Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Old Albums With New Ears

When I start my own music magazine --- to be titled Noise Mark Enjoys, or NME for short....what?.....really?....well, they can't prove they thought it up first, I'll sue their asses off --- my first order of business will be to institute delayed reviews. Forget this business of reviewing an album in its first week of release. My critics would only review records after listening to them for a minimum of three months. Albums need time to grow on you. You need to think about them, analyze them, examine each track, let it breathe as if you were examine a bottle of fine wine.

This is why some of my old music posts and music-themed Listamanias make me slightly cringe. One's opinion of a disc can vary wildly from listen to listen. For example, take Hail to the Thief. I've been on a Radiohead kick after attending their recent Toronto concert, and thus went through my entire Radiohead collection for a fresh listen. HTTT is an album that I've listened to three times in my life. The first time, when it was released in 2003, I disliked it heavily and thought it was a sign that Radiohead's increasingly electronic direction would doom them. Now, in fairness, this first listen came in my pizza delivery days, so listening to an album in your car's CD player while constantly stopping and starting to make deliveries is probably not the most accurate way of gauging its quality. The second listen, probably over a year later, was no better. And then the album literally sat on my shelf for over four years until I listened to it again last week. Surprise surprise, this time I enjoyed it. Was i partially influenced by the live versions still ringing in my head from the concert? Quite probably, but then again, my two preferred songs on the album were ones that Radiohead didn't play live --- A Punch-Up At A Wedding and Backdrifts. So, in summation, sorry Hail To The Thief. You were in the gulag of my musical opinions for far too long for no good reason. You're the Nelson Mandela of Radiohead's discography.

Fresh listens can change things both for the better and for the worse. For example, I also recently re-listened to Amnesiac, and it moved right in to take HTTT's spot as Radiohead's worst album.* Just a bunch of atmospheric nonsense. I think I've made this argument before, but Radiohead probably would've been better served in taking the best (a.k.a. the only good) 2-3 tracks from Amnesiac and putting them onto Kid A to make one uber-record. They could've found room on Kid A by cutting the uselessness that is Treefingers. This is a personal beef of mine, and it may sound odd from someone who enjoys so many bands that are produced by Brian Eno, but I can't stand so-called 'atmospheric' tracks that give an album 'depth' or 'help set the mood' for the next track. Just put on a fucking song. Melody, verses, words, it isn't that hard. If you have a 10-track record and two of the tracks are atmospheric instrumentals, then that's just a waste of everyone's time.

* = Excluding Pablo Honey, since nobody really counts that one anymore, including the band itself. That would be like discovering that Wilt Chamberlain's first time was a minute long due to adolescent pre-ejac and thus using this to disqualify him from a list of the world's greatest ladies' men.

There was also a non-Radiohead related re-listen I recently (so many R words!) undertook. I wasn't a big fan of the Killers' 'Sawdust' collection of b-sides because, well, I thought the tracks were too b-sidable to have deserved a release. My latest experience with the album has made me realize that it's a lot closer to par with the Killers' album-quality tracks, though this is perhaps faint praise given that I'm not as keen on the Killers's A-sides as I once was. Sam's Town got a strong thumbs-up from me when I first heard it, but that's an album that hasn't aged well. I'll be interested in hearing the Killers' next disc to see how they continue to try to get around the fact that Brandon Flowers isn't much of a singer and (even worse) his voice is pretty uninteresting.

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