I recently had a conversation with Mitchell wherein I told him how much I liked AC/DC and Van Halen. This is especially true when I’m in the mood for music that really rocks. Later Mitchell asked if I could explain specifics about both groups that appealed to me. I did a cursory listening of various rock groups last night, and while I think my thoughts are still fuzzy, I’m going to offer some thoughts (because I might never get to this if I wait until my thoughts are clearer). To start things off, answering the following question might be helpful: What does it mean for a group to really rock? Here’s a list of things that come to mind:
1. The music is aggressive–rhythmically and sonically. Generally, this manifests in hard-driving rhythms, accompanied by booming drums and distorted guitars; think of Jon Bonham and Jimi Hendrix, respectively. With Eddie Van Halen, I sort of feel like he’s taken Hendrix’s contributions to the next level. Like Hendrix, my interest in Van Halen stems from the guitar–Eddie’s, mostly his riffs, not solos.
2. In general, I think the music has to be characterized by a looser, grittier, grungier, dirtier vibe. For example, I listened to some jazz fusion last night, and while I may like some of it, it doesn’t really rock in the way that I’m thinking about here. I don’t think my favorite fusion from Miles Davis rocks in this way. Part of the reason is that is lacks this grungier, almost chaotic and raw vibe. If the music is too clean and precise, that generally ruins the harder rock vibe I’m seeking out.
In a way, I think AC/DC comes really close to capturing this. What I think is at the heart of this music is physical aggression–violence and destruction. There’s a feeling of smashing things and going crazy. Musically, that may not be an accurate description, but that feeling is underneath the music, and the music is an expression of that feeling. By the way, I think some of the best noise/noise rock as the most pure expression of this feeling. It’s as if you could listen to violence and aggression before it gets translated into rock music.
There’s probably more I can say, but I’ll stop there.