“Mistakes and miss takes”
This is for Matt, fan of The Jezabels and all-around nice guy, who challenged me to pick up on something at the start of ‘Hurt me’. Is there or is there not a weird stroke in there, and if so is it intentional?
The first sound I hear from the drumkit is a kind of scrape, either the hi-hat getting into position or a stick brushing against a drum head as it’s being picked up. Add that to the off-beat opening rhythm, and yes there is a sort of suggestion of a faltering step.
Is it intentional? All I can say is even if it throws you out by a fraction, I don’t think it hurts the song. You get the same sense of almost-faltering later on, coming out of the confident, filled out rhythm in the chorus into a sparser and more uneven beat. It’s very effective. Reminds me of coming out of a party that has become too overwhelming, and stumbling distractedly down the stairs outside.
But this got me thinking about the value of mistakes and glitches. Artists of all kinds include deliberate mistakes in their work, and for all kinds of reasons. Islamic artists included imperfections as a way of affirming that only Allah is perfect. Navajos included a point of imperfection in a woven rug as a doorway to let spirits move in and out.
Imperfections have their place in music too. Interpretation is all about connecting with the human element, which is why sometimes it’s a disadvantage to be far too clinical and perfect. (No, this does not mean stop practicing.)
A classic example is ‘Discipline’ by Nine Inch Nails. There’s a false start at the beginning that sounds ridiculous, but according to Trent Reznor the song seemed somehow lacking when they took it out. Leaving it in was a stroke of genius; it’s the main reason I listen to that track. And considering the song’s theme, it’s pretty appropriate.
So do mistakes, deliberate or otherwise, make music more human or more divine? Possibly. If they’re done just right.