Sunday, September 17, 2006

Foggy Music

I did something the other day I'd not done in a long, long time. I smoked a cigarette.


Ha. Just foolin' y'all. That there's a joke. It's been a little over four years since I put down the cancer sticks, and I haven't really looked back. (Incidentally, I know of only two, perhaps three people that read this that would have actually cared if I in fact DID smoke a cigarette, and I don't know - I guess I just felt like making their eyes widen in disbelief for a second. Whatever. Call me cruel.) No, what I actually did was something a little more mundane. I sat down for about an hour and listened to an album - in it's entirety.

I know, can you believe it? Who listens to ENTIRE ALBUMS anymore? Well, few people I guess, but that's the point. I used to listen to full-length albums all the time. In fact, during my late teens and early twenties, I was usually good for an album a day. Often times, I would listen to the same album on consecutive days - particularly if it was a new release (I must have listened to Achtung Baby alone for three weeks straight) - but I made the effort. It wasn't so much that I would set time out of my day to do it. It just sort of happened. I'd come home, and if I had nothing to do, I'd throw an album on. Hell, even if I had something to do I'd throw something on in the background, and more often than not I'd find myself getting sucked back into the music, ignoring whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. In short, I was a music freak.

I still am, I guess, but I'm a freak of a different nature (ha, ha, ha) and, I must confess, a bit of a worried one. You see, back in those halcyon days between 18-24, I worked in radio and saw lots of live bands, and although you might well have said, "Hey man, that Eric guy knows music like it's his friggin' JOB" in a tone of slight jest, you'd have been correct anyway. It WAS my job, and I knew lots of stuff about lots of types of music. In fact, it was something I was rather proud of. Radio being what it is, however, you can know everything about every band ever plus all of their lyrics and still barely crack $8.00 an hour. So, I put down the microphone and CD's and pursued a career in computers instead (and in retrospect, after seeing the money in that field, I probably should have just stuck with radio. I'm kidding, yes, but kind of not, too) and although it was considerably more difficult to follow the music scene with a career in technology, I still made every effort to keep music as an integral part of my life.

So, why am I worried? Because I think I'm losing my luster a bit. You see, making the effort to keep music a part of your life and actually doing that are two different things indeed, and a case could be made that I haven't been very successful with the latter. The album I just listened to is a perfect example. It was the 2000 debut release from a band called The New Pornographers entitled Mass Romantic - and quite frankly I thought it sucked (the first tune was fantastic, but it was mostly downhill from there.) But here's the problem(s.) I've had this album for six years - SIX YEARS - and prior to two days ago I'd listened to it a whopping one time. You'd think if I were going to realize an album was crap, I'd have done it a little more quickly. I don't remember what I thought about it the first time I listened to it either, which is unfortunate, because I probably could have saved myself the trouble and skipped it this time around (I am usually not one of those people that can warm up to an album with multiple listenings. If I listen to an album at least twice - and I do mean listen, not do laundry while an album is running in the background - and I don't like it, chances are very slim I'll start liking it on a 3rd or 4th listen. Few people are like that, really. I think that whole "you'll need to listen to it multiple times" excuse is just used by people searching for approval and who want you to love their favorite band.)

Secondly - and here's the disturbing part - this album was a chore to listen to. I kept checking the track listing to see if it were at all close to being finished and finally breathed a little sigh of relief once it was. But, I don't blame the album here. I blame me. This type of thing NEVER happened back when I listened to music regularly. Even if I hated an album, I almost always had the patience to listen to it through. More importantly, I trusted my judgment. If I thought it was bad, then I thought it was bad, and that was all there was to it. Now though, I listen to an album, decide I don't like it and wonder if there's something wrong with me because everyone else does (Mass Romantic was adored by many critics.)

I blame a lot of things. Me (although I mentioned that before - no need to turn this into a post about self-loathing), but also iTunes, Yahoo Music, Rhapsody, etc, etc... All of a sudden, we've become a listening public obsessed with singles again. Instead of appreciating an entire album as a piece of work, we listen to the best song off of an album and ignore the rest. I'm just as guilty as anyone else. A quick look at my iPod will reveal countless mixes and playlists I've made for myself which are, essentially, my favorite songs in a row - usually categorized by genre or theme. Almost none of these playlists features multiple songs by a single band. The recording industry has realized this too and has subsequently started churning out albums with one good song on them, and the rest essentially crap filler (don't believe me? Pick up Beyonce's newest release.)

So, is it me or the music? Tough to answer, I guess. Since I've gotten older and seemingly have less time, I have a much smaller tolerance for bad songs. Or, it could just be that I'm out of practice. If I get into the habit of listening to music again, will I become more appreciative of it? That depends on the quality of the recording being produced, I suppose. A bad album is a bad album any way you look at it. I think I need to sit on this for a little while and keep this experiment going. I hope further research reveals that, in time, I'll get my music mojo back. For God's sake, my happiness is at stake!

Of course, it could have just been a bad album.


Blogger Jesse Anna Bornemann said...

Re: your first quote a friend - "Woah! You gave me a start! Don't do that again!"

I doubt your music mojo is in any great danger. You seem to be resisting bad Bob Seger verse fairly well.

7:18 PM  

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