Monday, April 5, 2010

Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

I always found Matt Tong's playing on Silent Alarm far surpassed his actual ability at the time, and it used to piss me off. One of the first things I did after hearing this was look up videos of them playing live, hoping to see him blasting through these songs with precision and endurance. Unfortunately some of the songs on youtube were slower than on the record, and Matt seemed uncomfortable, always trying to catch up to himself. It was very hit and miss. For example, this is their first television appearance.

Matt is really tight, everything is crisp and played almost exactly as the record. He feels a little rushed at times, but the song is crazy fast, so thats understandable.

Now, this is later on, on David Letterman.

In essence, this is a much easier song to play, but it's slower than on the album and his time is all over the place. Sometimes he rushes the hits, sometimes he lags on them. I can tell by his look that he's uncomfortable, and it comes through in his playing.

Now, this used to piss me off because I used to think it was unfair to your audience, you were misrepresenting your ability. It's easy to lay down incredible drumming when you can do take after take or take a break when you get tired, it's another thing to play those songs for two hours straight and maintain your ability.

Now I have a different point of view, mostly because I myself have put things on albums I could not play live. Matt was setting a bar for himself, giving himself a challenge and a goal within his band and within his own playing. I respect that. Sometimes it's not about the crowd, it's about your own feelings towards your playing. If you don't have any way to measure your progress it starts to feel as if your at a stalemate.

Future Bloc Party releases didn't impress me nearly as much with regard to their drumming, but I think it has more to do with the direction of the songwriting than Matt himself. By the time Bloc Party came to Halifax and I got to see them, Matt played everything almost picture perfect. A few time issues, a few dropped hits, but nothing that made me think that the show wasn't worth the forty dollars I spent on it.

The drumming on this album is fast, probably faster than 90% of other rock records, and it set a bar for everyone in terms of how fast you can play pop songs and still keep them precise and coherent. I'm sure that the transition of these songs from studio to stage took a larger toll on Matt, endurance is something that takes a long time to build up, and he's a tiny dude.

This is a great album to play along to. I like seeing how far I can get before my vision starts to blur.

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