The drive to be a “good guitarist” is making us boring af.
Last time I invaded this dumpster-fire space to spew unasked-for opinions, I went off about how social media's grody underbelly is squishing the life out of our recordings. It felt so good, I figured this month I might as well scream my hard-won wisdom at you kids some more.
WARNING: Some might feel today's topic beats last month's dead horse. But trust me—A) that horse ain't even close to dead (just click around your favorite music hole, you'll see), and B) even if it were dead, this is an entirely different horse … although it may be a close cousin.
Rattle your cage (or mine) if this rings true: Whether you prefer skulking about on YouTube or Instagram, both are packed with sharp-lookin' folks playing the shit outta their guitars. It's like some flippin' badass video game action—diddly-diddly-diddly …PEW-PEW-PEW!!! Nary a note is askew and the tone is so perfect George Lucas wishes he could've somehow turned it into CGI for the remastered edition of The Phantom Menace. Oh—and the antics! The commentary! Hoooooo-boy! It is as witty as the Netflix-relaunched boat anchor called Mystery Science Theater 3000.
But back to the guitar playing—or should I say guitar slaying? I mean, if a turbo-charged Xerox machine could play the 6-, 7-, or 8-string! Amiright or amiright? How much crisper could the copied licks and riffs be? None more crisp.
And talk. About. Speed. I haven't heard such virtuosity since Alvin, Simon, and Theodore figured out their shtick—only this sick-ass/dope radness is accomplished without the aid of outboard gear. (Except when it is.)
INTERMISSION: Okay, I'm laying on the acid-tongued sarcasm pretty heavily here, so let me take a breather for a sec before getting back to the point slightly more levelheadedly.
ACT II: I'm not saying there isn't a lot of genuinely cool guitar playing online. But let's be real: There is a lot of clinical bullshit. Sterile, boring, practiced-to-death copycat fluff played with Red Bull-fueled swagger masking a deep-seated fear of playing something that hasn't already been audience-tested by a famous player who didn't give a you-know-what what guitar dweebs in the crowd think. It's palpable, the sheer terror these 6-string-wielding jukeboxes feel over playing something that isn't so “perfect" it humbles guitarists with low self-esteem.
Too many of us are tempted to follow the pied-piper “influencers" off the Cliffs of Conformity. Drowning in a sea of self-delusion, we've convinced ourselves we must be Olympic swimmers training to set a new world record when in actuality we're paddling straight into the bloody Bermuda Triangle. Beat about the head by ceaseless waves of videos showcasing technical proficiency masquerading as art, we look inward and subvert the uniqueness, the weird beauty lurking in our hearts and heads, whispering to ourselves that if only we were as banal as the energy-drink swillers we'd somehow stop sinking.
Listen to the immortal words of Iggy Pop, friends. Whatever style you play, whatever gear you prefer, gimme danger!
“Good" guitar playing doesn't mean crap if it's a knee-jerk reaction born of innumerable hours practicing someone else's riffs (or slight permutations that might as well be). Drop the charade … scrub off the rote sheen of rottenness … look inside and see what you can share with us that's more you. It might sound a little rough. The timing or phrasing might be a little weird, especially by mainstream zombie standards. In fact, I hope it is. We're in desperate need of distraction from the sea of sameness. The world eagerly awaits the mischief you're capable of.
I say it again—gimme danger, friends. Give us danger.