Friday, July 20, 2018

When The Curtain Falls | Lefsetz Letter



He doesn’t always sound like this. That’s right, you’ve got to hear Greta Van Fleet’s rendition of

“Rolling In The Deep” on Spotify

It’s quite remarkable, you’d almost think they wrote it, kinda like Zeppelin being “influenced” by all those blues numbers way back when.

But on “When The Curtain Falls,” Josh Kiszka is channeling Robert Plant from the early seventies and if you were there for the original, you might be offended, but today’s audience was not, and they want something new.

What kind of stereo did you have growing up? My dad supplied us with an endless stream of “record players,” the first one gray, two of them pink, truly, my dad was into deals, with heavy tonearms and built-in speakers that we played our records on. My parents had a Columbia console in the living room, where we never went, with an external speaker that I once connected directly to my electric guitar and blew out the lights in my house, not realizing an amplifier was necessary. And then in the sixties an addition was built behind our split-level and my parents invested in a separates system, with components by ADC, other than the turntable, which was a Garrard, which I had to ask permission to use. By this time my albums were treasured, I never touched the vinyl, I took care of my records, preserving them for posterity, believing they evidenced my identity, and the irony is that vinyl, all of which I still have, is now back, then again the stuff I’ve got was cut analog for analog reproduction, and it makes a difference.

Anyway, my parents had a friend who worked at CBS, who ran their audio division, and when I was a senior in high school my sister and I were blessed by Columbia components, but don’t be too wowed, the speakers were small, the sound was not impressive, but it was certainly better than the all-in-ones.

And I never got a great stereo in college, because my parents wanted me to pay for it, and I had no ready source of income, and they were convinced it would get stolen, that was rampant back then, theft of components, along with bicycles, my white Peugeot was ripped-off the last day of freshman year, but eventually, I found myself ensconced in an apartment in Los Angeles and I bought the stereo of my dreams.

With JBL L100s.

What did you have? Off-brand stuff? That was how Cal Stereo made money, by manufacturing its own no-name speakers. And then there was Rogersound Labs in the Valley, with its own speakers, and if you wanted to spend less, there was the Advent, which superseded KLH and AR, and was pretty damn good for the price, which was $125 at first, and then $149 apiece. But the JBLs, which they used in studios, they retailed for $349 per speaker, and it was hard to get a discount.

And the salesman said the JBLs were bright, and the only amp that would sound good was the Sansui, or the Luxman, which was way out of my price range, so I ended up with an AU11000, sans tuner, but with 110 watts a channel, and that rig brought the THUNDER!

That’s what it was all about.

There’s some thunder today, but really it’s just bass, emanating from jacked-up car stereos playing hip-hop. I’m convinced we get the music our systems can reproduce, and acoustic music sounds bad on MP3s/streams through earbuds, but rock sounds even worse, for that thin-band stuff hip-hop is best, didn’t Beats advertise they came with bottom?

But the thunder was not only bottom, it permeated the entire range. Like that Maxell ad, featuring those JBL L100s, which made the listener’s hair blow back, no one under fifty remembers, but those older than that, we’re all familiar with the image.

So the goal was to get the best stereo your money could buy, drop the needle, and make not only yourself shake, but your whole damn HOUSE! You turned it up loud enough to shut out all surrounding noise, the music soaked up the atmosphere, that was the essence of rock. But when you listen to Greta Van Fleet’s “When The Curtain Falls” on earbuds, computer speakers…

You’re missing the essence, the thunder. It sounds thin, when it’s supposed to sound MASSIVE!

And the funny thing is you’ll dismiss “When The Curtain Falls” at first, assuming you were around way back when, but then you realize it’s more about the riff than the vocal, that the guitar-playing is not that far away from “Houses Of The Holy” and “Physical Graffiti.” Don’t cry heresy, there’s truly similarity, but can the audience be converted without the big rigs, without the stereos of yore?

You remember how it was. Back before iPhones, back before selfies, back when it was about them, not you, when the stars were on stage and you stood in the audience nodding your head, the sound so loud that you couldn’t speak to the person next to you anyway.

That’s how “When The Curtain Falls” should be heard.

And it’s not burning up the streaming services, and the rock radio format is a ghetto. Then again, Charli XCX said radio no longer mattered in “Rolling Stone,” and Five Seconds Of Summer shifted singles midstream, to great success. Meaning…

The old rules are kaput. Now is the time to take chances, like the above cover of “Rolling In The Deep.” You put stuff out and see what resonates. Satiate the core. Let them spread the word. If you’re playing the old game of one track, pushing it for a year, you’re missing out. That’s how you build a track, but not FANS! Fans don’t care if anybody else likes the act, they’re invested, they’re paying fealty, they’ll show up at the gig, where rock is built.

That’s right, today it’s all about the live show, the opposite of the pop ethos, where it’s built on radio and television and you go to hear a perfect rendition live, oftentimes on hard drive, no, with rock you want it to be a bit different, oftentimes a bit faster, with more power, with more energy.

And Greta Van Fleet is succeeding there.

And the key is they’re young. In an era where Vine stars have already gone on to their day jobs. The generations keep changing, and those prognosticating have often seen too much, they can’t see the show through the eyes of the audience.

But if you’re open-minded…

At first you want to turn “When The Curtain Falls” off, it seems ersatz. Then you get to the change, the chorus, and you want to let the track play through, and then that riff infects you and you find yourself playing the track over and over again, forgetting all about Robert Plant.

It’s not “Whole Lotta Love.” But it’s not me-too, at least not when compared to the other rock acts on the scene today.

Greta Van Fleet is just one monster away from breaking through.

Don’t forget, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were long on experience. These guys are brand new, at least to the masses, they’re figuring it out, maybe they’re spearheading a new movement.

Then again, shenanigans on the road are passe, because of camera phones.

But never underestimate the power of music. When done right, it’s not a trifle, it’s not something to be played in the background, rather it’s positively foreground, you need it to stay alive, it makes you feel you’re not alone in this world, it amps up your energy, eliminates your depression, makes you think not being in the mainstream is cool, that you can survive without Instagram followers, as long as this music is channeled into your soul.

But it’s best on a big rig.


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