Journal: News & Comment

Wednesday, May 09, 2001
# 10:25:00 AM:

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An Australian reviewer once wrote that "Van Halen have volume, but Midnight Oil have power."

In rock and roll, the line is a fine and subjective one. That reviewer obviously liked Midnight Oil more than Van Halen. Still, few would dispute that the best rock and roll music does have power -- an almost indefinable quality that's more than just sounding loud (and sometimes requires little volume at all, like the first Violent Femmes album).

The Ramones had volume and genuine rock and roll power. Most garage bands have Marshall amps that turn really loud, just like Johnny Ramone's, but they lack real power. James Brown has funk power, and had it even when his bands were playing through puny PA systems in rooms that were too large for them.

How can you tell when rock bands have power? Power doesn't mean you have to take them seriously, or even that there is anything especially measurably good about them. You know power because you feel it, because it makes you want to shake your booty or bang your head or punch your fist or flail around looking stupid playing air guitar.

AC/DC has power. Beethoven had power. Nirvana had power. "Wild Thing," "Louie Louie," and "Mustang Sally" have power.

Despite all the guitars, Meat Loaf does not have power.


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