Waiting Room starts off with a great bass tone. Lately, I’ve been trying to complicate things. I have a bass that I love, but let’s face it, three knobs, two three-way switches and one two-way switch make for a complicated instrument. Yeah, I don’t have any effect pedals, but mostly only because I spend my money on food instead of effect pedals and my savings is earmarked for tattoos. When I played with .HEREtoday. and Sweet Old Etc., I used to turn all my knobs all the way up and tape them down so that in my movements about the stage, I couldn’t accidentally turn my bass off. I learned to do this from experience. I’ve gotten away from that and made things complicated.
Lately, I’ve been thinking in terms of minor and major, modes and movements instead of in pure, raw power and emotion. I have veered from my punk rock loves and immersed myself in technical instrumentals, church music, and indie rock that is so meticulous in its lack of production (and use of reverb) that it has to be described as over produced. That is, until Monday.
On Monday, I half-jokingly challenged my band to play Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones. Within seconds, we had the chords down and with the use of our iPhones (a splendidly uncomplicated, complicated device), we learned the lyrics beyond “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!” and “They’re all revved up and ready to go.” It was fun. It was three power chords. Two (or three if you’re especially ambitious) strings at a time, straight ahead kick-snare-kick-snare drums. This week, musically, has been wholeheartedly dedicated to punk rock.
It’s not complicated, and it has something to say…You may be asking yourself, “Doesn’t my favorite Katy Perry song have something to say?” The answer is, “Yes, but it’s something dumb,” so for all intents and purposes, the answer is, “No.” This goes for your favorite yarr band, also (Nickelback, Creed, Seether, 3 Doors Down, I’d list more but the knowledge embarrasses me).
I was eating crabby fries with my friend Scott yesterday, and while not consumed by awe about the greatness that is backfin mixed with cream cheese, cheddar, Old Bay and hot crispy fries, we were talking about the things we do…and maybe the things we do that we shouldn’t do. I sometimes think it is human nature to complicate things. Once we are good at one thing, we want to do it in a more complex way. It’s not good enough for us to continue executing excellently where we are. We feel a need to add more elements, more levels.
I think, with a keen eye for editing out the stuff that JUST complicates and does not improve excellence, adding elements can be a critical differentiator between businesses, churches, bands, authors, and so on. The problem is, our instincts often lead us to complicate things just to prove how complicated we can make things. We puff up our chests with pride at the complexity we bring to our job, our poetry, our music, our worship service, and we lose sight of the fact that Blitzkrieg Bop is a great song and there is NOTHING complex about it. And in our pride, we drown like the rats in that one scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
It is okay to say “No” when something is already excellent.
What are you making complicated that should be more punk rock?
Need some inspiration? Here are 25 punk songs I love (some more complex than others):
Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones
Waiting Room by Fugazi
Minor Threat by Minor Threat
Search and Destroy by The Stooges
Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies
Sidekick by Rancid
The Only Thing Worse Than Beating a Dead Horse is Betting on One by Relient K
Linoleum by NOFX
Mr. Mustache by Nirvana
Coffee Mug by Descendents
Jukebox Lean by New Bomb Turks
New Kind of Army by Anti-Flag
Totalimmortal by AFI
Responsibility by MxPx
The Gray Race by Bad Religion
Us vs. Them by Sick of it All
Bro Hymn by Pennywise
Bring Out Your Dead by Strung Out
Scuffle Town by Avail
Funeral for a Feeling by Kill Your Idols
Question the Answer by Strike Anywhere
Heart Attack Man by Beastie Boys
Banned in DC by Bad Brains
Don’t Have the Cow by S.N.F.U.
Punx Unite by The Casualties