inspirato

Are guitar solos lame?

I was thinking about this very same question the other day as I struggled through the newest Wilco record.  I was IMing with Mike that I wasn't so hot on the record, and he flipped out that I'd heard it already and he hadn't, so I sent him the sendspace link (which is probably down by now)... and so when Mike finally heard it, he sent me this text message: 

Nels Cline sounds all wrong in this band.  Well, the band sounds all wrong, but he ruins the good moments.

As a guitarist - as a lead guitarist, to be more specific - it's been a rough last couple years, because it's become somewhat true - guitar solos are kinda lame.  Not always, of course, but I'd be hardpressed to name any really kick-ass - better yet, necessary - guitar solos that have been released on any album in the last 10 years.  And this is coming from someone who used to worship Trey Anastasio so much so that I, still to this day, use 2 Tube Screamers in my pedal chain.  When I think about the bands that I've been in, and how we would write songs... somewhere around 5 or 6 years ago, the "solo section" stopped being written, and as a result I've had to make numerous changes to my style of playing - I'm much more of a textural player as opposed to a noodler these days (at least, I hope so). 

Back in the day, of course, guitar solos were absolutely necessary - they made sense, they pushed the song along, they were actually something you'd look forward to hearing.   But these days, guitar solos are generally viewed masturbatory and and redundant - why else have they completely disappeared?

(Then again, if guitar solos are so unpopular and passe, why is Guitar Hero such an immensely popular game?)  

Anyway, discuss.  And list your favorite guitar solos.  I'm trying to come up with my own list, but I keep getting hung up on The Edge's solo in U2's "The Fly", which, to me, is one of the more beautiful and exciting solos of the last 20 years.  (Speaking of which - "Achtung Baby" came out 16 YEARS AGO.  I am old.)

(Speaking of which - "Achtung Baby" came out 16 YEARS AGO. I am old.)

Nnnnnng! *aneurysm*

The guy in the article makes a good point with Bob Mould and specifically the loud period of Sugar: "Tilted" is just relentless and powerful. There are some bits of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins that still work for me too, you know, back when Billy Corgan actually had guitar in his songs. Recently? I dunno... most of the music I've listened to since reconnecting with music is fairly solo-free. It's a tough enough question to get me to go to my iTunes tonight and check out the last six months' worth of added albums for solos.
I'm absolutely right there with you, w/r/t the Pumpkins - I'll put "Starla" from Pisces Iscariot on my list, no doubt about it.

There was a time when I'd put any number of Built to Spill songs on my list, too, but as it happens, I don't like them the way I used to.
I guess I would be among those who feel they are largely "masturbatory and and redundant". There was actually a point in the late 80's where I remember thinking "this is just stupid" with regard to the consistency and predictability of guitar solos in a song. It was at that point I found punk and SST. But then, it is highly dependent upon the band and music. Someone like D. Boon? Yeah, he could solo every single song and I always, always dig it. Same goes for Joey Santiago of the Pixies, but with him is was such interesting noise and you could tell he was really pushing the boundaries of the song and contributing just as much as the vocals. So, I guess it all comes down to the question "does it contribute to the song?" for me.

Granted, I've offered no modern recordings here. I'm really hard pressed to think of any that I'd consider necessary. Not in a "guitar solo" context at least. Wait... um... Doug Gillard both solo and in GbV. He's had some great ones.
There are some nice guitar moments in certain Yo La Tengo songs, too, but that's more of an overall tone thing than a particular solo. (They do a cover of "Little Honda" and the guitar solo is this awesome burst of noise... but then again, it's a cover song, so I'm not sure if it counts.)
Oh wow, that is unfortunate. Hmm. A dear friend of mine only got into Wilco when Nels Cline joined. I wonder what he will think of the album.
If your friend only got into Wilco because of Nels Cline.... hmm. He very well might love this album, then.
Anything up until 1980 doesn't really count in this discussion - once hairspray entered the picture, the notion of guitar solos became a bit more theatrical and ridiculous. Would Led Zeppelin be as ass-kicking without Jimmy Page solos?

Or maybe it wasn't necessarily 1980 - maybe it was simply Nigel's guitar solo montage in Spinal Tap that sounded the death knell.
Generally, yeah, I think guitar solos are sort of ridiculous, unless they really add something genuinely melodic to the song, at which point they're not really solos but predetermined parts anyway. I don't really ever play solos myself (although some of my critics have accused me of doing nothing BUT playing solos over the full length of every song.)

That being said, some guitar freakouts I'm really fond of:
Yo La Tengo, "Pass the Hatchet, I'm Goodkind"
Guided by Voices, "Cheyenne" and "Picture Me Big Time"
Phish, "Maze"
Smashing Pumpkins, "I am One", "Bury Me", and "Hello Kitty Kat"
Mastodon, "Colony of Birchmen"
Wilco, "Muzzle of Bees" (Burn to Shine version) and "Handshake Drugs" (Kicking Television version)
Radiohead, "Just"
Pretty much any Maps & Atlases song
Faraquet, "Study in Movement"
I've got one - Blur, "Coffee & TV" - the song itself is really clean and Brit-poppy, and then the guitar solo is TOTALLY crazy and bizarre. Fantastic juxtaposition.

Also, The Police, "Ms. Gradenko" - pretty standard jazzy noodling, but it's tasteful, and I've always been drawn to it (and I've never been able to duplicate it, as much as I've tried).
also Adrian Belew's part in Talking Heads' "Born Under Punches", though I'd hardly call the fax-machine screeks and video-game beep-boops he does there a solo.
The freakouts in "Crosseyed and Painless" are also pretty awesome. Or maybe I'm thinking of Phish's version from their Europe club tour...
I don't think there's one solo on the new Wilco album that overstays its welcome. Very tasteful, restrained, and they general add a lot to each song. Maybe Impossible Germany goes overboard a bit... but I don't get complaining about the rest. Especially after the Tweedy wankery on AGIB--at least Nels can play!
I love Nels. Love love love love love him and he's the perfect guitarist for this, my favorite live incarnation of Wilco.
BUT THAT FUCKER NEEDS A FUCKING TIME LIMIT OF 20 SECONDS ON HIS SOLOS. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. If you can't say it in 20 seconds, don't fucking bother.
(Anonymous)
i was completely enjoying some yo la tengo guitar solos the other nite! haven't heard the whole wilco album but ill let u know how it goes when they're here next month. jen