19 August 2016

Music Day - Ping Pong

There is a lot of guitar in the world.

A lot of guitar players. A lot of guitar music. And after a while, it all sounds the same. Even across genres it starts to sound the same. It's hard to pick out a favourite or even a certain guitarist's distinctive style because there is such an overwhelming number of other guitar leads crowding our heads. I am very surprised that we as a culture have not reached saturation point, revolted, and went back to classical piano or something.

With all of that said, Michael Roe is the only person I have encountered in my musical forays across time whose guitar-playing style I not only recognise, but actually enjoy on its own merits. His music is the only music I buy specifically for the guitar work. Everyone else I listen to is judged on lyrics, vocals, and/or keyboards (usually in that order), but Michael Roe/77s alone is in my library because of the guitar work. That's how distinctive it is. And in my world, distinctive (in music) is a very, very good thing (that's literally the reason I am a Daniel Amos fan).

This song is my favourite from Michael Roe and his band, the 77s. The tap dancer in me shivers with delight every time I hear this song. Every single time. He plays with the rhythms so effortlessly (both in the music and the lyrics) and blends them together so fluidly. Keep in mind this was their debut album. He started his career here. Most of these hipster kids today won't get to this level if they live to be a hundred and seventeen. (Plus, this song is just darn good old-fashioned rock -- witness Roe's teen-rebel-esque vocal delivery -- and heaven knows the hipsters have no idea what that is.)

I would be remiss not to give a shout-out to the bass player (Jan Eric, according to BandCamp) for making a bassline that actually sounds like ping pong. Genius. And the perfect harmonic counterpart to Roe's guitar. I love this bassline. Yes, the guitar is fantastic, but without this bass work, the song is sunk. Further props to the drummer (Mark Proctor), for keeping up with and further accentuating the work of these two. And to Mark Tootle, who I assume is responsible for the other guitar line you hear in the interlude.

Title: Ping Pong Over The Abyss
Artist: 77s
Album: Ping Pong Over The Abyss
Year: 1982
Preview, read lyrics, and buy (CD or online) from the artist here.

Also, can we talk about the ending? This, kids, is how you do an ending. In music theory they told us that the longer you put off the final cadence, the more satisfying it is when you finally get there. This is exactly what Roe does here. There are about five false endings here -- you think it's ending, then he pivots and goes off on another melody line. Then just when you think it really is ending this time, he pivots again and charges off in another direction. I think he revisits every note he played in the song in the final fifteen seconds.

But -- lest you start telling me that Hillsong's Oceans doesn't end for forty-five minutes so that's the same thing -- Roe makes it interesting. He plays with several different -- but familiar to the song -- melody lines in about thirty seconds. He keeps the pace moving. It twists and turns and draws the listener in like Bm-G-D-A at a cassette tape's pace never could. It's a sonic maze, and it's full of delightful surprises. The whole song is, really, but Roe definitely saved the best for last in this case. (Take note, artists-who-fade-down-every-song-on-every-album.)

They don't make 'em like this anymore. Enjoy.

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