Monday, January 24, 2011

Ominous expectations

Yesterday's song let Steve Shelley's drums get up front and thump away prominently. As I noted yesterday, one reason Steve Shelley rarely gets the props due his skills is because he mostly plays for guitar-oriented bands where having the drums up front and center would be wrong for the song and wrong for the band.

When Chan Marshall was 22 years old, Steve and Tim Foljahn, who together with Chan were the band Cat Power, cajoled her into a basement studio where they spent two days recording enough songs for two albums, mostly in one take since these were songs they'd already toured through pretty much every venue in New York City and Atlanta and knew backwards and forwards. Steve produced and mixed those albums, including this song, "Great Expectations". Listen for Tim and Chan's guitars uneasily circling each other in a nervous dance as Chan chants her eery dark and angst-filled lyrics. As you're listening to that, back off your attention a bit and listen for Steve's drums. They're there -- they're just thumping ominously in the background where they won't draw attention from the dance of Tim and Chan's guitars and Chan's voice. That's the sort of genius that not every drummer is capable of, but that Steve not only can do when asked, but instinctively knows to do when it's what's right for the song and even how to produce and mix the song so that the drum stays where it needs to be for the song, unlike the stereotype of the "dumb drummer" who knows only how to beat the crap out of his drumset.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

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