Wednesday, December 14, 2005

X Tamborine Free X

I was at the gym this morning, hanging out on the eliptical machine for my daily dose of cardio-torture. I forgot to bring some music with me, making the situation worse as I flipped through the channels between morning shows, sports "Top 10 List" shows, basketball highlights, and local news. Lame. There's nothing worse than cardio when you're bored.

Then finally, mericifully, the Washington Sports Club video channel decided to switch from the hip hop crap they always have on to The Cult's "Firewoman." Sweet. This would entertain me for at least 3 minutes, or roughly 10% of the time I was planning to spend on the machine.

I was watching the video, rocking out, thinking "yes, this is indeed what Uniform Choice was aiming for, down to the tassels hanging off of that dude's leather jacket" when suddenly I saw a quick shot of the singer rocking a tamborine. A tamborine! So, I start to listen to the music more closely to see if my untrained ear could pick up the faintest sound of a tamborine anywhere in the music, and I just wasn't hearing it. It looked like the use of the tamborine was just for show, which I hate.

Don't get me wrong. I can identify. There are times when, as a singer, you need something to do while the rest of the band is busy bringing the mosh. As a singer, whenever you hit a stretch where there's no lyrics, you suddenly become uncomfortably aware that everybody else on stage is doing something, and you are no longer pulling your own weight. It's the worst feeling.

Do I jump around? Play the air guitar? High five the crowd? Fuck! If I was GG Allin, I would've just pulled my pants down and stuck the microphone up my ass, but that would've hardly been "posi," and it would've just killed the whole sing-a-long vibe from there on out.

For the record, when I wrote a bunch of the Rain on the Parade songs, I tried very hard to exclude mosh parts for that very reason. On the few moments where I wasn't shooting off my mouth, I'd either spit, or go for a drink of water. I've never been the guy who dives into the crowd or jumps into the pit. It has never been my style, and just between you and me, I always sucked at both anyway.

But back to tamborines. I got to thinking about it, and I'm pretty certain that in 26 years of existence, hardcore music has been relatively tamborine-free. I can think of one example of a tamborine on a hardcore record, and that would be "Don't Got To Prove It" by Civ on the Set Your Goals LP, and even then, with the lack of anything other than a guitar and Civ's voice, a tamborine makes sense. It adds a layer.

My problem with tamborines, as well as things like bongos, mainly stems from cover bands that I've seen over the years I suppose. Whenever I'd see a cover band that had a tamborine player or a bongo player, it was always obvious that, despite the fact that these dudes couldn't play a lick, they wanted to be considered "musicians" anyway. These are people that desperately want to be able to say, "I'm in a band," which makes me want to scream "poser!" from the peanut gallery. My wife and I have actually gotten in arguments about this, believe it or not. She thinks they add to the experience, and I disagree, vehemently at times.

"What? Hardcore bands don't have tamborine players, or the equivelent?" she asked me once.

"No tamborine players. Hardcore has stage potatoes and Gus Straight Edge, but there's a difference" I told her.

She didn't understand. Whenever I discuss anything remotely hardcore, my wife just kind of glazes over and changes the subject abruptly. But she kind of did have a point. Even hardcore has that tamborine element to it, without the tamborine, of course. I mean, why the hell do I know who Gus Straight Edge is, anyway? He was on the cover of The Way It Is, but he wasn't in any of the bands, right? And come to think of it, when I look at that famous cover photo, both of Mr. Straight Edge's hands are obscured by band and crowd. There could be a tamborine in either of them. But I digress.

I am so thankful that over the past 26 years, hardcore has remained a form music that has kept things barebones. Strings, skins, and guts. Nothing else, with the exception of the occasional harmonica ("Start Today" by Gorilla Biscuits) and piano ("Scared" by Verbal Assault), which were both done masterfully.

I may not be xpoison-freex, but I will always strive to be xtamborine-freex, which is really more important when you think about it.

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