The 80s were terrible for any number of reasons, thank you very much Mr. President. But one of them really sticks out for me. Stephen Malkmus called ‘em “wet wet drums,” and they were a blight – a blight I say – on America, such as it was. Their insidious legacy, incredibly, lives on, virus-like and stealth, often unmentioned but unmistakable. Hair metal was the worst offender, in the British and Los Angelian studios where attempted Bonham swagger collided with digital-assist compression and non-spring reverb (“hey, dude, ‘verb the snare a little more, it’s not sounding wet enough”) to form musical Voltrons of midrange clutter, like sound waves drawn with fat-tip Sharpees.

(By the way, how awesome is 1) it that Dominic West was rhythm guitarist Kurt Cuddy of hair metalists Steel Dragon in the Marquee Mark starring vehicle Rockstar, 2) The scene in Rockstar where he’s talking to the bass player through the PA in the studio and he’s like, “Can we make it a bit raunchier?” and the bass player says “sounds pretty raunchy in here!” 3) The fact that Dom is now the sexiest Baltimore-dialect spewing cop on either side of the Potomac?)
Dominic West, please be less hot. No, don’t. I am a god of the Photoshop blur.

But the stadiums and arenas weren’t the only venues that suffered at the hands of the wet wet big rock drum. And sometimes big rock drums were actually a handicap that made the story more impressive, like a one-armed tennis player, or a sous chef with no sweat glands. Sonic Youth became the best band ever to have two of the least pleasant musical instruments ever: Kim Gordon’s voice, and Steve Shelley’s snare drum. The Kinks took a dip in the big rock pool on Word of Mouth, their 29th album, of all things, which featured "Do It Again," the best song nobody's ever bothered to care about. Boogie Down Productions’s Scott laRock juggled embarrassingly overblown tom toms on the ones and twos. Big Black cut the problem out at its knees by shooting it so far over the top with Rollie the drum machine that it’s not even funny. Actually, it’s hilarious. I’m convinced Steve Albini’s entire life has been a prank, a bait-and-switch, and that somewhere in there is a decent guy, if he could just drop the mega-elaborate joke upon which he has predicated his very existence.

So here is what would be one of my favorite-of-all-favorite songs (with apologies to Paul Simon’s “Graceland," but man, how do you pick between all the songs on that album for the best song scabbed with big rock drums?), permanently marred in my mind by the production on the kicks and snares and “galloping” toms. Seriously, where do those tom toms think they're going?

Kate Bush – Runnin’ Up That Hill (A Deal With God)

Never For Ever has always been my favorite Kate Bush album. Call it what you will, slight and unassuming, lacking the philosophical and emotive weight of The Dreaming or Hounds of Love. But what it isn’t is ponderous. And I don’t mean pejoratively ponderous (who am I to accuse anything of being ponderous in a bad way). But man, is she good when she’s fresh-faced.

Incredible to think that, just a couple of years later, people were doing this with/to their kits.

Naked Raygun – Soldier’s Requiem

Sometimes, no money is good money. I'm obsessed with this guy's fills.

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