It's been a great year on the new-music discovery front but it comes at a bit of a price. I fear for the longevity of all those hook-laden songs built around whistling, hand-claps, vocoder-enhanced vocals and assorted synthesized crashing bleeps. I have been caught up in the era of the Single but I pine for the days of the Album. Back in pre-digital music times, for every throw away "Brimful of Asha" there was a a cozy OK Computer to last you a decade and beyond.
Insert smooth segue here! (so, whatever happened to these questionably practical people-movers anyway?!? Our local constabulary doesn't look like this and I know that because I once called them in the middle of the night to report some gun shots and when they showed up a couple of hours later, they were driving regular cruisers)...
Speaking of "the days of the Album"… REM, and their amazing discography from the 80's and early 90's, soundtracked great chunks of my life. I once made my Mom pick up "Chronic Town" (on cassette of course) prior to visiting me in the isolated Queen Charlotte Islands one summer and then, a couple of days after its release in September, 1987, "Document" provided me with the inspiration/ confidence needed for the long drive to University for the first time.
Like any great album, "Document" matched superb singles ("end of the world…", "the one I love") with solid, soldiering songs that tied the entire musical and lyrical (in this case: government control) themes together expertly. "Document" was also the album that transferred REM's status to that of near U2'ian proportions and this is where interest on the part of the indie kids, myself included, started to slowly slide. When the marbles started coming out of Michael Stipe's mouth and you could begin to understand what he was singing about, as well as when the mandolin was introduced, up came the "please don't sell out" flag.
REM albums were always the sum of its parts. Today, I'm increasingly finding it harder to imagine a great album behind the majority of the stuff I listen to. Unless of course you're talking about (insert not so subtle/ overused reference here) my new favorite band, The Go! Team.
These days I hardly blink when a new REM product is released and I barely recognize Michael Stipe, who was always quirky, anymore. Is it any wonder? Quirky is good. Quirky and a sudden penchant for painted-on masks makes me think of Adam Ant. And that can't be a good thing.
VIDEO Talk about the passion by REM