Trying To Get To You

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Give Me The Groove

There was a good article in yesterday's Guardian about the importance of drummers that's worth reading. Ironically, I found the article only a few hours after I got a text from a friend of mine who was at the Shins show on Tuesday night who told me that he was loving the show, but that I was right about their drummer. (The lameness of most indie drummers is one of my difficulties with the genre.)

At the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show last week at Madison Square Garden, while I was continually amazed by the energy Springsteen was generating, I found myself almost as often frustrated by the stiffness of Max Weinberg's playing. Weinberg is one of the great power drummers, and on the Springsteen material that calls for power ("The Ties That Bind," "Backstreets," "Badlands"), he's unparalleled. But on most of the new material from Magic, and on the earlier songs that call for groove and precision ("Brilliant Diguise," "Thundercrack"), well, I heard plodding instead.

I write this not to criticize Weinberg; he's suffered for his music, with several hand operations and back problems. Rather, it's to illustrate one of those truisms of music that is rarely mentioned and is isn't even consciously noticed by most listeners - although I think they know it intrinsically; without a great groove, even the best performances are dragged down. Or as Duke Ellington said, "It don't mean a thing if ain't got that swing." video of Clyde Stubblefiled and John "Jabo" Starks (James Brown's legendary drummers)


Private Beach said...

Not every human drummer can be an Earl Palmer or an Al Jackson, but drum machines are far worse than even a mediocre drummer. Real drummers lay down a beat, but it is not as boringly metronomic and robotic as that of a machine. There are subtle pauses and variations of tempo to build up tension and allow the music to breathe.

Sadly some of the greatest performers have succumbed to machine power - even Leonard Cohen. Someone should start a movement to bring back real drummers.

Anonymous said...

Saw Spoon play at the Roxy in Boston two weeks ago. Noticed something very interesting. There was a song where the bass player was not playing bass, and it completely stripped the band of something truly essential. The rhythm section includes more than just the drummer, and the importance of the bass player in providing that "soul" that's often lacking in indie music should not be underestimated.

Unknown said...

Hey, great blog, BTW. Max has always been criticized for his stiffness. What's lame is that he never learned the paradiddle fills on Born To Run that are so awesome. He admits to it on the 30th anniversary BTR DVD, but it's still lame. The song is lacking without them.

Anonymous said...

In regard to Max, I think he tried to learn Boom Carter's fills at the end of the bridge in "Born To Run." He just couldn't pull it off. They're some really jazzy fills.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if plodding = bad drummer.

A lot of indie bands is fond of treating drums as time keeper instead of pounding deathbeat. A trend started many yrs ago, probably by Moe Tucker.

And the shins drummer is way too cute too (he dates elyse sewell of ANTM).