Saturday, April 21, 2007

On music, even though I said I wouldn't--The death of the album (as art form, not big, black, plastic dish)

So, while I've been downloading (yes, free and illegal--long live Torrentz) all these 80's albums I thought I should grab some new stuff because well, it's free and it keeps you young instead of finding yourself sitting around saying, "In my day, music was music, bah!" As a side note, I don't feel guilty about the 80's albums--I bought them (well, husband bought most of them and some we bought for $1 when albums were dying but the principle is there) once--the bands got their 7 cents of my money. Why should I buy them again when they are only available in reissues by companies that didn't produce them in the first place (Rhino)? You can probably bet that none of those kids in those bands just into their 20's had the good sense to write contracts stating they get profits from future reissues (except possibly Bowie who's pretty shrewd). So who am I supporting? As to new music--I still buy CD's. I view the downloading as a sort of sampling--do I like it well enough to get the liner notes and lyric sheets? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I am especially interested in new bands now, for the first time in years, because there is this resurgence of what I would call 80's inspired music--bands that are taking the synth sound, pop beat and eyeliner from the best of the New Wave--The Killers, Panic! at the Disco, The Bravery, Interpol, Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand (is anyone else bothered by the fact there are two popular bands named after the major players of WWI?--what's next, The Stalinites, the Prince George's, Woody Wilson?). Hot Fuss (Killers) is a really solid album. Panic!'s songs have a tendency to sound the same, but the album has a nice build and shape. The Bravery's first (second coming out soon) had a similar shape to each song--verse, fast chorus, verse--but was still fun all the way through. It gave me hope. However, I downloaded Silversun Pickups, Shiny Toy Guns and Cold War Kids (WWII this time). I'll have to give them each more devoted listens, but aside from the singles, on first listen the rest of the songs just ran together.

Is the album dying as they say? In the age of the one song download will anyone bother to get anything besides the single? When I was young and poor a friend gave me her cassette of Let's Dance because she never listened to it. I asked how was it. She said, "Oh, I never bothered to listen to anything but the singles." !!!! I was aghast--at the very least it seemed a waste of money. Why buy something and not listen to all of it, at least once. I often find that I am tired of the singles and there are far better but less mainstream songs on albums that I love. Why should bands bother to write whole albums--singles and filler. Certainly many are doing it already. I won't even begin to discuss whether concept albums will still be produced--the days of Pink Floyd (not my genre, but I can appreciate it) or Genisis (Peter Gabriel version) with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. With my new interest in Japan (and I could be mistaken in this) I have discovered that it is quite common for artists to record just a single with no intention of every producing an album there. This of course allows any celebrity to throw together one single, sell a few and go back to whatever they are actually famous for, in the same way that they might do a commercial.

So, is this a loss for culture? Certainly the age of the symphony is long past, so why is this so bothersome? Because it will allow for more crap to clog up the airways? More on that tomorrow.

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