Wednesday, November 06, 2002

From the In Box: Tickle Me Emo
What is that "wrong" thing, though? Don't get me wrong -- I agree that there's something extremely creepy about stock "a capella;" I got stuck watching the Bobs open for Zap Mama once, and it was really unpleasant. However, Zap Mama, for example, is a group that does a lot of good stuff with unaccompanied singing. And I love less polished voices -- only stuff like shape note singing or music from the Georgia and South Carolina sea islands. I even like polished vocal harmonies like the Beach Boys and CSN. So, what is it, then? -- Joe Germuska

Well, I like Zap Mama and shape-note singing, too -- take the new Cordelia's Dad record, for example -- so I'm curious what it is, too. I think that I make a distinction between unaccompanied singing -- the root of a capella's definition, granted -- and stereotypical a capella performance.

Maybe it's the trappings of a capella that rub me the wrong way. Maybe it's the consistent characteristics of the way a capella groups are composed -- and the gestures and stage techniques they use while performing. Maybe it's the inward-looking competitive culture of the collegiate a capella scene. Maybe, just maybe, it's the hundreds and thousands of a capella groups that name themselves Five O'Clock Shadow.

I don't know. But when I say I dislike a capella, I don't mean that I dislike Zap Mama or the Beach Boys -- much less unaccompanied singing or harmonic vocals.

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