Dredg; the best band you have (probably) never heard of.

I will start off by saying that I am not some pretentious douche that gets his kicks out of knowing and claiming to like bands that no one has ever heard of.  In fact, I can’t stand those guys, and in reality most of my favorite bands are very well-known.  Most people have heard of, if not actually heard or followed, bands like Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Deftones, Radiohead, etc. because they are some of the biggest bands of our generation.  However, it is on a rare occasion when I mention one of my absolute favorites, Dredg, and I don’t get a confused or clueless look.  This entry is an attempt to shed some light on how big of a shame it is that a band of this caliber can somehow go unnoticed by a large amount of music lovers, and people in general.

Dredg is a band hailing out of Los Gatos, California that formed somewhere in the mid 1990’s.  They started out as a sort of heavy-alternative, maybe even metal act, and have steadily progressed throughout their careers to the point where it is hard to quantify them within the realms of regular genre nomenclature.  Some call them progressive rock, alternative rock, art rock, etc. but I think any label of the sort is leaving some aspect of what they do out of it.  The majority of their releases have been concept albums which, as I mentioned in my blog about the Nine Inch Nails album “The Fragile”, is very high upon the list of qualities I look (or scower) for in music.  The way they their albums flow from beginning to end is brilliant.  Pure brilliance.  Usually based around a theme (they drew their inspiration for one album from a Salvador Dali painting, another from an essay by Salman Rushdie, and so on), in many cases their albums use instrumental sections or movements to tie it all together.  It takes much more effort and dedication to the art form that is music to put an album together this way as opposed to making 10-12 songs that have nothing to do with one another and putting them in a random order.  Dredg is masterful at this.  Their albums are a singular piece of symphony-esque music rather than just a collection of songs, and I dare say you will not find a better collection of concept albums this side of Pink Floyd.

It blows my mind that a band that is this superior to the mainstream bullshit that everyone listens to has somehow managed to put together a catalog as impressive as theirs yet still fly under the radar.  The fact that bands like Nickelback, Buckcherry, Hinder, and a million others it seems, that use and abuse music solely as a way to become rich and famous can command so much attention from the general public when there are bands like Dredg who make music because they love the art and as a medium to express themselves is beyond me.  They are not a band that is starving or struggling to get by, as they have developed quite a cult following over the years, but there is something wrong with the fact that their existence is still having to be spread largely by word of mouth in this day and age.  It’s certainly not anything of they’re doing, because they have obviously honed their craft in my opinion.  For one reason or another, people just fail when it comes to selecting music these days.  I need only venture slightly out of the rock genre to site all of the pathetic pop acts that are currently being worshiped by the masses.  How it is possible for Dredg and so many other good bands to go unnoticed while this trash pollutes and saturates the radio severely diminishes the hope I have for society in general.  I plan on addressing this further in a later blog, but for now, I digress…

It was not love at first listen for me with Dredg.  It took me awhile of only liking a few songs to really get into them and realize everything that they do musically.  I think that was mostly because at first I didn’t take their albums as the cohesive pieces of music that they are, and instead tried to pick and choose songs here or there, mainly because a close friend of mine held them up next to bands that I already loved such as Tool.  Once I set aside the time to hear each album in its entirety, the proverbial flood gates opened and it was not long before I held them in such light myself.  They really are as good of a contemporary band that there is, and I implore anyone who has yet to hear of them, or anyone who has and doesn’t share the same exuberance for them as me to take a second, and third, and fourth, and fifth listen.  As many as it takes, because in all honesty Dredg’s commanding, invigorating, and intoxicating music is all there for you to experience, you just have to run through the open door.

If you want to give them an honest shot and in turn enhance your life with their music, I would start out with the album “Catch Without Arms” as I think it would be the most similar to other bands you may enjoy.  However, their real magnificence shines on “Leitmotif”, “El Cielo”, and “The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion”.  Although listening to a single song of theirs is not the right way to do it, here is the first Dredg song I heard, the one that got the hook in deep:

I honestly could sit here and type about how great they are for another 5,000 words and it wouldn’t do them justice.  Do yourself a favor and check them out, and then go and tell everyone you know about the greatest band they have never heard of.

– MCG

The aesthetics of musical instruments.

I contend that one of the most beautiful things in this world is a musical instrument.  Not many things created by humans can be so naturally beautiful, and also have so much latent possibilities within it.  Never has an object at rest had more potential energy.  From time to time I look at my bass guitars in the corner of my room and I get this feeling in my chest, like the first time you interacted with your significant other.  The sense of hope, excitement, happiness, and love, actual love, wells up inside of me; just from looking at them.  On my dresser, mixed within pictures of my family and friends, is a picture of my 5-string bass guitar that I took with an old black and white camera.  It is the same bass that I have tattooed on my right arm as an integral part of a half sleeve.  That bass is something special to me, even beyond how beautiful and elegant (and bad ass) it is.  That is the bass that I feel as though I became a bassist on, not just someone screwing around with the idea or learning other people’s songs, but being able to create music along with other musicians, regardless of how good it may sound to anyone.

It honestly goes beyond just bass guitar for me though.  If I could have it my way I would have one of every instrument around, not that I would know what to do with most of them in any musical sense, but just to look at.  To hang on my wall and fill up the room with that potential energy they carry inside of them because, for me, music is the supreme form of expression, and musical instruments are the supreme form of physical art.  They are by far the most aesthetically pleasing inanimate objects in life, at least through my eyes.

Here are a few pictures of my bass guitars.  I highly doubt you see them in the endearing way that I do, but look close and you might fall in love.

– MCG

“The Fragile” by Nine Inch Nails.

A lot of the things I do on here are going to be my opinions and reviews of bands or artists, albums, songs, etc. so with that said, here’s the first one…

The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails

     Let me start by saying that I am a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, so the next few paragraphs are going to be fairly biased.  Few albums flow so smoothly from start to finish like this one does, let alone double albums and most bands fail to come up with enough good songs to fill up a single album, never mind make it a double album and have it be this dense with quality music.  Song after song this album proves to be a cut above most previous, contemporary, and subsequent efforts from any band or artist in any genre, and it is also scarcely matched as a collective piece of music.  There are only a dozen or so bands that put this kind of effort into what they do, which only makes a diamond in the rough such as this one that much more precious and enjoyable.

     The Left side is relentless.  It immediately punches you in the mouth with “Somewhat Damaged”; from that point on you are unable to recover and are at its full mercy.  “The Day The World Went Away”, “The Frail”, “The Wretched”, “We’re In This Together”, and “The Fragile” are melded together so well that I liken it to a symphony with each song being a movement, and it is nearly impossible to listen to any one of those songs out of the context of the others.  Next is one of my favorite instrumental songs that I can think of.  “Just Like You Imagined” is so dynamic that I wonder if I’ll ever really hear the entire thing, and it sort of turns the first corner in the album for me.  It is all out to sea from here and it’s smooth sailing, with a little turbulence called “No, You Don’t” in the middle somewhere.  The best song on the album, and I very much think my favorite Nine Inch Nails song overall (depending on what day you ask me, I suppose) wraps up the first side.  “The Great Below” has it all.  Anger, sadness, longing, hope, disappointment, reassurance.  This is the kind of song that gives you the chills all over, and makes you so entirely content with your life as long as there is a guarantee that you will be able to hear it at least one more time.

     The Right side is more methodical.  It eases into itself with “The Way Out Is Through”; a standout track that builds to a climax.  Next “Into the Void” uses the same arrangement that “La Mer” has on the Left side, which really continues to tie the album together as one whole piece of music rather than a collection of songs.  Things such as this are what really make albums great to me; the fact that the artist took the time to correlate the musical ideas they were feeling at the time into a big picture.  “The Mark Has Been Made” is another genius instrumental track that rocks you to sleep and then shakes the shit out of you.  Down the stretch run it continues to feel like one continuous piece of music, but in a completely different way than the previous side.  The instrumental parts on the Right side are much more articulate and gently imposing, whereas the Left side has the same attributes in the sense of the instrumentals augmenting the other songs, but it’s far more aggressive and angry.

    This album really is something special, and if you can have the patience to let it play from start to finish I think you will find it very rewarding.  The best quality it holds is its ability to grab a hold of you at different points depending on what your current state of mind is.  It has something for every mood, and in all honesty the music carries its very own mood within it.  Now, with all of that being said, after all of the gushing and praise I just laid upon this piece of art, I would like to say that this isn’t my favorite Nine Inch Nails album, and I don’t think it is the best one either.  You know which one I’m talking about, maybe I’ll try to quantify that masterpiece, Mr. Reznor’s magnum opus, somewhere further up the road.  Thoughts and comments are very welcome, I would love to hear the opinion of others regarding this topic and discuss further.

– MCG

The feelings that are catalyzed by music.

The power of music to evoke feelings and emotions in people is well documented.  For me certain feelings are predominant when music is involved.  Quite frequently, I will be listening to a song, often one I have heard hundreds upon hundreds of times, and I will hear it in a new way, or the music will overcome me in a way that it previously had not.  This most often leads to a surge of energy and an intense wave of chills throughout my body.  Every now and then it’s so overwhelming that tears will form because of the extreme joy these uncontrollable sensations bring with them.  That moment within the music can be utterly inundating.  You feel like the music is a part of you, or that you are a part of the music.  The beauty of this is never knowing when it will occur, and having to wait patiently with absolutely no control over its arrival.  For me this makes listening to music unpredictable, and I liken it to riding a roller coaster with a blindfold on.

Another common feeling I get involving music relates to creating it.  I play (or attempt to play, at least) a few instruments.  I would say I am fairly novice as far as musicianship is concerned, however, the feeling I get when I pick an instrument up and having the inspiration to create something there inside of me is unparalleled.  There is something very special about having something in your hands and having the energy and innovation at the tip of your brain to let it escape.  There are days when I pick up my bass and nothing to speak of happens, and the doubt creeps in that maybe I am truly horrible at this, and I should stop embarrassing myself.  Then, there are the days I pick it up, and it just comes pouring out.  I feel like it is an extension of my body; that I completely control it and can do with it whatever I please.  Surely it isn’t noticeable to anyone else, neither visibly nor audibly, but that feeling is pure euphoria.  Even better is when you have that same feeling while in a room with friends or fellow musicians who are playing as well, whether they are striving toward the same feeling or not.  To me it feels like someone hit a human tuning fork, and the energy given off by everyone in the room is vibrating at the same frequency.  It is a fleeting feeling, one that also cannot be controlled.  You just have to musically dive in, head first, be completely helpless, and hope that it finds you because in all honesty, there is nothing else like it.

– MCG