Sunday, October 22, 2006
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery
Emerson, Lake & Palmer is commonly believed to be one of the three or four worst bands ever. Some folks might tell you that way back in the early 1970s, ELP was the antithesis of everything that true rock 'n' roll stood for. All three gentlemen were disgustingly talented musicians who played really, really, really, really fucking fast and complicated-like, attempted to combine rock with classical music, and put 30 minute songs on their albums. These same folks might also tell you that ELP's "pomposity," "bloatedness," "wankery," and "pretensiousness" are why punk rock bands like Screwdriver and Avril Lavigne were inspired to come along and show the kids of America that rock 'n' roll was really just about banging out three chord anthems to let the world know that you don't give a fuck.
The reason that ELP is such an easy target for "punk rock saved the world from the pretensiousness of prog-rock"-type people is because they overexhibited every trait associated with "prog-rock"...the dumb concepts, the pointless displays of technical proficiency, the side-long, multi-part epics. Because Keith Emerson was the biggest control freak in the band, and wanted nothing more than to play his organ (penis) as fast as humanly possible and as much as possible, ELP focused mainly on these things rather trying to actually write decent, memorable songs (something that Greg Lake was only somewhat capable of, anyway.) So that's the general verdict, then: while the members of ELP were obviously skilled musicians, they lacked the ability to create any sort of moving, poignant music because they were too concerned with showing off.
This would all be a huge problem for me if Brain Salad Surgery wasn't so damn fun to listen to! When music is as unecessarily complex and shredding-heavy as ELP's, it becomes more funny than genuinely impressive. That's why Dragonforce comes across as so comical. Besides, Keith Emerson is such a serious musician that he doesn't even realize how stupid so much of his music sounds! Listen to these synthesizer tones; they're hilarious! They all sound completely out of place! And he's using these totally wacky synthesizer tones to SHRED upon! It sounds like Mega Man music or something! Ha, ha! And his organ is a laugh riot! Besides having its head covered in lint and encrusted semen and 8 year old boys, it's also just extremely awkward when used as a lead instrument in a rock context. In church, it's cool. For playing endlessly sustained, hypnotic drones on...yeah, sure, the organ is great for that. For carnival music? Of course! Jazz? Why not. But ELP was not a jazz band. They tried to make quite a bit of music that actually rocked, and (much like when they attempted to interpret classical music, tried to write some actual songs, etc.) they failed miserably. When King Crimson played heavy music, they were able to actually make it sound somewhat menacing. When ELP attempt to get heavy (like on "Knife Edge"), they just sound like jackasses, and one of the main reasons is that fucking organ. A distorted organ just doesn't have the balls of a distorted guitar, and that's just the way it is.
Anyways, about this album. It starts off with "Jerusalem," which is an old English hymn or something, and it's a damn good hymn, so it makes for a damn good ELP song, I suppose. Whatever. Then there's "Tocatta," which is one of their famed "interpretations of a piece of classical music" that gets the kids all worked up. It's the only one on here like that, though, so it's pretty easy to take. Plus, it's filled with a million different parts or something. "Still...You Turn Me On" is the next song, and it's absolutely lovely. Greg Lake has a totally kickass voice, but about 90% of the time, he's singing absolutely shit songs, so you can't really tell. But this is a good one. It has that little bouncy wah-wah guitar in the chorus for no good reason whatsoever! Great song. "Benny The Bouncer" is on here to show you that these guys could actually be a lot of fun sometimes, but only when they're playing crap filler, which is what "Benny The Bouncer" is, despite the fact that it rules. Once again, the synthesizer part in this song is just hilarious. I know it's supposed to be a funny song, but I seriously doubt that Emerson had any idea just how fucking stupid it sounds. Goddamnit. The last song is "Karn Evil 9" and it's half an hour long! It starts out really great, proceeds to get even better, jams out for about ten years without totally boring me, and then suddenly turns into a weird sort of patriotic sounding hymn-type thing before ending with some totally crazy synthesizer speaker jumping that sounds pretty "trippy" if you listen to it on headphones. And then it's over!
Rating: This album rules! The really long song is almost not boring at all, and the one actual song on here is damn good. Who cares about the other songs. I give it an 11,000!
Song: "Karn Evil 9"...that's right; the whole thing! You deserve it!