Wednesday, December 7, 2011

(19) Slow Club - "Two Cousins"

[In the past, I've written short blurbs for each of the year's 100 Songs.  Some of these "short blurbs" were actually thousands of words long, but you get the idea.  This year, sadly, I didn't have time to do that.  But I still have a lot to say about almost all of these songs.  So I'm just going to start writing.  This is one of a still-undetermined number of essays.  Maybe I'll find something to say about all 100 Songs.  Maybe there will just be a handful of these.  I'll try to write one every day, but I make no promises.  Also, they will be in no real order.  In case it gets buried, the original 100 Songs for 2011 post, with links, can be found here.]

(19) Slow Club - "Two Cousins"

There is a quote on the internet attributed to Albert Einstein. I don't know if Einstein actually said it - the veracity of online Einstein attributions is right there with Lincoln, Twain, or Yogi Berra. Still, I think it was Einstein. The quote is this: "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction." I think this is almost always true in music.

I could not play a ridiculous Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. Not even close. It takes an incredible amount of skill on the part of the guitarist. But I do understand the utility of a ridiculous Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. If I were producing a band, and we were in the studio trying to decide what to do with the bridge section for our next single, I could say, "Hey, competent lead guitarist who is not me, why not try a ridiculous Jimi Hendrix guitar solo right there?" And he would understand my suggestion, and the solo would probably work pretty well. It would not take a "touch of genius" for me to come up with the idea of the ridiculous Jimi Hendrix guitar solo.

Now listen to "Two Cousins." Listen to the piano line that comes in at around 0:45. It's one note, repeated over and over again, for ten seconds. Later (at around 1:40) they repeat that same note for almost a full minute. 90% of that piano line consists of that one note, played at deliberate, irregular intervals. Just about any human being currently alive could perform that piano line.

And yet, it's the most engrossing part of the song. It's one of the most captivating musical bits I heard all year. Because, while almost anyone could play that line ... almost no one would think to actually do it. We could all say, "Hey, what about a ridiculous Jimi Hendrix guitar solo?" None of us would have said, "Hey, what about one lonely note on a piano, a halting rhythm to accentuate the quiet, searing realization in the lyric 'I look into your eyes / And you don't know who I am'? And what if we just played it over and over again for a full minute, an ever-present background apparition that could disappear at any moment, a stand-in for the transient nature of life itself?"

Small. Simple. That's the touch of genius.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome song of choice. Just recently started following you and I am impressed. I look forward to future music discoveries thanks to you.