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What's wrong with the synthesizer?


GivenToFly

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It seems to me among rock listeners synths are widely disliked. Sometimes the mere use of one is considered bad in and of itself. Three examples that I'm familiar with are the albums Somewhere in Time by Iron Maiden, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen and the song Paradise City, they've all been criticized for having synths in them but I personally don't see anything wrong with the use of synths in either. So my question is: is there anything wrong with the instrument itself or is it rather the association with pop music that makes it so widely disliked?

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Makes a lot of the 80s rock albums it was employed on sound really dated. It has its place, I'm not against it, but it can be easily abused. I like it on PC and Somewhere in Time, but think it makes Born in the USA sound really dated compared to earlier work such as Darkness on the Edge of Town which is more timeless (though BITUSA is still my 2nd favourite Springsteen album).

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Depends on how tastefully you use it.

People don't immediately hate synth. They hate synth when it's used in a cheesy sort of way, like Styx, Foreigner, Boston, or a lot of other 80s bands.

But a lot of groups do it tastefully. ELO, Emerson Lake and Palmer, NIN, Depeche Mode, Pulp, Tuneyards, Alt-J, Bowie, Radiohead, etc.

It's all about how you use your keyboards and synth.

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Guest Len B'stard

I think it's wonderful instrument, Christ, amazing even, just in the hands of the right people. Uninspired people treat it as just another thing to do some hotdog shit with but it's the best instrument on earth for mood music, tonal stuff, soundtrack stuff. Flowers of Romance by PiL almost completely eschewed guitar for synth…and benefitted from it.

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Emerson Lake and Palmer

No need to say anything else. Well, maybe throw Yes in there.

I totally forgot Yes. And I KNEW there was another classic group that experimented with synth.

I think synth got a bad reputation too during the late 70s and 80s shift in music when a lot of classic rock bands that gained fame from guitar and rock and roll started experimenting with synth.

The fans of those bands probably got mad about the experimentation and blamed synth and the disco era for ruining a lot of good bands.

And the problem was simply that those older bands from the 60s and 70s didn't utilize it to it's full potential, they just threw synth into their songs because it was popular and new.

Finally new wave came along and began blending rock and synth together in a way that was more careful and natural.

Edited by LiveFromNormal
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Guest Len B'stard

Emerson Lake and Palmer

No need to say anything else. Well, maybe throw Yes in there.

I totally forgot Yes. And I KNEW there was another classic group that experimented with synth.

I think synth got a bad reputation too during the late 70s and 80s shift in music when a lot of classic rock bands that gained fame from guitar and rock and roll started experimenting with synth.

Yeah and y'know why? Cuz bands like ELP and Yes were fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucking dreadful. These are exactly the people I mean, high on talent, low on ideas for what to do with it (which essentially boils down to being low on talent too really), these bands are the peak of what is dreadful and awful about rock and it's use of the synthesiser.

People have got it arse about face really, no one criticises the synth as such it just became this instrument that became synonymous with bands like Yes and ELP and their godawful noodling, these dreadful hippies with their dreadful hippie mentalities, floating around in their own heads thinking they're 'creating new soundscapes', bands like Yes and ELP are precisely why punk was so valuable, cuz it put an end to that dreadful stuff and the attendant mentality that prevailed among musicians during (and because of) their height, that you couldn't be a musician unless you were some multi-instrumentalist wizard. Now this isn't those bands fault necessarily, it's more to do with their listeners than anything.

Music like that will never ever ever re-enter chart level popularity ever again and rightly so because it has engendered in its very existence this awful pomposity and high ideas that just simply are not befitting fun music. They called it exploratory and experimental but i don't see what experiment is happening here, when you want to experiment you have to be of a think outside the box mentality and when you've done so much work at perfecting your thing (or instrument!) within the box then you end up un-teaching yourself the ability to truly think outside the box.

The most telling condemnation of those bands though is as follows...what new genre of music, what substantial significant musical advancement or new kind of music ever appeared from THOSE kinds of musicans? Nothing, zip. The Dance revolution, punk, hip hop, all of these weird highly creative, highly original forms and they all occurred from grass-roots levels from people whoose musicianship, in the typical sense of the word, was really rudimentary. Those people are the ones best disposed to experiment and give you something new because their creativity hasn't been suffocated by the kind of dedication to a textbook that it takes to become Johnny Wizard on the guitar or the whatever given instrument.

All these people can do is put layer upon layer of shit over a track...birds twittering and little sounds fading in and out and lengthy noodling, to me that is the height of charlatanism, it's the perfected ability to make the insubstantial feel substantial...the evidence of it's lack of substance being that it doesn't lead to anywhere except more of the same.

A wonderful example of the point I'm trying to make is illustrated by a little ancedote related by one of Bob Marleys sessions musicians, about how Bob kept trying to get them to do the reggae skank, which is the simplest thing in the world really, downstroke and unfret the chord right after striking it, with the upstroke on unfretted strings so it's chika-chika-chika-chika...simple as fuck right? You'd be suprised, it was difficult for these motherfuckers to get their heads around it because they just ain't geared that way, too many hours in the bedroom noodling and developing a curvature of the spine.

Fuckin' horrible music, it really is.

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I don't know. I just don't feel like it is a good instrument for hard rock music. Just like an accordion isn't or an oboe isn't. Not to say someone can't employ some ingenuity and make something rockin' out of piccolos, but for my taste only in rare occasions do synthesizers add more than they take away in rock music.

However you have to be careful when you say synth, because a synth can be nearly any fucking sound. Technically most of November Rain is synthesizers. But in the sense of Paradise City, it just seems as out of place as a heavily distorted metal guitar chugga chugs in the middle of a Katy Perry song.

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