sound a bit off but it's still done in fairly regular intervals. The composition though is much more layered and varied than their peers at the time. Check out the odd slap-bass riff in the chorus that's the key melodic element as the guitar plays a pretty straight rhythm riff, or the drumming in the intro (or really at any point in the song) or the whole arrangement of the bridge. The reliance on actual skill is enough to set the band head and shoulders above the rest of the group they've been thrown in to, but if they couldn't do that while still making it catchy they'd be forgotten as a small footnote. The key to "Not Falling" isn't so much it's layers as its surface. A cursory listen won't reward you as much as a more involved one, but it should keep your attention. Even if you don't catch the bass countermelody the chorus riff is still a driving, catchy bit of guitar work. Even if you don't get into the complexity of the whole rhythm section interplay throughout the song the drumming still sounds badass. The more you listen the more readily apparent those bits of colour become and the more they add to the song.

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