Hello. I usually write music reviews but, when I’m not writing there or DJing on WMFO, I write here! As one of the cadre of very capable and interesting DJ/Blogger music enthusiasts signed on to dish out some words to the Interworld, I think I’ll start by relating a conversation I had with a friend this past weekend. After a long discussion driving in the rain, we determined that people don’t care about new albums by practically anyone.
But wait, wait, when I say “don’t care” perhaps I should add “nearly enough” to the phrase, because obviously with new music people get quite excited. We all listen to new music whether it be a single, a random track, or a few random tracks. And uh, well wait, people do listen to full albums sure. But c’mon, how many? I’m sure some may disagree, but I think that most people these days might listen to a few songs and quit. Or, if a band is really lucky, someone uses Amazon (ooh, clips!) or Spotify (ooh, free!) to preview an entire record and then quit. A second full spin is unheard of! We are all very busy people, you know.
A new record is like a struggling actor going to audition after audition after audition, only to get lucky with a select few. Even those few may fire the album and send it off the set after a day or two anyway.
And then you have these bands that people say are their favorite groups only to toss off if their record doesn’t immediately wow them. I’m looking at you Radiohead, or you Red Hot Chili Peppers, or even you U2. How much time have you really spent with “King of Limbs”? A couple spins? More? I’d be impressed if that were true, considering all the other music that has come out. Then there’s newer groups like CSS and the Dum Dum Girls, who have both recently released records with various notifications stating so. I know that CSS released a song or two, but has anyone been talking about the great record that was released only a few weeks ago? The Dum Dum Girls have a new video that was pretty good, but did it make you desperate to hear the new record to go out and get it? Probably not. Even if you downloaded it immediately, where do the Dum Dum Girls fit into your daily soundtrack?
That was my rant portion and it is now over. Here comes my ‘old codger’ conclusion: it ain’t the same as it used to be. For those that remember the times before the digital age, when a band said they were going to release a record after two to three years off people went nuts before they even heard it. This had a lot to do with availability to material. Without the Internet, people had to rely on fan clubs, zines, bootlegs, concerts and camaraderie to get their fix for an artist. People would get all pent up about not hearing anything new for years, having instead to dig for that difficult and muddy-sounding cover song on a live show cassette to feel that extra kick of satisfaction.
When a band actually declared a release date there was pandemonium. The days would tick, tick, tick slower, tiiiiick slooooower, before the day finally arrived. But wait! Some record store nearby has let it be known that if one shows up at midnight on release day they can be one of the first to get the album (kind of reminds of you of those Harry Potter movies, eh?). When Pearl Jam planned to release “Vs.” after the grunge bombshell that was “Ten” blew them up to MTV greatness, all of their fans clamored to get the record. Some, I’m sure, bought the record at midnight, listened to it a few times at home, then finally went to bed (at 5 am). That album, like many others back in the day of completely non-instant access, carried music listeners for weeks if not months. Sure, there was plenty of new music coming out at the time, but to utterly absorb an album was what people did. Nowadays, I don’t think that happens so much before folks move on quickly to even newer stuff.
I’m not saying that everyone is too much in a hurry to vacuum up new music wherever it lies. But hey, I’m even guilty of giving something a spin or two before digging through my stack of discs to listen to. I will say that with the accessibility to mp3s and all those previously difficult to find b-sides, live tracks and cover songs, the wait between new records seems much shorter. When the new record comes out the remixes follow suit, so instead of getting twelve songs in a bubble people are constantly surrounded by music of the band such that the new released sort of blends in. Then, as the new album makes the rounds, people get stuck on a single or two before passing judgment on the record (or smattering of tracks, then rounding up) as a whole. The new album, therefore, is either getting ignored or not listened to enough. I think it’s a shame.
There are other thoughts on the influence of MTV on music in the modern age (nearly nil) in comparison to pre-2000, as well as the power of the hype machine (still there), but I think people need to relax a little bit. If one of your favorite bands releases a record, listen to it a few times in a row. Then take a break for a day. Listen to it a few times more. Then read some lyrics or watch a video or two from the group. Surf over to a discussion board and read what others have to say. Listen to the album again, or skip the tracks you already like and try to ‘get’ the ones you don’t. Find out when they’re coming to town and get some friends interested via chat or a listening party. In a month’s time after release, give the record another spin. Now it’s up to you on whether you want to dig for some b-sides, read an interview or two from the band, or shelve the record. I think that, in this day and age, a month is a solid amount of time to get to know your record.
New albums should be an event, not an expectation you should take for granted. Absorb your music!