Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.


They Call Me Mr. Glass

This exchange over on Anne's livejournal prompted me to think about why I dislike music so much. It is an odd quirk to my personality that I am a music major and heading into a career in music but I don't really listen to any music. I guess I'll start by thinking back to the last time I liked music.

I last liked music in high school. Back then I was mainly listening to Smashing Pumpkins, one of the great 90's rock motherships. I sprinkled in a little Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, STP and the like. In short, I was pretty much a run of the mill post-grunge alt-rock high schooler. Ska came on the scene, as it does every 15 years or so, but I didn't really dig it. That's funny right there because I ended up fronting a ska band for a short time at this point, the only real band I've ever led. Instead I got into the first couple of Incubus albums, Fungus Amongus, Enjoy Incubus, and S.C.I.E.N.C.E. Dave Matthews' Listener Supported slipped in there too at that point.

When I look back on this period of my life I notice one main trend. As I listened to music I paid no attention to lyrics and only listened to whatever cool stuff the band was doing. Smashing Pumpkins wrote a few songs that really get me now, now that I'm paying more attention to lyrics, but for the most part Corgan's lyrics in retrospect strike me as be vapid, mindless and empty. I think they're supposed to be angsty, whatever that word is supposed to mean now, but they just seem like fluff.

There were a few bridge figures in this period of my life. Along with the popular stuff that was on the radio, in high school I started listening to the guitar giants Clapton and Hendrix. Hendrix served as a bridge figure for me from my old musical aesthetic to my new one because his songs are full of both musical fireworks and pointed, well crafted, worthwhile lyrics. Dave Matthews wrote some songs that had decent lyrics, but I didn't really like his playing style and listened to him mainly for his band. Needless to say, I haven't been interested in any of his newer records where the band has been all but phased out. It was only a stone's throw from Dave Matthews to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Actually, it was shorter than a stone's throw since my dad already had a Flecktones cd in his collection. The music these guys put out is amazing. The level of virtuosity is through the roof, and it's backed up by deep musical sensitivity. The piece Big Country has a fretless bass tone in it that will seriously make you cry. If you don't believe me, just ask Big Dave.

So, where did these bridge figures take me? Going into college I had learned that lyrics can be meaningful and magnify the value of a piece of music, and that listening to music can be a highly emotional event. I well up or cry listening to music more than anyone knows probably. That's the main reason why music is so important to me. That's also a big reason why I stopped listening to the music. Most of it was, at least to me at the time, emotionally impotent.

So, in this state I went off to college. In college I reached into my past for my life's soundtrack. At this point The Police gained the status of greatest band of all time in my opinion. They still hold a high ranking today. At the time I dj'd a show on the college radio station KWRS and learned of two new albums released by old favorites: Into the Oh by Geggy Tah and Mink Car by They Might Be Giants. Geggy Tah is, in my opinion, the highest form of musical genius on the planet. They Might Be Giants is a close second, perhaps even greater if you factor in the sheer size of their body of work. In a later post I'll get into why these two bands in particular are so important to me. Other music at this time included Soul Coughing and White Blood Cells by the White Stripes. James Iha's Let it Come Down also entered my life at this point. At this point in my life I had ditched listening to the radio and any new music I was exposed to was on the recommendation of a friend, usually my brother.

The next big event in my musical life was my involvement with Jeni. Through Jeni I was exposed to Christian music that didn't suck. If you know me at all you know that the artists I'm thinking of here are Third Day and especially Jars of Clay. Third Day rocks like nobody's business, and Jars of Clays' lyrics and music cut so deep that I could dedicate posts every day for a month to this band without getting to the bottom of their effect on me.

Another recent musical re-addition is Cake. I loved this band the first time I heard Rock and Roll Lifestyle on KROQ way back when I was 14. Ok, I think that about sums up what has brought me to where I am in my musical life right now. Tune in in the next day or two for commentary on the limited selection of what I'm listening to now and why.

And yes, AJ, this entire post was just an excuse to use that title.

7 Responses to “They Call Me Mr. Glass”

  1. # Blogger Jenevieve

    It is funny that you don't really listen to music, since I can say with complete honesty that the biggest musical influence in the past four years of my life has been you. Not just classical, either. Had it not been for your prodding, I would have never listened to James Iha (as you know), Bela Fleck, Geggy Tah, or TMBG, and Cake would have remained back in a dusty corner of my mind. The only music on your "currently listening" list that I don't like is Soul Coughing. Glad I could turn you on to Jars and 3D, next we'll have to work on The Beatles and Michael Jackson.  

  2. # Blogger Matt

    Just to clarify, Soul Coughing isn't really on the current listening list anymore. "I know you're dumb as paint"  

  3. # Blogger Pappy McVulgar

    CAKE is a great band! I love them. Matt thanks for this musical inspection of your life. I liked it.  

  4. # Blogger Andrew James

    You may be Mr Glass, but they call me Dr. Worm. Anyway, more music you should be listening to, or at least music that I am listening to now.

    Ben Folds-Over the course of his albums you can hear him change from someone afraid of being defeated by age to someone who has actually learned to grow a bit. Lot's of stuff about becoming a father and accepting that maybe coming off as a jerk is just the natural way fatherhood works sometime. Check out "Bastard" on the new album.

    TMBG-John Henry. You are probably already listening to this. Don't stop.

    The Shins-The best executed college music there is.

    Cake-Pressure Chief. If it hasn't grown on you yet, give it more time.

    Journey, Styx, Boston-It's good to listen to music that doesn't try to pretend it is not shallow.  

  5. # Anonymous anne

    I agree with AJ. The Shins for sure. if you'd like a copy when you come down to LA, i can burn it.

    I've been listening to The Eagles..which you can never go wrong with and of late I've been listening to Rob Thomas's solo album. I was a huge Matchbox Twenty fan back in the day, but was disappointed with their latest release..but his solo stuff I like.

    Jars of Clay is awesome..I've never been disappointed with them. I also really like Relient K, Mae, Jimmy Eat World, and Waking Ashland..  

  6. # Blogger tim

    Into the Oh by Geggy Tah is indeed a masterpiece. Particularly "Special Someone". Pure genius.

    I've been on a Steely Dan kick for like a year.

    Also, Ani DiFranco can't be beat and doesn't get enough respect in my opinion, speaking of sexism.

    And then as Jeni suggested, the Beatles are awesome. No contest.  

  7. # Blogger Anastasia

    I hate christian music and i mean hate it, but i think jars of clay is brilliant. i really enjoyed reading this. i love music. funny to hear someone say they don't.  

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