Friday, September 15, 2006

I Like The Onion, but . . .

I'm a regular devotee of The Onion and it's not-at-all made up cultural section, the A.V. Club. So I'm particularly distressed by today's Inventory selection, "10 Highly Pretentious Musical Instruments." First, I'm assuming they mean ". . . in Pop Music," since it would be hard to hammer too much on the flute and grand piano in the classical realm. Second, they take some pops at a progressive rock staple, the Chapman Stick:

Art rock—especially '80s-00s King Crimson—wouldn't be complete without the Chapman Stick, a combination guitar and bass that looks like a 2x4 and is played by tapping the strings with both hands. (Or with little drumsticks tied to your fingers, if you're Tony Levin.) Though its clean lines look best next to the stylishly bald and mustached Levin, it's forever connected to serious, ponytailed men like Trey Gunn, who look like they treat "picking" and "strumming" with a sniff of contempt. The Chapman Stick is also worn across the chest with the top resting on the player's shoulder, giving the impression that it's so precious, it needs to be cradled.
I guess I don't get "pretentious." The Stick, and its descendent the Warr Guitar, are innovative instruments that do something different than your traditional rock band staples. What's pretentious about that? Or should rock and pop stay in three chords and a cloud of dust territory? If doing something different is pretentious, then I guess I like pretentiousness. Of course, as I write this I'm watching Bela Fleck jam on stage playing jazz banjo along with guys playing steel drums, bassoon, and a sorta guitar looking drum machine - so what does that tell you?

And, for the record, the "little drumsticks tied to your fingers" aren't for the Stick. Funk fingers, as they're known, were developed by Levin so he could get the same percussive bass sound live during Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" as he did in the studio, when drummer Jerry Marotta actually pounded the strings with drumsticks.

But, still and all, they're right about one thing. Bagpipes suck ass.

*runs away after throwing that grenade in Scottish boy's direction*

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