its a term that gets thrown around a lot (in a negative sense). But what does it actually mean?
I think its generally perceived as "extended instrumental playing which is particularly self-indulgent". But doesn't this encapsulate a number of great musicians? I mean, what is jazz if not extended instrumental self indulgence? What is music or art in general if not intrinsically self indulgent?
I think the term originally meant "virtusoity without feeling", i.e Steve Vai, Rick Wakeman. Now, personally i can often find enjoyment from listening to someone technically superb at their chosen instrument, regardless of what they're playing. But thats a different question. What i'm talking about here is the classification of all extended instrumental virtuosity as being "wankery". And thinking about it, a lot of my favourite musicians can and have been described as "wankery"
Take for example John Mclaughlin, one of my favourite guitarists. He often goes on extended flights of guitar abuse, straying very far from classic songwriting and crossing over into pure self indulgence. But he plays every ridiculous wailing solo with ridiculous passion, as if he's offering a tribute to a divine power with each note. But there is no doubt in my mind that he would be classed by many as "wankery" because he walks a similiar path to the much derided proggists
I'd put it down to a rockist attitude that pervades a lot of music appreciation, or what i might call "neo-rockist": The co-option of concise structure and form and the rejection of the musically pretentious. It all stems from punk really, where it became deeply uncool and totally bourgeois to be technically proficient. Or at least, thats how the history books have been written, how received wisdom has been passed onto this generation. But it worms its way into so many areas of music that its impossible to ignore
Christ, what a load of rambling old toss. Should be blogging this shit really. But yeah, whats your definition of "wankery"?