Delicate Steve - Ramona Reborn
Alright, I admit it: no musical style is irredeemable.
I would have thought that if there was one trope or signifier that I would simply never be down with, it would be those squealing 70’s-style guitar solos (you know, the really pompous and narcisstic ones — the ones that give off this vibe like climbing to the high notes is basically akin to climbing Everest). I’ve deleted whole albums based on two seconds of a solo like that. I’ve been brutal in my derision. And then I hear this and melt.
To redeem a musical trope, you need exactly what you need to redeem a person. Hearing and receiving, unquestioned reciprocity of trust, and a bighearted assurance that they will be believed. Delicate Steve listened to those awful solos with a receptivity I couldn’t match, found the motivating kernel spinning in their core, and shared it so generously that even grumps like me couldn’t help but be moved.
The conclusion seems inescapable: no musical style is so bad someone can’t elevate it. (Just as no style is so good someone can’t mess it up.) My flagship ‘disliked musical trope’ has an exception now, which means it’s toothless as a prejudice. I could theoretically like anything now.
Your move, dubstep.
In the review of Positive Force I talked about writing but never actually wrote, I would have pointed out the confidence that Steve Marion demonstrates as a songwriter on that record.
Wondervisions was an album from a musician eager to prove himself, with songs like “Butterfly” and “Sugar Splash” that really grabbed you. And while the marketing surrounding Positive Force comes off as desperate for attention as asking Chuck Klosterman to write your press release without even listening to the band,* the album itself is very self-assured.
The guitar line that noodles through most of “Big Time Receiver,” another example of that 70’s guitar, would be unbearably showy if it wasn’t so thoroughly incorporated into the texture of the song. That focus on texture is the hallmark of Positive Force, the musicianship demonstrated on each track is in service of the song as a whole, not fishing for approving metal horns.
*His hyperbole was more on point that people give him credit for.