Friday, October 09, 2009

It Might Get Loud, Pt. 3:
The Edge Brings It All Back Home
By Reigning In The Wankery

There's a scene in It Might Get Loud where they cut to a version of Spinal Tap playing 'Big Bottom'.

The Edge describes his unusual reaction to the hilarious This Is Spinal Tap: he wept. It struck too close to the bone.

And let's face it, it's true. The director and the players in this film are all too tactful to touch it, but really, Spinal tap wasn't all that far from, um, the ridiculous outfit to the right of this text.

But it wasn't just style, according to Edge. It was substance, too.

Edge says something to the effect that the 10 minute guitar solo is too often just pure self indulgence, and he didn't want to go down that well trodden road. It's never stated, but it's true: Page is the original God of Wank.

I don't mean to suggest that his solos are wankery. Far from it. Page is a formidable composer. And composers, for my money, are the most interesting improvisors, because they have command of the most Seminal Whirly of all: Melody.

Jimmy Page's rock soloing is genius. However, the problem of any form of worship isn't usually the God or even his iconography. It's the Idolators.

These days, I guess you could say it's the American Idolators. But I digress.
I'm merely trying to say that the problem wasn't Page, per se, as much as it was his legions of imitators and followers. And they weren't just imitating his riffs. They were imitating his self indulgence.

With Page's dominance, suddenly blues-rock is the DE FACTO sound of the 70's. Everything is covered in wet, drippy blues noodling. Yuk. The opposite of cool.

So Edge's style came as a reaction to this rococo, whirly, noodly style.

However, by Edge's own admission, at the time U2 made their first record, Edge sucked. He could not shred. There was no way he could compete in WPM! (That's Whirlies Per Minute) But the punk aesthetic allowed him to turn this weakness into a powerful asset.

Here's the funny thing: Edge is candid about the fact that when his seminal band started, none of the players in the group could play. AT ALL. The scenes of Edge at the high school where U2 met and formed are charming and telling. Unlike Page, who started Zeppelin at 25 years of age, David Howell Evans was 15 when U2 started in 1976.

If you listen closely his words and his playing, Edge prides himself not on axe slinging, but on creating new sounds, and on serving the emotional needs of the song. He makes no claims to any shred cred. It's exactly opposite the point.

Check out this amusing clip where he lampoons his own 'cool new riff':

Indeed, Edge is definitely responsible for taking the anti-wank aesthetic of Punk to a whole new musical level. However, I don't particularly find his claim that 'he could hear ways to use [echo] that no one had used it before' to be particularly compelling, as David Gilmour and Andy Summers had already explored a lot of the echo territory that Edge claims to invent in the latter part of this clip:

Edge's greatest gift? There's no one in music more capable of creating varied and powerful emotional landscapes than the Edge.

Check out this Video of Edge's tech, Dallas Schoo, explaining how Edge uses his massive effects collection. He says that Edge rarely re-uses a sound or tone. His rig looks like something that should be in an airplane cockpit:

When you see the pile of technology that Edge has collected over the years in order to conjure his electronic voodoo , it's no wonder someone would arrive on the scene in a few years with the idea of paring it down to the essentials. Enter Jack White, in Pt. 4
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