THE AUSTERITY PROGRAM’S JUSTIN FOLEY ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TACO RIFF AND A TRIPLE A RIFF
(Email exchange after being asked by a reader to check out a Taco Riff)
Me: Oh. No. That is a generic breakdown riff. We’ve got to be able to come up with a name for that. Feel free to give it a shot.
Axl: A Taco Bell Riff (like a taco in theory, but completely disgusting, generic, and bad for you).
Me: I do like the Run For The Border aspect. Let’s keep that one in a holding pattern. We maybe could call it the Triple A riff. You know, what you resort to for everyday breakdowns.
Axl: That’s pretty funny.
I’ve got to hurry up and type fast. It’s 9:15 PM on a Monday and I’m giving myself four hours to see if I can get this little experiment done.
I’ve done a pair of posts now on trying to find the perfect Taco Riff, and do note that I’m hunting for something I haven’t done a very good job of describing. That’s due in part to my limits as an explainer, but more due to the elusive nature of what we’re seeking. So before we spend some more time talking about what a Taco Riff is, let’s talk for a second about what it’s not.
Here’s something that it’s not – the heretofore named Triple A riff. (For our International friends, the American Automobile Association – also known as AAA or “Triple A” – is a membership organization that any shmoe with a crappy car and $75 in the US joins. When your beater Datsun breaks down they will come and tow it to a service station for you. Also, you can get discounts on mini golf and other stuff seniors love.) While the great Northern Hemisphere Taco Riff is a friendly, gigantic and rare beast, the Triple A Riff is as common as a mosquito and only slightly more welcome. They are currently in some sort of fashion and will date as well as Autotune. If you are in a band not so much because you have any clear musical vision – maybe more because you like to do things like sleep with strangers much younger than you are or develop drug habits that you cannot currently afford – the Triple A Riff is something you can come up with while you’re getting someone else’s tattoo design inked onto your neck.
Which gets us back to the experiment at hand. I have so little regard for the Triple A Riff that I bet I can come up with one out of the blue and present it in its natural habitat – the American Mallcore song. I have only given the vaguest thought to what it will sound like, but I will give you an absolutely adequate Triple A riff from inception to mp3 in barely over the time it takes to watch The Two Towers.
Bing. Done. Did it. I swear to you that I really came up with everything you hear here between 9:30 and 12:30PM. Drum programming, riff writing, mic selection, “Quad” guitar parts (another cliché), silence stripping, “lyrics” writing, the whole banana. I’ll have this entire post mailed off to the Mansion in less than four hours total time. Here it is, mixed down onto the USB drive:
What’s the point? Well, there’s two. First, I really cannot wait to read the comments and find out how many charmers out there will happily weigh in on how much better this is than the stuff my band does. “You should spend more time writing killer stuff like this and less of that art metal that only about thirteen people will ever care for.” And of course this is all music and opinion and no one’s right and no one’s wrong, right? Wrong. If you start going on how this rules and my band sucks, you’ll be wrong and I know because I’m the guy who pulled this down from the clouds in about 170 minutes. Maybe my band does suck, maybe it doesn’t. But this does not rule.
Second point: I will admit that hitting play and hearing all four guitar parts and the bass come through when it all kicks in was fun. So I can see why some folk may be compelled to put this (or something a lot like it) into a song of theirs. But, really: it is so generic that even someone who doesn’t even play this type of -core crap can do a passable impression of it – including some standard studio tricks – in less than half a workday.
And do you know why? Because it’s artless and dead. Anyone who’s building songs around the obvious dynamic of the Triple A riff may as well face facts that they are in a cover band. I mean, if that’s what you want, fine. But understand clearly that there are those who value original expression in the music they listen to. They get excited when people take chances in the music they’re giving to the world even it the chances don’t work. When that’s the kind of stuff you value and seek out, it’s kind of a shame that sooo many folks spend sooo much time getting ready for that big breakdown that sounds like soooooo many other big breakdowns. Kind of like – what’s the point? Stop and do something no one else has tried. Live a little.
Anyway, that’s the Triple A riff.
(By the way, I’m sure my bandmate Thad Calabrese would prefer that the Triple A name to allude to bond rating agencies. As in “these riffs are currently highly rated but over time will be relegated to junk status as the worthlessness of their underlying security becomes more and more evident.” You see, Thad? I’m always thinking of you, buddy.)
Justin Foley plays guitar and sings for the Austerity Program. Their record Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn is out now. Visit them online at www.austerityprogram.com. All messages about urban bike riding, vegetarian BBQ and monetary policy will be answered first.