Carl just finished a catalogue for work, I’ve been underwater working on a new project of ours, and I still await his inks for Page 2.
No worries, though, as I’m about to the post the Lamest of All Blog Entries: A list of some of My Favorite Guitar Playing.
Unlike most of the annoying “definitive” lists on the Web, this one has no illusions of completist ambitions. I didn’t consult with 20 record store hipsters. I don’t work for a music magazine. I don’t even keep up with the latest albums like I used to. And it’s only five songs.
I used to work for a record store. When “High Fidelity” was released (both the book and movie, still one of my favorite adaptations), I felt much like most metal bands probably felt when they saw “Spinal Tap”: They nailed it. The snobbery, the reverse classism, the vicious meritocracy of people who generally didn’t even play music, but consumed it like heroin. Much like the Fantasy Football geeks who are psychotic about their “teams,” it’s a culture of those who cannot do, only consume, and rank, and judge. Eunuchs in a whorehouse.
Wallflowers making fun of the way people dance.
With that in mind, a couple of songs with my favorite guitar playing:
The Edge, “Love is Blindness”
Do two coughed-out notes after two verses count as a guitar solo? They do, when they have that amp tone, that restraint, that menace. That sense of, “That’s all I have to say. That’s what I meant to play.” The audience leans forward for more, like the telephone scene in Rosemary’s Baby. You can’t bend your head around that corner to see Mia Farrow on the phone, but you try. Edge’s gorgeous guitar squack leaves us wanting more, never getting it.
(Solo at 2:34)
Mark Knopfler, “Brothers in Arms”
Still probably my favorite guitarist ever. Sure, I could include “Sultans of Swing” (mind-blowing in its inventiveness and execution) but my favorite playing of Mark Knopfler’s is on this track. Each lazy blues burst is like a breath during a eulogy: a reminder of the beauty and family waiting for each soldier at home. Also, his tone. His tone.
I should probably play without a pick more. And own a $1500 Les Paul.
Nels Cline, “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”
I saw Wilco play this song live at Coachella. The first part of the set, it seemed like “the kids” were staring at the band, offering polite applause, but mostly just thinking, “who are these old farts from the Midwest? And when does Weezer come on?” Then Wilco started this 10 minute opus. Gradually, you could see nodding heads around the crowd, getting into the Kraftwerk-like beat almost against their will. Then the band exploded into that bridge, and Nels let lose a face-melting, pants-burning solo that consecrated that stage.
If there were any doubters before that song, there were none after.
Tom Waits, “Lie to Me”
Good Lord, does this song groove. Duke Robillard on the Letterman Show. The solo is great, but there’s something about the verse line that’s just… hypnotic.
“I have no use for the Truth!”
Period. Always. Any.
Best guitarist on the planet. If you’ve seen him live, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I’m sorry.
When Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck are in awe of you, you might be pretty good.