the tanner ba'

WeeFuse’s Virtual Turntable: Why, just why?

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(What follows is rambling, incoherent, and despite my insistence on using the word over and over again, doesn’t really have a “point,” ENJOY!)

Musicians are artists and as such it is their right to do whatever the hell they want with their skills, to push boundaries, explore new styles, etc., that is how art is made.  Some groups are so good at getting the most out of their skills that, as a appreciator and consumer of music you forget that they are branching out right before your eyes because you are so mesmerized by the talent on display.  Whenever I think of the group that did the best at this, I think of the Clash.  The Clash are the greatest punk band of all time (look it up) not because of their sound, but because of their approach.  Whatever style they adopted was done 100% and was done with complete sincerity and authenticity.  They refused to remain within the narrow definition of “punk” music and in doing so, made themselves, if you’ll forgive the awful grammar, the “punkest.”  The Clash didn’t just switch things up from album to album or from “Side A” to “Side B,” they made 180 degree turns from song to song.

For example, the group’s album Sandinista (released in December of 1980) opens up with this hip hop inspired gem:

The very next song?  An homage to the “Motown”/girl group sound of the 1960s:

The point of all of that was it is not inherently problematic for a group/artist to grow and change and explore even at a rapid pace- if it is done well and if it makes sense in the context of the group or musician’s oeuvre.  This is, for example, why an album like U2’s 1997 dud Pop is so jarring.  For better or worse, U2 had a reputation as an authentic and (painfully) earnest band so to hear them embrace the superficiality of disco, electronica, etc. just made no sense to at least this listener.  It should come as no surprise that Pop was a “one off” and that it was followed in the U2 discography by the much more U2-ish “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.”  Sometimes, I think, a band just needs to accept that it’s good at a certain thing and stick with it, like, oh, I don’t know, the freakin’ Ramones!

Here’s another example from hardcore punk/alternative GOD, Bob Mould who did this with his group Sugar in 1994:

And then, albeit gradually, morphed into this on his own two albums later.

Mould’s “dabbling” with dance/electronic music lasted, on and off, for about eight years (and was tied to his growing into his now public life as a gay man, so I cut him a bit of slack in this case) and several albums before he, again, gradually, “came back,” with an explanation…an apology?…for his departure from the “norm.”  Here are the lyrics and the song (italics mine):

I started out so starry-eyed
Full of hope and wonder
And I wore flowers in my hair
Not aware I’d been defiled
(Every time I see you) I know it’s going down
(How can I believe you?) Karma comes around
I know this ride, you must be there by my side
You going down, I must be descending
I didn’t want to play the song
That gave people so much hope
I turned my back and turned away
Here’s the rope that made me choke
(Every time I see you) I know it’s going down
(How can I believe you?) Karma comes around
You can see it in my eyes
You can read it on my face
You can hear it as I cry
God, I hope it’s not too late
Can I try to make it up to you somehow?
Can I try to make it up to you somehow?
Now my race is finally run
And as I tumble to the Sun
All these dreams I can’t achieve
Brought me crashing to my knees
My descent has now begun
All the music left undone
My world, it is descending

It could be about a relationship with a lover, but it could also be the relationship with his audience. (Either way, this song ROCKS!)

Alright, I’ve made my point.  Here’s what’s really bothering me.  How do you go from this retro, rockabilly, western swing, tattooed, Jack White-produced nugget about sweaty sex…

…to this neo-hippie, New Age, Lillith Fair nonsense?

Somewhere, Edie Brickell is dodging blows from Paul Simon and thinking about getting the band back together.

Seriously, what was that!?   Granted, I’ve not heard anything else from this album (it comes out on the 24th of this month), but I find it hard to believe that it’s going to be anything like her first album.

In the end, this all stems from a group radically changing its style and embarrassing me in front of my best friend.

In 2011 my best friend Dan and I went to Memphis for our annual bonding weekend.  We had a GREAT time, let there be no mistake about that. but what would have made it an even BETTER time would have been if the tickets we bought to see this:

Had not “treated” us to this instead:

Would it surprise you to learn that there are persistent rumors that the band’s new “direction” came from not from the members of the band, but from their record company?  That it was suggested as a way to boost sales?  That one of the members left the band because she couldn’t get on board with the new style?

So yeah, we sat down at the Hi-Tone Cafe (Elvis Presley’s former karate dojo– seriously!) expecting a rollicking good time with a “girl group” doing honky tonk versions of old Carter Family songs and original material and instead got just one of thousands of brooding, kinda gothy, noisy, college radio friendly bands.  I’m not even saying that their new style is bad- though it kinda sounds like I am- just that it was some serious “bait and switch” and that their style change went from very original to very vanilla.  And that made me sad.  And angry.

So that’s why I’m angry.

Today at least.

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This entry was posted on October 15, 2014 by in Random, Site Business.
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