Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Song of the Day: Converge, "Plagues"

I didn't realize it at the time, but I once saw Converge open up a show with "Plagues."

They were the second act on a four-band bill, nearly buried with an evening slot. People were there to see Mastodon and Dethklok, and it sounded like many of them would be getting their first dose of Converge that night. Most of the audience kept talking while the band set up their instruments. Kurt Ballou was tuning up his guitar when Jacob Bannon tensely paced out on stage and started introducing the band. When he abruptly broke the tension with a scream, I realized that Ballou had been playing "Plagues" for the past few minutes.

It's an odd song for anyone to start a show with--slower and longer than nearly any other song that Converge has recorded, including everything on their terrific new album All We Love We Leave Behind. "Plagues" would not have been my pick as an introduction to Converge or a choice to win over Dethklok fans. But seeing "Plagues" uncaged by a recording gave me a new love for it. I can't hear it now without playing it again, or noticing how Ballou is able to seam an act like plugging a guitar into a composition. The main riff reminds me of Nick Hornby's description of a Paul Westerberg piano solo:

"A better pianist would have wrecked the moment, filled in the gaps, failed to recognize how the tune has exerted a spell over the right listener...Just as you know intuitively when the simplest and crudest brush strokes have been made by a proper artist, I can never listen to the solo without thinking that it's played by a born musician--not a virtuoso, not even someone who could make a living as a piano in a cocktail lounge, just a man who thinks and feels and loves and speaks in music."

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