Friday, May 15, 2009

"Can't Decide"

Many, many weeks ago, an overwhelming landslide of three votes came in to answer the survey question: Which is the best Greg Ginn guitar solo? I picked my three favorites, excluding anything from the Black Flag instrumental records. Of "Rise Above," "Jealous Again," and "Can't Decide," it is the third in that list that won the most votes (two!). The only other vote was for None of the Above.

Briefly, "Can't Decide" is such a great song, my favorite from either Side A or Side B of the My War album. The song structure is a twist on the verse-chorus format of the traditional rock-pop song, with a blisteringly atonal solo following each chorus. It's a "hit song" from the alternate universe of truly listenable, muscular rock.

As atonal as Ginn's fretwork is, however, I could hum along with his solos. They are compact and fit in the right places but then go way out into the stratosphere at the right moments, too, especially when juxtaposed to the tightly wound chords of most of Black Flag's songs. I think this reveals an underlying harmolodic quality to his playing. It's always been there. I've always noticed it. But it wasn't until listening to Ornette Coleman years after I'd been headbanging to Black Flag that I learned the terms to describe just what was so bold and advanced about Ginn's guitar-playing compared to most other punk rock players.


Anonymous said...

Harmolodic indeed! Ginn's playing incorporated a grasp of twelve-tone techniques into punker gtr speak - a real head trip, given how primal/emotionally driven his music and performances always were. A buddy of mine would always point out to naysayers that Ginn could always recreate every one of his noisy solos to a T when he wanted to - proof his atonality was intentional and actually quite well thought out.

Anonymous said...

I have always loved the “logic” of Ginn’s solos. Only the true greats are instantly recognizable via a solo – be it Bird, Garcia or Ginn. Considering that the Jealous Again ep was burned into my 12-year old noggin via a MK 1 Sony Walkman, I am always comparing the later guitar work to that playing. You hit it when you talked about hearing Ornette later. That was the case with me. I like the idea that Ginn’s playing set the standard for my ears and unknowingly set all my free jazz enjoyment on its course (let alone all the noise, Crimson etc). I have to say I was disappointed when I took Damaged out of the Music Plus bag and plopped it onto the stereo. That said, I treasure it now and his playing roars. It has been so long since I played either, in my mind the playing pre-Damaged is with less effects. Is that actually the case?