08 December 2007

Not fade away

Picked up a few 'new' cds, using the term 'new' quite loosely. There are a few groups from my youth that I still religiously follow, and tend to pick up any old bit of rubbish that they release. I am quite worried that in the future this will lead to a Rolling Stones like experience where I park my zimmerframe in front of a 60 year-old Smith and Hyde croaking out Born Slippy at their 40th anniversary reunion tour.

Anyway, the immediate cause of this consternation was the purchase of The Orb's 'Sessions 1 & 2', and 'From the Archives' Vol 1-3 from the Future Sound of London. Both groups, albiet in slightly different line-ups, are still releasing new material; 'Okie Dokie' was the latest from the Orb, and saw a return to a more commercial sound after the flighty 'Cydonia' and 'Bicycles & Tricycles' (both of which I quite liked actually), and FSOL have been pushing the Sitar & Petiole sound with their recent Amorphous Androgynous stuff. The Sessions and Archives releases are basically the bits that never made it on to older albums, and as such are a musical curiosity. Some of the tracks are definitely the precursors to more familiar tunes and can been seen as testing beds. Other tracks are fully formed tracks, but are basically crap.

The problem with releases like these is that they take away the mystery associated with the music, like pulling back the curtain and seeing the small man behind the giant head, pulling the levers. You get to see how much work and effort goes into the albums, and how much was rejected before they hit on the right tracks. While this should be a good thing and make you appreciate the classic tracks all the more, in fact it leaves you with the same sort of sour taste in your mouth that accompanies most live electronica performances; basically 95% of all electronica is the equivalent of interpretative dance and/or mime, fine when performed in the privacy of your own home and a worthy way to generate feelings of self-worth in the creator, but a really nasty thing to inflict upon any other living human being. An audial Sin of Onan, if you will.

I had a similar experience a few years ago when I went to London to see an exhibition of Monet's 20th century works. The exhibition contained a few completed pieces (amazing), but drew heavily on unfinished or practice works for the bulk of the show. I was left with the feeling that Monet had left these unfinished for a reason, and that they were never meant to be shown in public. In a way we were rifling through his sock drawer while he was out of the room, and it felt a little bit voyeuristic. Of course the difference between that exhibition and the 'out-takes' cds is that the cd releases are deliberate, endorsed by the artists, and Monet had no such control.

It also raises questions about the concept of legacy, and how much thought some musicians put in to it. While some guard their work closely, inevitably as they age their high moral ground slips, as evidenced by Bob Dylan not only licensing his music to, but appearing in an ad for, a lingerie company. On the other hand in the late 80's and early 90's Prince recorded several albums worth of material to be locked away in the vaults at Paisley Park, only to be released upon his death, believing (rightly so as it turned out) that he was at his creative peak at that time, and wanting to be remembered for that and not for the fat, bloated, dead-on-a-toilet-in-Vegas wash-out that he is destined to become.

All of this is prompted by an interview I read a while ago with a former editor of NME (possibly Krissi Murison) who talked about the fact that once she hit 34, she was unable to absorb any new music. Her tastes had become fixed and she found herself only buying music from groups she already knew, not a very good trait for a music journalist it must be said. I find myself at a similar point, wondering if I have hit 'Peak Music', that after this there are no new tunes and the pool of music from which I will listen to gets smaller, and smaller, until one by one all my favourite artists are dead or retired, and I find myself inevitably at the front of an all seated concert, tapping my foot along to the slightly muted oomph-oomph-oomph of 'Cowgirl' not because it is good, but because the memory of it is good.

But oh, will that memory be good.


At 10:09 pm, Blogger Niall Murphy said...

So right dude, so right.

OTOH maybe the only hope is to delve into music that you didn't get to listen to first time around when it was released. You can't explore 2007 but 1995 actually has more in it than you knew about at the time...


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