Songs in Odd Times

May 31, 2009


Regardless of what Wikipedia says about Radiohead’s Pyramid Song, it is cannot possibly be written in 4/4 time.  If you ignore the first three-and-a-half beats and meter eighth notes then the piano consistently plays in 11/8 while the first measure is 7/8.  Maybe Phil Selway is playing drums in 4/4; with all the syncopation I find it impossible to pick up and hold the beat when the percussion enters halfway into the song.  But listen to the piano and you get a sense for what plays out as consistent 11/8.

Pyramid Song is one of many Radiohead tunes using sophisticated rhythm patterns that are not for the faint of heart.  In the jazz scene there’s Dave Brubeck, who’s always good for one or two oddly-metered pieces per album.  It’s interesting how our minds resist rhythm that is not in 2 or 3 or 4.  I personally love the edginess that weird beat brings to music.

On Thursday, June 11th this radio station will dedicate 2 hours (starting at 2 pm) to rock songs not tied to our natural rhythms.  Should be a great listen, but probably not something you’ll consider dance music.

Asbury Hall

November 11, 2008


There are not many venues in the Buffalo area comparable to Asbury Hall, the Ani DiFranco renovation of the Asbury Methodist Church on Delaware Avenue.  Acoustically clean and large enough to hold a real audience, The Church still allows music to carry up to the heavens even though its religious significance has passed.

Last weekend’s Transformations After Hours – Buffalo Business Takes Center Stage event (they need a shorter title) was not one of those moments where the acoustics could be appreciated.  The social atmosphere meant crowd noise but nonetheless the entertainment value was extraordinary, and the cause very worthwhile.

Upstate New York Transplant Services sponsors this variety show.  They canvass the local environs for business people with musical talent and showcase them on stage.  The result is a great rainbow of music genres and an even greater appreciation for the ability of these people, whom we normally get to know only as bankers, accountants, and car salesmen.

If Bill Blanford ever got sick of his management position at M&T Bank he could eke out a living playing for Fools Like Us, whose cover of Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages I’m still humming two days later.  And anyone who appreciates bass guitar and clean vocal harmonies had to notice the band’s bass player; who was he?

The traffic lights on Delaware Avenue still suck, but the venue was very nice and the evening extremely entertaining.

This is an event to note in your calendar for next year.

Jimmy Gnecco and Ours

April 2, 2008

Jimmy GneccoI normally don’t write much about rock and roll – it’s something to be heard more than discussed.  But of late I’ve been catching a lot of Indie products on XM radio, and the band Ours has been getting some air play.  They are the first band in some time that’s caught my attention.  The studio version of their latest album is much more refined that the live renditions available for free online, and is worth a listen or two.

With a reputation for re-inventing himself every few years, I do not expect Jimmy Gnecco’s latest incarnation of Ours to be around for long.  However, the band’s just-released album “Kill the Band” (renamed “Mercy – Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy”) has these U2-like rhythms mixed with Coldplay-like guitars and voices, and perhaps a little Counting Crows thrown in for that more sorrowful sound.  Pretty neat stuff, especially the song Worst Things Beautiful.  Makes me wish I was still young enough to enjoy going to live concerts.