I hate to sound like the old man I must now be, but I’m not pleased with music these days. I’ll pinpoint my particular gripe: the drummers are not distinctive. I love Jimmy Chamberlain from the Pumpkins, Danny Carey from Tool, Riley Breckenridge from Thrice. They have such unique voices as drummers. They are thoughtful about it; it reflects their personality, their decades of commitment to the instrument, and probably not negligibly their financial and social status as having co-founded an iconic band. Their style of drumming makes sense when you watch their interviews. Their drumming is an extension of their personalities.
In music today, if the drumming isn’t actually produced by a machine, it might as well be. It’s monotonous. Metronomic. Free of the imperfection that makes any art human. It makes you want to clap along on 2 and 4, maybe even get up and dance. But ain’t nobody clapping to the beat at a Tool concert. You couldn’t place the beat if you tried. When was the last time a hit song alternated between 7/4 and 15/8? When was the last time a drummer was widely considered the most talented member of a band in the way Travis from Blink was?
The lack of identifiable drummers, methinks, is symptomatic of something greater. There appears to be an emphasis on catchiness over musical inventiveness. It’s as if the goal is to release maximal dopamine in the brain rather than accurately reflect a human emotion that hasn’t been expressed in music before.
I never got the appeal of Ringo, but people seem to think he’s iconic, so I’ll give him that. But who is Taylor Swift's drummer? Who’s Kendrick Lamar’s? It’s probably some replaceable session drummer who’s paid by the hour to reproduce the drum track on the album.
Antonio Sanchez is, in my books, the most talented drummer alive today. His beats warp time; his solos bend space. And what is he doing these days? Rocking out in jazz fusion quartets, making appearances at Blue Note, giving drum clinics, being an obscure living legend. Antonio, I support you no matter what, but I have to wonder if you and your fellow drum legends’ talents are being squandered. Why doesn’t Beyoncé call up Dave Weckl and have him lay it the fuck down? Why isn’t Jojo Mayer the founding member of a global sensation of a band?
I'll tell you why. Because you couldn’t dance along, let alone clap along, to this echelon of drummers if you tried. These drummers are musical geniuses. But in today’s age, percussive genius is not what people want on their drive to work, on their night out with the girls, as motivation at Soul Cycle. So, the industry adapted. And that’s my problem with music these days.