Friday, November 25, 2011

OPINION: Music Evolves

by Mark Gillis

I’ll start off by saying that this is a response to the latest needledrop question about whether or not music evolving is a good thing. I think the question is pretty straightforward but if you want a little bit of context behind what I’m talking about then give this video a watch

So with the intro stuff out of the way let’s jump right into the question at hand, do I want the music I listen to to evolve. For me the simple answer is yes. I think that a large part of why following music is so fun for me is because I get to watch bands evolving before my eyes. I also don’t think I have the attention span to listen to the same sounds over and over again without getting bored. So in short, yes, I think it’s necessary for music to evolve to keeps things interesting.

Now that my short answer is out of the way I can elaborate a little bit more on the subject. While I do think that evolution for a band is good, I think that it’s good to a certain extent. For example my favourite band by far is Sunset Rubdown. If Spencer Krug were to come out tomorrow and announce that Sunset Rubdown is releasing an experimental black metal/dubstep album I’m not too sure how excited I’d be about it. One part of me would be intrigued because it's a new album from my favourite band but I think deep down I’d wonder what the hell is going on. It wouldn’t feel quite right to me.

Now I know what I said in the last paragraph is extreme hyperbole but it helps me get the point across that I still think bands need to forge a certain identity. Even as a band evolves musically I still feel that there needs to be a certain characteristic about them that keeps me coming back album after album. If a band changes their sound so drastically from album to album that I can’t really recognize who they are then I don’t think I really have any reason to be a fan of them. For me they would just get completely lost in the vast ocean of musical genres.

Now Anthony mentioned a lot of common complaints that you hear when a band’s sound evolve. That immediately made me think of one thing that I hear time and time again as a compliment to bands. That thing is that the band “went back to their roots”. I just think hearing that again and again really speaks to how much a lot of people want bands to remain the same. I usually call it “first album syndrome”. Yes, I diagnose a band with first album syndrome when they come out with a debut album that is adored by everyone, and then they change. People still crave the sounds from that first album though, no matter if the new direction of the band is good or not, people just seem to hate the change.

I think the prime example of this is Weezer. The Blue Album and Pinkerton are known as two of the best albums of the 90s while everything after those two albums are mostly considered to be... not so good. Personally I find this to be the case with Arctic Monkeys. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not has so much raw energy to it, while with their newest album they’ve opted for a more toned down blues rock sound. I have to admit that I’m guilty of just wanting them to go back 5 years and sound like Whatever They Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, even though I know that will never be that case.

That gets me to a point that when anyone is reviewing an album, it’s incredibly tough to avoid having your thoughts be influenced by a bands previous work. In an ideal world I think we’d just be able to look at an album and judge it free of the context of the band’s prior albums. It can be so easy to get bogged down with comparisons to previous albums that sometimes all we end up doing is comparing an album to the bands other albums rather than taking it as a single entity and commenting on it as such.

So in conclusion, bands need to evolve to keep advancing music. A stagnant music scene is one that I wouldn’t want to be a part of. With that being said, I think it’s important not to get bogged down by a bands previous efforts when judging a new album. Sure, they can be a good reference point when talking about an album but I don’t think they should be an entire argument. We just need to accept the music that a band puts out for exactly what it is and stop complaining about what it isn’t.

You can follow Mark Gillis @Mark__Gillis

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