Ooops! Sorry for the delay. So, as established previously, Rich and I were sending music to each other that highlight our musical backgrounds. Last time I chose “Pretzel Logic,” and this is what Rich had to say about it:
Before hearing this song, my only exposure to Steely Dan was the song “Bodhisattva”—an up tempo rocker that I always looked for in the jukebox when having a few drinks at the bar, so I was happy to check out some more from “the Dan.” Now one thing I like about hearing bands perform cover songs and/or standards is that it allows you to put the unfamiliar—in this case SD, in a context that is more familiar—a jam based on the ubiquitous rock staple: the 12-bar blues. In this case, it really allowed me to see what is unique about the SD sound. (Keep in mind that I’m not really a blues guy, so I’m going to speak in broad generalizations about my impressions of blues jams I have heard.) Most blues jams rely heavily on a deep shuffle groove that keeps you moving — and this groove is very effective — at both slow and fast tempos. As far as lyrics and vocal melodies, they connect with the listener on a sort of core level, unadorned with the frills, so to speak, but speak simply and honestly to some fundamental, common experience we all can relate to. The music, to me, is more of a vehicle for this core emotional expression—the blues! But then there is “Pretzel Logic.” While it is rooted in the basic 12-bar progression, it has a completely different vibe and feel with a jazz/prog rock sound and structure, feeding all the fundamental blues elements through the “Steely Dan” music production machine. The lyrics are not raw and simple, but clever and require a bit of attention to catch all the subtleties. As far as the performance, SD doesn’t sound like an improvised jam based on some simple chords. This piece has been arranged and composed in a very deliberate way. I can hear it. It’s almost too deliberate at times. The experience of listening to “Pretzel Logic” is reminiscent of when I listen to progressive rock. The key focus is a commitment to achieving a level of performance and composition that meets and/or exceeds the existing technical standard. So combining this technical, heady vibe with the usually raw and emotive blues makes you take notice. I am happy to report that the production quality of this recording is excellent—the drums are tight and mixed well, the vocals are well recorded and in tune with an almost transparent quality to them, and we even have some nice stereo imaging. This is clean and professional, a well engineered and orchestrated mix that creates a sonic space for the song to exist in. This is significant to note. This means that the song, regardless of what the music evokes at any time, will be something that always at the very least sound good, because it is a recording with a collection of good sounds arranged well. Now I’ve listened to this track about 15 or so times since I received it from you, in various states of mind, in headphones, on a mini system, and in the studio. Listening usually brings on one of three responses: 1) I’ll look for this in the bar’s jukebox next time I’m out. I’ll think about the images and probably will start some conversation based on “Imagine meeting Napoleon?” or “It would be a strange trip to tour the southland in a minstrel show. I could only guess it would feel like being on Acid for weeks at a time.” Which is good! The song moves me a bit, and I can connect with what’s going on. Plus, it gives me a bridge to connect with the classic rock heads in my life. :) 2) “These white boys are stiff.” You know I love to dance. I need a groove (slow or fast) to keep me moving or engaged mentally with the track. It’s like, I hear the blues element, but want it to be more bluesy. It’s as if the core, raw, honest elements of the blues “proper” have been refined and edited out. When it hits me like this, I’m more inclined to want to turn something else on. 3) In certain states of mind, shall we say, the song is a synestheticly “takeable” ride. =) Let me conclude with “How frequently will I listen to Pretzel Logic in the future, and when?” It’s definitely made it into rotation when at the bar, for certain. This is where I think will enjoy listening to the song most and most often. When hanging out with you Supa, it will probably find it’s way into the playlist. =) When hanging out at home alone, I’d guess that it’s much more likely to find it’s way on via shuffle over deliberate effort. It will probably never come on with Alyssa around—she has matching aversions for Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac, interestingly enough! And if a friend puts it on, I am familiar enough to enjoy rocking out to it with them! This was my reaction to “Cowgirl”: My only previous exposure to Underworld was “Born Slippy,” off of the Trainspotting soundtrack. They reminded me of Orbital, which was probably due more to my lack of exposure to electronic music than anything else. (Were we still calling it techno in 1996?) But the main point here is that I really enjoyed Orbital, and I thought “Born Slippy’ was pretty good too. With only knowing “Born Slippy” and maybe a few other passing tracks from Underworld, I was surprised how recognizable “Cowgirl” was to me. Underworld has a very unique groove. I really enjoy the build at the beginning of the track, and, like my very favoritest prog and psychedelic music, the song has a half-dozen different movements within it that make the entire track seem more epic than probably 8 minutes normally allow. The synths sound great. I know you’re more of a beat man, but I love the pretty noises. Also, since this is from 1994, all these sounds may be played out, but they’re new to me, which is a nice feature to being exposed to music a decade or so after the release. However, I also like to be able to sing along to a song, which is nearly impossible in this case. The vocals are used as another instrument in the track. I appreciate this on a technical level, but it does limit how deeply I get into it. Also, I couldn’t make out exactly what the vocalist (I can’t really call him a singer) said, which turned out to be “an eraser of love.” It’s a cool line, and actually means something, but it’s affected to the point where it’s difficult to understand. Figures I’d have an issue with that. :) It’s a very cool track. I’d love to hear it at a party. It would be fun to dance to, what with the glow sticks and whooping noises and trails and such. It stays in my library, for sure, and I gave it 4 stars on iTunes. Even more importantly, it makes me look forward to hearing more Underworld tracks. I knew eleven years ago that I wanted to hear more from them, but I was too obsessed the death of grunge at the time. Tomorrow, I’ll post the next exchange: Music Is Math v Starship Trooper.