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by Dan Weiss

August 25, 2013

Broken Songs, Botched Productions

by Dan Weiss  |  August 25, 2013

There's something enthralling about a great tune being sabotaged by its creator, whether intentionally or not. Sometimes the off-putting quality is used for militant effect: The Roots intentionally turned up the irritatingly high treble for the first half of "Table of Contents Pt. 1 & 2" to make the cymbals not just splash but bleed right through the song. And Public Enemy intended for "Welcome to the Terrordome" to be louder than anything else on Fear of a Black Planet, its domineering riff essentially a slowed-down fire drill.

Sometimes the turn-off move is there to baste the song itself in something more complex, as in the way The Long Winters’ seemingly facile "Cinnamon" is tricked into a strange, uneasy gallop via drums in a different time signature — or how The Wrens' excellent "Everyone Chooses Sides" is booby-trapped with bad-CD-rip distortion that tricks you every time (until the real instruments come in). On other purposeful missteps, it's not the production that's irreparable. Dr. Dre's flow is jaw-droppingly behind the backbeat on his recent single "I Need a Doctor," while MC Paul Barman has made a whole career of doing just that (and it sticks out next to MF Doom on "Hot Guacamole"). The Gin Blossoms randomly decide to drench a few seconds of "Not Only Numb" in flanger, for better or worse, while PJ Harvey and Steve Albini's crafty use of volume dynamics on "Rid of Me" helped make it a one-of-a-kind classic. Roll the dice with these famous and obscure uses of strange and sometimes unintended recording and performance flaws.

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