Guitar Solos Rule

Point/Counterpoint Zachary Fairbrother


Zach from Lantern eating a burger. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Robb.

This week, our resident canuck columnist Jesse Locke drafted a bitter treatise against the guitar solo. He could only find a few examples of worthy shredders, and Zach from Lantern made the cut. Lantern has long been a VICE favorite. I saw them once and what I remember most is Zach throwing his guitar on the floor and jumping on it like a mountain lion mauling a lost child. We shot Zach an email and asked him for his thoughts on “the issue”:

I must confess I love me a good guitar solo. When I was a teenager, in between wanks I would pull out my guitar, wank a little more, and really try to nail that sweet 64th-note-sweep-picking-whammy-bar-dive-pinch-harmonic for hours on end. I grew up in a small town, the kind of town where people think Chinese Democracy is a good record, so I stumbled across music as it came to me. I listened to a lot of butt rock—AKA shred. Eventually (thankfully) I realized this music wasn’t for me, but I was irreversibly imbued with a primal need to shred.

At college, I would hide the shreddiness. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein abandoning his monster. After awhile I couldn’t hide it anymore. I realized that I had to embrace it and fix this rancid pile called creation.

Here are the guitarists that allowed me to become comfortable with my inner shredder:

1. Funkadelic – “Maggot Brain” // Shredder: Eddie Hazel

Few men can pull of a 10-minute, fuzz-wahed-out guitar solo and have it be beautiful and transgressive art. Eddie Hazel can. This track is a must hear and will tear your face off from the second you start listening.

2. Miles Davis – “Theme from Black Jack Johnson (AgarthaVersion)” // Shredder: Pete Cosey

For such a scorching guitar sound, Pete Cosey cuts a pretty quiet figure. He made his debut as a session player with Chess Records and was the lead guitarist on Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud and Howlin’ Wolf’s The Howlin’ Wolf Album. On these albums Chess tried to be contemporary and blend these classic blues artists’ sound with psychedelic rock. Howlin’ Wolf apparently hated the record because the guitars sounded “queer.” I think they sound gnarly. Pete sounds gnarliest with Miles Davis. On this cut from Agartha, Pete’s guitar-tone is suffering some serious space-madness. These are some coked up jungle-jazz-jams.

3.     Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Hey Joe (Live at Winterland, SanFrancisco CA. October 12, 1968)” // Shredder: Jimi Hendrix

I don’t trust people who say they don’t dig on the ‘drix. Thankfully I’ve never met anyone like this. That’s cuz everyone knows Hendrix rules, and what the fuck would Hendrix be without guitar solos? On this opening jam to Hey Joe, Jimi is going totally nuts! He’s mashing Hindu devotionals, blues, psych, and noise to create a glorious tapestry of guitar godliness. He’s so far ahead of his game that he makes his contemporary guitar D-bags Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton look like the got the guitar skills of Lil’ Wanye.

4.     Black Sabbath – “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener” //Shredder: Tony Iommi

Tony Iommi is easily one of my favorite guitarists. I bought the first Sabbath tape when I was 14 and it’s never left my deck. Tony Iommi invented every single great riff. People build whole careers out of ripping him off. If Sabbath doesn’t make you want to smoke dope and head bang then you’re seriously fucked up. Tony has some great ‘diddely-diddelys’ on the end of this one.

5.     MC5 – “Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)” //Shredders: Wayne Kramer & Fred “Sonic” Smith

Nobody does rock 'n' roll like the Motor City, and nobody believes in the gospel of rock 'n' roll like the Motor City Five. In the church of the MC5, the guitar is the mimetic phallus that connects us all to the ancient totem of rock 'n' roll. Dig the duel at the end!

6.     Iggy & the Stooges – “Shake Appeal” // Shredder: JamesWilliamson

More Detroit—James Williamson’s guitar is the perfect accompaniment to Iggy Pop’s sex charged swagger. Williams’ buzz-saw axe rips at your flesh, augmenting the deranged anxiety of this stomper.

7.     Ted Nugent – “Stranglehold” // Shredder: Ted Nugent

Even more Detroit—alright, everybody knows that the NUGE is an asshole. Him and his “high on life” take on existence are lame as fuck. But on this classic NUGE jam he gets a little spacey and makes you think there might be something more to this pigheaded redneck—perhaps a few bong rips? This one is a deep cut!

8.  James Gang – “The Bomber” // Shredder: Joe Walsh

Before Joe Walsh sold his soul and joined the barf fest known as the Eagles he was in a band called James Gang. Like the Nugent jam, this is a journey through some mid-western space rock.

9.     Mainliner – “M” // Shredder: Kawabata Makoto

Japanese guitarist Kawabata Makoto is the mastermind behind sonic cosmonauts Acid Mother Temple. On this cut (with his previous band Mainliner) he torches the tape with his giant cock guitar. Ghidorah, Godzilla, Mothra, and Goldar combined are no match for this fuzz-wah monster.

10.Night Beats – “The Other Side” // Shredder: Lee Blackwell

There are a few folks out there keeping the guitar solo fresh. One of those folks is Lee Blackwell, of the amazing Night Beats—go see them live! On this track, Lee explores some surfy-flamenco style guitar with some Doors-esque, ride-the-snake jam outs. Aptly titled “The Other Side.”

11. Purling Hiss – “Passenger Queen” // Shredder; Mike Polizze

Probably the best shredder in America right now is fellow Philadelphian Mike Polizze of Purling Hiss. This track has it all—fuzz-wah, dueling guitar solos, dive bombs, diddley-diddelies, head banging-riffage, infinite gnarly-ness, and guitar godliness.



You can follow Zach's daily ranting at @avantlard.