The Glorious Return of TMX: Music Is Math v. Starship Trooper

The Glorious Return of TMX: Music Is Math v. Starship Trooper

In our last episode of TMX, I had sent Rich “Starship Troopers,” by Yes, and he sent me “Ready Lets Go/Music Is Math,” by Boards of Canada. Here is my response to “Ready Lets Go/Music Is Math”:

Excerpt from “Music Is Math,” by Boards of Canada.

I tell you Rich, the initials B-O-C will always represent Blue Oyster Cult, which is more of an effect of my age than it is of personal preference. I like Boards of Canada, certainly much more than Blue Oyster Cult.

But to the tracks at hand. “Ready Lets Go” is a short little bit, at just under a minute. I like the film-strip sound quality to it, and the three repeating tones make me think of an old radio network’s call tone. “Ready Lets Go” was more evocative to me than “Music Is Math.”

I wanted to really enjoy “Music Is Math,” since whenever I hear that title, I say, usually aloud, “Music IS math!” The first three minutes were building up to something. It was slow and leisurely, which surprised me, since you’re so into music that you can dance to. But I understand when you get into a groove, so I was anticipating something really big.

And then we hit the 3:30 mark, and the song failed. Sorry. It just failed. I really didn’t like the last part of it. The mood shifted from open and expansive to claustrophobic. I don’t know if that last minute or so is a bridge to the next song or a theme used later in the album, but it was just didn’t belong there.

Still I like Boards of Canada. I like trance-y music. But “Music Is Math” just didn’t do it for me.

Well, bummer. Let’s see what Rich thought of “Starship Trooper”:

Excerpt from “Starship Trooper,” by Yes.

Now I’ve got a pretty random musical past. The first record I ever bought was Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick’s “The Show.” The first cassette album I owned was Run DMC’s “King of Rock.” My second cassette was “Big Generator” by Yes, and I loved it. (Cassettes number 3 and 4 were Bon Jovi, “Slippery When Wet,” and Belinda Carlisle “Heaven on Earth”—but that’s not really something I’m proud of.) Ahhh, “Big Generator.” The bass lines were so groovy, the drums punchy and tight, the production was so big and 80s. It had super-catchy hooks and great harmonies. Add to that the almost beat-box intro to “Big Generator,” the track, and I was right at home.

Now I know Yes gets a lot of flack for being too prog-rock and Jon Anderson’s higher register vocals grate on some, not unlike how some people either love or hate Geddy Lee’s voice, and how Rick Wakeman’s synth solos can sound a bit like he’s practicing scales. I remember reading in an interview a great diss that went something like, “Rick Wakeman is excellent at playing scales. Do you know who else is good at playing scales? My twelve year old daughter.” Classic. Oh yeah—others balk at the length of the songs. Nine minutes and twenty three seconds? No problem. I’ve got 173 songs in my iTunes library that clock in at 9 minutes or better, so it’s right at home.

In spite of what detractors say, I really can vibe on the Yes sound—they are tight musicians, and even though their songs are sometimes sonic mazes riddled with odd time signatures and more sections than your average pop song, it doesn’t land them in the same category as Rush or Dream Theater. The songs tell some great stories and the music builds some fantastic soundscapes while not being too indulgent with groove-breaking fills and solos.

I was definitely digging on “Starship Trooper.” While it’s far from the first time I’ve heard the song, it was cool to revisit it with some critical listening.

Next week, I send Rich “Rock and Roll,” by The Velvet Underground. Will Rich be able to handle a five-minute track with basically one stanza repeated three times as sung by Lou Reed?

Posted by Jonathan at 09:33 PM, 04 March 2008



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