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Give me music and give me noise....

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Agggghhhhhhhh! Why songs are better with screaming

This blog is about noise and it’s about time I starting writing about NOISE.

Actually, screaming. For a long time now I’ve really liked songs that feature screaming. In my opinion piercing, pane-of-glass-shattering screams in a tune generally improve it (as is also the case with yodelling, whistling or animal noises …). Screams = serious, searing emotion. That's a powerful ingredient in a mere piece of music. Use it with care kids ... 

My favourite scream tune is probably the most obvious - Ralph Nielson & The Chancellors’ amazing Scream. Its screams are great. Very sustained and genuinely quite disturbing. But the rockabilly tune itself has a semi-demented and hurried-to-the-point-of-toppling-over quality which combines to turn it into a sort of frenzied fairground ride of a song. Kinda brilliant.

It’s not the only good screamo song though. One good modern one is by Codex Leicester, called (I’m guessing) Composition. I only know it as a live tune, but what I like about it is the way that the entire minute and half of the song is basically constructed around bursts of full-throated Aggghhhhh’s. (When this came on in the car the other day my mother apparently thought we’d driven past "an animal in distress” in a nearby field. Yep, it was that good).

The Beatles - not, I must admit, one of my favourite bands - probably helped popularise screaming with their (rather tame) quasi-scream harmonies on tunes like I Want To Hold Your Hand, but I much prefer the out-of-control screaming of the early "Beatlemania" teenyboppers themselves. Now that's screaming. Fab screaming!

Meanwhile, a lot of contemporary grindcore-type stuff is heavily based on guttural vocals that are, as it were, the subwoofer version of screaming. It’s not the real thing but it’s not bad and can be excellent when it works (“I bet his throat’s really going to hurt in the morning”, is my girlfriend's usual response to this music). I’ve said before that I think the grindcore growl sometimes becomes a little predictable and I quite like it when a band like Gurt vary things by switching from a dalek-throat voice to a normal one (or when a band alternates between the throaty stuff and grunge-type melody, as do the rather good Heck Tate for example). But I digress …

At the risk of taking this blog down a rabbit hole of self-referentiality, I want to end by mentioning how I recently caught a good “noise” band called Kind Eyes (the noise genre is obviously one I’ll have to try to do justice to in a future post). Suffice it to say that Kind Eyes had a good line in the strained-voice, near-screaming that’s fairly typical of the genre. I think some actual in-your-face Psycho-style screaming would have improved them though. 

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