Fave Five: Musicians (#2)

My sincerest apologies for the delay of this, dear reader(s), but for myriad reasons, Alex Brewer and I haven’t synced up with our posts until now.  Today, we resume our soon-to-be-finished series on our favorite five musicians.  Onward to #2…


KB: So Ben Folds, Kanye West, Dave Grohl, Jimmy Page, Jeff Tweedy and Jack White walk into a bar…

OK, that didn’t happen. How’s “three of them walk onto a magazine cover” as a consolation prize?

It’s been a fun first three days for the debut of our new segment here at the blog, “Fave Five”, with Alex Brewer and I chatting about our favorite musicians.  We’ve only two to go, Brewer, which is somewhat sad.  I’ve got a ton of honorable mentions, but we’ll get to that tomorrow.

Any surprise by my list or even what’s come up in yours so far?

AB: Actually, no.  Knowing you, your top five has gone as expected.  Something that doesn’t surprise me is how we haven’t really explored any older musicians outside of Page.  Like you wrote in an earlier review, we just didn’t grow up in that period.  I think we both recognize how good they were, but they just didn’t affect our lives as much as the ones we have listed.

I don’t know where you are going with your top two, but I will be surprised if Bono or The Edge aren’t there.

Any surprises from my list?

KB: I don’t think I’ve been surprised by yours…though I don’t know who this pick is going to be.  I’m rather confident that your #1 pick is going to be a man whose group could be stuck through each one of my eyelids.

It’s an interesting point, the lack of older musicians, but…well, we’ll find out soon enough.  You first.

And your #2 pick is…*drumroll*…


2. Matthew Bellamy

I know.  I get it.  Some people think the new album sucks.  Others think “Survival”, the theme song for the 2012 London Olympics, was one of the worst things they have ever heard.  Some people even go as far to say his band directly rips off Radiohead and Queen.  I get all of that.

(Oh, and one of their songs was featured in Twilight…so that should automatically disqualify him from my list of favorite musicians.)

…but I will hear none of it.  What Matt Bellamy can do musically is simply astounding.  His vocal range is out of this world, with high and haunting falsettos to low opera-like bass tones.  On top of Bellamy’s complex singing pattern, he plays creative and unique guitar riffs.  He can play the piano like a world class classical player.  He installed a DJ scratching effect INTO his guitar to use for solos.  Oh, and he writes orchestra music.  Talk about the complete package.

For most people, Bellamy didn’t even enter the conversation until Muse’s hit “Time Is Running Out” in 2003.  What most haven’t heard are the band’s first two albums.  From a strict musical standpoint, they are outstanding albums.  The tracks this man comes up with just blow my mind.

Above all of this?  The way Matthew performs on stage.  Running at a full sprint while soloing, singing and playing guitar riffs no one should be allowed to do at the same time, and breaking the Guinness World Record for “Most Guitars Smashed on Tour” make him the complete package.  We talked about Dave Grohl’s energy the other day, and Bellamy possess an equal amount.

Did the song “Survival” suck?  Sure…for the first two minutes and 30 seconds.  And then the instrumentals take over.  I love creativity, and this man defines it on guitar for the last decade.  To be honest, I think he was the best guitarist in the 2000s.

Though Jay-Z was close.

Kevin informed me that in the future a track-by-track review of The 2nd Law could be in the works.  I loved the album, but apparently I was in the minority.  Now, I don’t want to get it into too much now…but why did you hate the album so much, Brown?

KB: Because almost none of the songs are any good.  But that’s for a future blog post!

Everything you said in the first paragraph is spot-on.  The album does suck.  The theme song (“Survival”) is terrible.  Muse absolutely rips off Radiohead and Queen.  So that didn’t help me when considering Bellamy.

And it’s a shame that I hate that new album so much – and I really, truly do – because I love most of what Muse has done.  Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations are just brilliant, brilliant albums, and Bellamy and Muse can do things that no other band can do.  Their sound, when utilized correctly (“Knights of Cydonia”, “Stockholm Syndrome”) is blistering, gorgeous and unique.  I really want to like everything the man’s done, because their best stuff stacks up with anyone around these days.  Not a question in my mind.

(By the way…is that a real world record?)

AB: According to the record books, that is indeed a fact.

(By the way, I can’t wait until we do this “future blog post”, because I think everyone who thinks the latest album is bad is missing the point of the record…)

Regardless, Bellamy is one of my favorite musicians because of his full body of work.  I’m not accusing you of doing this, but people tend to forget how good something is if it didn’t meet their expectations lately.  Even if I didn’t enjoy their latest album, I can’t ignore their other works.  Matthew Bellamy is a top five talent right now, and I believe that is indisputable.

Bellamy – to compare him to one of my “honorable” mentions – is a modern-day (in terms of my generation’s music) Tom Morello.  Morello dominated the 90’s in Rage Against The Machine much like Bellamy dominated the 00’s.  Was all of Morello’s work perfect?  No.  But both of these musicians found a new creative niche, and ran with it.

Brown, save me from myself…I’m about to start ranting about The 2nd Law

KB: Save it.  You’ll have your chance.  I certainly don’t begrudge Bellamy, as he’s one of my favorite musicians around too.  Flip their career around album-by-album, and I probably feel much more enthusiastic about this.

But it’s time for my #2 pick, a man who shares the following things in common with Bellamy…

…well, they’re both white.

2. Bruce Springsteen

I was at a bar two weeks ago when a few Bruce Springsteen songs came on, much to my liking.  The man sitting next to me then informed me that he had queued up The Boss on the jukebox, and we got to talking.  I found out that he had seen Springsteen about 25 times, and here I was, just a few weeks removed from my first Springsteen show.  We chatted about old Bruce shows, where the band didn’t have a ton of original material and played Rolling Stones covers.  And we got to talking about just what kind of an artist Springsteen was, and my newly made friend, recently divorced and older than my dad, had some wise observations about The Boss.  You can’t say Bruce really sounds like anything, he noted.  There’s rock and roll and there’s R&B and there’s punk and there’s gospel and there’s a beautiful acoustic sense.  There’s a band where major roles go not only to the guitars and bass and drums, but to the violin and the piano and to the cavalcade of backup gospel singers…and of course, to the saxophone.  Put more simply: who or what do you compare Bruce Springsteen to?

The Boss and his faithful E Street Band have put together a career from wildly different styles.  Here’s a man who can record a haunting, folk-based record in 1982’s Nebraska and immediately follow it with 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. – an album which, to quote my friend Jon, “is the only album I’ve heard where all of the songs could be singles.”  Here’s a man who does an entire album of Pete Seeger covers and can jam out to a Celtic punk sound with the Dropkick Murphys.  Here’s a man who’s thought of as the musical embodiment of America, yet he’s constantly rocking out to his own angry lyrics about some of the country’s shortcomings.  Is there anything Springsteen can’t do?

Musically, Springsteen’s diverse instrumentation is all over his albums.  He’s not only the singer and the songwriter, but he’s on the guitar, keyboards, harmonica, tambourine, piano – and, yes, the glockenspiel.  This isn’t a man who’ll reinvent the wheel with astonishing guitar solos, but he’s a man with such diverse and musically stark arrangements that he doesn’t need to.  He kills you with his diversity.  And his concerts show it.  Settle in for a gorgeous seven-minute piano ballad – and then stand up for six minutes of soaring, guitar-driven rock and roll.

And it’s that live aspect that seals the deal.  Before I saw The Boss a few weeks ago at The Meadowlands, he probably wouldn’t be #2 on this list.  After a legendary three-hour performance, I don’t want to listen to anyone else.

AB: Yeah, this is a no-brainer.  In fact, you win this round.

I think a defining example of why Bruce Springsteen deserves to be so high on people’s lists is his album The Rising.  Obviously, we’re all aware of the tragedy that happened on September 11th, 2001 – and perhaps the only man that could even come close to memorializing those lost in the form of music was Bruce Springsteen.  That record he put out in 2002 in sole dedication to those affected by 9/11 is just perfect in every way.

My favorite song by The Boss is actually one that people probably don’t listen a lot.  It’s the title track from his 2005 record called Devils and Dust.  You’re 100% right – he can adapt and create such a unique style of rock that no one can mimic.  Another similar song is “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.  They’re all just so great.

I don’t dispute this pick at all.  I’ve always considered Bruce a great musician, and for me, he is one of those that I’m happy to remember is so good.  I don’t go on Bruce binges as much as I should, but hopefully this blog post will change that.

Favorite live song by Bruce…ready, go!

KB: HA!  4th round TKO by Brown!

The best live song that he played from a few weeks ago…probably “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”, but that’s also my favorite Springsteen tune in general.  But “Wrecking Ball” was amazing, “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”…and then there’s this.

Glad you mentioned The Rising, which is just a spectacular-sounding album.  I recently read a story that a fan saw Bruce after 9/11 and told him “we need you now.”  And Bruce delivered with an epic record, one of the best of his career, as his 12th studio album.

And to piggyback off of what you said…one of the great things about Springsteen is that no matter how much you know – you always have more to learn.  In fact, I’m nowhere close to caught up with his discography, and I’m still madly obsessed.

AB: Absolutely.

Well, I think we should get some rest and save our energy for tomorrow’s monster post.  I have to say, I’m excited, Brown.  I’ll be dropping musical knowledge left and right tomorrow night.

Till the next post!

KB: I’m even gonna let you get the last word ton…no, no, I’m not.  Sorry.

Until tomorrow!

(Today, technically.)


Alex Brewer (@ACBrew) is a contributing writer for “Kevin Reviews Things”. Hailing from the lost and forgotten state of Maine, Alex enjoys music no one would think he listens to, Boston sports teams, and Starcraft 2 a little too much. 

Follow Kevin on twitter @kevinnbrown.


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