Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Songs #362 & 363 - It's TWOsday!

Songs #362 & 363 of 9999

Title: Slot Machine/Phaser
Artist: Superdrag
Year: 1996
Album: Regretfully Yours

Following Kurt Cobain's death, rock music seemed to take a turn toward the melodic, memorializing Nirvana not for the most discordant of its songs but for melodic gems like "About a Girl" and "All Apologies." Which is not to say the intensity of grunge was not embraced, but this new sound has more to do with loudness than with noise. With Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters leading the way, the era of post-grunge arrived bursting with singable melodies buried under walls of distorted guitars even more imposing than those found in the early part of the decade. (Unless you were listening to Sugar, Bob Mould's fantastic trio who championed this sound several years earlier but broke up before achieving real commercial success.)

While Superdrag cannot be counted among the great post-grunge success stories of the mid-90s, together with bands like Local H and maybe Jawbox (okay--more post-punk than post-grunge), they contribute to a nice little cadre of loud but super-melodic bands that helped us get past the spectre of grunge. Their 1996 debut Regretfully Yours did spawn the minor hit "Sucked Out," but I like it more for the contiguous opening tracks. 

"Slot Machine" begins with that giant wall of distortion I've been mentioning and the band lets it soak in for a good thirty seconds before making room for the lead vocal, which is rarely allowed to be more prominent than the rhythm guitar. On the second chord of the verse, they deliver one of the most notable sounds of this style: a major-seventh chord so saturated with distortion you can barely make out the chord quality. A similar chord, offering a bit more clarity in arpeggiated form, ends the tune, which transitions immediately into "Phaser." This second track uses the common tones from this Gmaj7 arpeggio to modulate effortlessly to an E minor introduction (i-v-VI). The minor key doesn't last long, as we find the verse in G Major (I-IV). This pivot between relative major and minor subsists throughout the track, which I find to be more satisfying and better developed than the opener. 

But the two tracks together make for a great listening experience and a good introduction to this overlooked quartet. Superdrag would open several of their albums with this kind of diptych, which I always felt contributed to the sonic illusion of hearing a live band. I copied the idea and their sound on my song Whale, Parts 2 & 1.

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