Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Numerically Speaking

Pearl JamRemember being in grade school and learning how time signatures worked? Mathrock is apparently music based solely on using funny time signatures.

I mention this because Jean told me the other day that Outkast's "Hey Ya" is in 22/4 time. You and I never noticed this because it's an even number which means you can still dance to it without suddenly finding yourself offbeat. The conversation reminded me of feeling like I'd discovered some hidden secret message when I realized that one of my favorite Soundgarden songs - "The Day I Tried To Live" - is in 15/16. Anyway...

Speaking of Soundgarden, I saw their excellent former drummer Matt Cameron play with Pearl Jam the other night at the Verizon Center. I'm not much for stadium rock and they had a bit of mid-tempo lull early on that dragged, but once they recovered, they rocked. Kudos to Eddie Vedder for trying to explain U.S. oil-drilling policy to 25,000 people in the middle of a rock show. I'm still not about to go buy all their music, but I had a good time. And more importantly, I didn't get that distinct feeling that I was seeing a band that was a caricature of its former self. May we all age so energetically and well.

Not much live music other than that. Caught the Waco Brothers a few weeks ago and they were a rollicking good time as always. Hope to make it to Pitchfork next month - not sure I'll get to see Public Enemy perform, but I'm looking forward to seeing them talk.

New releases I've been meaning to get: Orchestra Baobab's Made in Dakar and My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges.

New releases I'm curious about: Al Green's Lay It Down (with ?uestlove producing) and Joan as Policewoman's To Survive.

1 comment:

Casey said...

The best example of "listenable" math rock is probably DC's own Faraquet.

Regarding "Hey Ya": It's either in 22/4 as Jean says, or 14/4 with two bars of 4/4. It depends on where you mark the turnaround. I've even heard some folks say 11/4, but that's just silly.

Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean," with it's prominent 5/4 beat and riff that eats its own tail, is one of the first math-y songs heard in commercial rock.

If you really want a trip, try counting the mid-section of King Crimson's "Easy Money," or the breakdown in Yes' "Heart of the Sunrise."

I love math music, but I hate math. Funny that.

PS: Cameron was WAY better in Soundgarden. His talents are wasted in Pearl Jam. It's like a vacation behind the kit. He can do his taxes or read a book or something.