In praise of 'Erotomania' by Dream Theater with John Myung

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by India_Sierra, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. My Spotify records of late must make curious reading. I swear, I don't really like Dream Theater. I contend that they write absolutely stunning instrumentals (sometimes) and the odd passable tune with vocals (which they seemed to stop doing after 'Falling into Infinity'). I am also of the opinion that nothing they have recorded since the turn of the Millenium is really worth listening to and I await the argument that can change my mind on that.

    In spite of that, they feature regularly on my Spotify playlist and I am trying my best to learn some of their pieces because it's a bit of a change from my usual fusion leanings, where I seem to spend a lot of time. In particular, '6:00' and 'Erotomania' from the 'Awake' album of 1994 strike me as absolute bangers. I have a lot of history with this album, as my brother and I were frequent readers of MXtabs/ back when they were active and DT were the 'house' band indeed; beloved by many posters and with members frequently lauded by forum members as being titans of their instrument.

    I think John Myung has in him in a great bassist, coupled with a lack of creativity or ambition that has seen him become the steadfast rock of Dream Theater's music, without ever really pushing himself to the fore as a soloist or going to any great lengths within the confines of Dream Theater to ever really do more than pounding the root - and in recent years, his style seems to have moved ever closer to simply hitting the roots below Petrucci, whereas he had done a bit of decent harmony and counterpoint work in earlier Dream Theater. Although some of the isolated bass traks I have heard from him rather dispel the m

    Anyway, I begin to waffle now and I would very much like you to listen to 'Erotomania' as it is here. Dream Theater are never better than when James LaBrie drops that tambourine and leaves the stage entirely, sparing us his awful vocals. On this record, Myung still had a sound which could be described as 'tone', and I quite dig the big, grunty and open sound he gets here. It actually works very well in a mix where the other instruments are tight and middy, giving him a bit of richness that stands out and adds a little Geddy Lee-esque grind to the sound.

    'Erotomania' is the sound of a band who could produce real fire when they dropped the tortured vocals and unbending desire to make everything dynamically overwrought. It simply kicks off with a wash of grating keys and ploughs into that driving chromatic riff, subtly shifting the beat at the end of a phrase in the main riff the first time around to give the listener some heads-up that this song is going to be a shifting like sand through myriad time signatures. Though the piece goes through several interludes and solos, it never really loses pace and it's sense of purpose and for that, it should be commended. I believe this to be one the great prog rock instrumentals. I have had a huge amount of fun learning this piece over recent days and hope to record a full version later in the year when I get my home studio put back together.

    I would very much welcome your thoughts on this piece, or any other Dream Theater songs you would care to mention.
    rtav and Mastodon2 like this.
  2. Mastodon2


    Feb 27, 2008
    I always thought that John Myung's best work was on "Take the Time" from Images and Words. In fact, I think when you listen to that song, you'd think he had real potential as a bassist as some note, which sadly never materialised as his playing became less and less ambitious as Dream Theater matured into a rather staid formula.

    Ironically I think the best way to appreciate his bass work in this song is on the YouTube upload of the "Take the Time" music video on the official Dream Theater channel, some curious effect of the YouTube compression makes the bass a fair bit louder on this version than the album version. The editing is terrible and some bits of the song barely make sense when they cut the song from 08:30 to just under six minutes which does spoil it somewhat.

    John was playing his Tung basses back in this day, his lines are inventive and has an aggressive edge without sounding clanky or harshly overdriven. He does follow the guitar in parts but I think the real standout for me is that John's lines drive the song in so many places, where Mike Portnoy is playing a bouncier rhythm, John plays 8th or 16ths that keep the sense of drive and direction. There are plenty of direction changes but the song keeps an uplifting major tonality. The keys, unlike in later DT records, support the song and add colour and texture instead of being these horrible, overbearing noises that Ruddess would bring to the band, to their detriment.

    I found John's tone with Yamaha to be unremarkable, though not a fault of the signature basses he was playing that they made him were solid instruments, especially the earlier model with the infinity inlay. After he went to EBMM I found his tone took a dive and never sounded very tight or articulate, just a grindy rumble. That said, some of the tracks Myung cut in this era were straight up sloppy (listen to the isolated tracks on Youtube, yikes) so the rumble and clanky sound probably helped hide that a bit.

    It's a shame that in later DT records, Myung would settle for following the guitars rather than trying inventive things and if he was doing anything he was mixed so badly you couldn't hear it anyway. I wonder if this was Myung deliberately taking a back seat, or being pushed there as Petrucci and Portnoy tried to push the band to be "heavier", losing their flair for writing a good song or an interesting groove along the way.

    I also agree with the comments regarding James La Brie's vocals, I can't think of many DT song that wouldn't be improved by muting his vocal tracks. I do feel that he got much, much worse from the late 90s onwards. I can tolerate him on Images and Words and Awake, but after that I'd rather he wasn't singing at all. I also find his live presence to be irritating, when there is an extended instrumental section and he is skipping around the stage shaking a tambourine or just his terrible live performance quality in general, with his constant off-key notes and poor intonation.
    rtav likes this.
  3. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    Erotomania is an awesome song. I completely agree that John does a lot of doubling; maybe there’s so much going on sonically that doubling, rather than coming up with new lines, allows for less sonic complexity.

    Anyhow I thought I’d share my video cover of Erotomania, I have tons of other DT and some Liquid Tension covers among others.

    Ellery likes this.