are albums a dying language?

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the mixed blessing of technology is now anyone can run their trinkets up the flagpole.
don’t get me wrong..
it’s great that folk can now readily cultivate and show their artistic side..it’s things like that which drag us above our animal state.
after all..learning to paint or write a song has the potential to fine tune the worst of societies bruts.

it seems trouble starts with the attention…
there’s a honeymoon period where a bedroom artist is full of unconditional love…
this is a fine mode,cause intentions are pure,and the relationship between would be artist and audience is as it should be.
but then all that sweet attention allows self importance to seep like bad gas through the floorboards …
and before you know it,the little beast thinks he can make money by scaffolding a mediocre album together…
the toxicity reaches its peak level when he or she starts licking the arse of every tom dick and harry on the internet to listen or buy,or worse still…PAY to have their album of underdeveloped songs rendered professional n’all, in a luxy mastering studio…
and then there’s the non biodegradable discs he’ll insist on making, that’ll inevitably get left sitting in some garage somewhere.
he just wants to hold a round disc in his hand with artwork to make himself feel like an artiste.
but for me these very essays are the artwork and liner notes.

the really sad thing about the tired album process is there’ll be some genuinely talented ones who’ll engage in this dying business mode.
they’ll go the full hog and spend money to employ a publicist to help set themselves with their album on fire.
but the trouble with setting yourself on fire is, fires go out , and are very hard to relight.
in these days i’m fairly sure maintaining a below the radar stealth is way more effective in the long run,than any old school promotional campaign.
making music without making albums keeps things nicely open ended.

these old dogs called albums..
the only reason they ever existed in the first place was the then technology and commerce suggested it.
albums were not born out of artistic intent…
sure we have sgt peppers, and dark side of the moon popularising the format,
but for the best part…lets face it,it was just a way for record labels to bring in all that extra lolly.
mostly it was the gorgeous and sacred single that gave albums their oxygen.
but now the very environment we live in is at odds with the album.

brian eno,who i’m forever quoting said an interesting thing about musicians…
“they focus too heavily on the inside of the music..tech…gear…musical chops…
strangely unaware of the work they need to do outside the music”.
they’re all about technology,or figuring being a D.I.Y artist is about being your own business man…
for me it’s not that at all….being a D.I.Y artist is about cutting loose so you’re free to actually say something.
saying something in music was always the main thing..and the artists who do that, do much work outside the music…
they assess the mood of their times,and then bring that back inside of the music.
but many get duped by technology…
the computer gets the drums tight by itself,and the dweeb sits there nodding his head, feeling like a sodding record producer…
but turn down the volume,and stand back,and there’s usually very little there…only the cliches thrown up by the very technology itself…there’s no central drama.
this is the stuff of many a bedroom music maker….*head honcho of rusty nuts records*

for nearly two decades i was signed to a fairly big music publisher..they had everyone from tom petty to the stax catalogue..micheal jacksons writers…all these geese laying golden eggs…
i came into their office one day,and the mainman was wading through this big rubbish pile of songs i’d just written,
he told me about one of his best songwriters,and how he’s maybe only deliver two songs a year…
…and both of those songs would end up as huge hits..
i have never forgotten that….anyone can assemble twelve neat, yet shyte songs…but try writing just one fabulous hit!…
in decades i still haven’t done it.
if an artist accepts that albums are indeed dead language,it means he or she can gently raise their own bar by focusing on one song at a time,
instead of taking on this huge task of making albums, and spreading themselves thin,he or she could aim for greatness…
by just homing in on one song at a time,
humbly given away for free,to keep the relationship between artist and audience pure,
that way you might gain rise, born out of stealth and love for what you do,then maybe money might come through in all sorts of obtuse ways.
there’s so much dead language that musicians could unlearn…
but musicians are terrible with change…
you’ve only got to watch soundcloud or youtube update their websites,and the musicians cry like babies..they don’t like change.
true artists relish change.they’re perverse enough to enjoy the chaos of it

this post may make me unpopular with some musicians or artists or music producers or whatever they call themselves, but i’m wayyy more brutal on myself than i am on those i’m observing.
i’ve thought about this for a while now,and in my heart i feel generous sharing it.
i hope it’s useful to someone.

i will leave you with a song i recorded 25 years ago….i usually only fly by my newer material,
but this old dear seems somehow apt in its title.
naturally it failed…
a piece of music making comment on music is pretty much bound to short circuit itself.
don’t read me wrong,it’s better than a lot of the tripe that finds its way on to the internet,
but good,beyond the bedroom is of little consequence in this day and age…the only thing of any consequence now is greatness..
as i type,there are folk only a plane ride away ducking bullets…so for me it’s simply a privilege in this life to be making music at all.

with love as always

mary of the wilderness.

haircut time

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14 Responses to are albums a dying language?

  1. Clay H says:

    I’m so glad you posted that gem. I’m one of probably 6 in the US who own a copy of Strong at Broken Places, and that’s my favourite track. I miss the days when artists made art–when an album was a cohesive statement, flowing from start to finish, tied together by theme.

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    • hi clay…i would say out of all the albums ever made, maybe the smallest cluster were the cohesive statements you describe……such a small ratio…in reality they were mostly ten to twelve tracks strung together,and in the best, having some possible hit singles embedded among the lesser material…..things are better now,it just takes time for folk to realise and get used to it….good songwriting is good songwriting,albums or no albums,and that hopefully will never go away…the song is the thing….much love to you chaps!

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  2. Julie Rex says:

    This is why I love you mary xXx

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  3. Peter Routley says:

    I’m still a big fan of albums but I think a classic album should be maybe just 8 or 10 tracks. So many modern albums, in my opinion, are way too long. Just because technology means the space is available doesn’t mean you have to fill every last second of it folks.

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    • hi peter…certainly the best of albums were real short…i think beatles revolver or rubber soul weighed in at under 25 minutes,which is probably the length of a modern day E.P…but i like how the audience curates their own playlists now…for me that replaces the album…and folks spotify/itunes playlists are are often way more interesting than any newly released album……..give my love to lindsay ,and i hope there’s no flooding where you are this year…email me if you want to meet up if you both come up to london when the weather softens out. xxx

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  4. Bren says:

    Hi Mary
    Still think you sell yourself short when it comes to songs
    I dont have the way with words you have. I would dearly love to put down on paper any of the words you have strung together over the years
    I go back to The Perfect Crime and more importainly the Think of Swans album
    This was my album. I lived Strawberries

    “one fabulous hit!…”
    This is where I feel you disrespect the album
    What a marketing man or someone interested in the financial returns forgets that its how a person feels about a song, the memories it evokes which makes it a personal hit
    Without that plastic platter I would never have got to know you and the beautiful songs you write and sing
    in decades i still haven’t done it. I would argue ‘Whatever Turns You On’ just rubbishes that statement
    If you were to bring out an album of silence I would happily buy it

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    • hi bren…the music will continue in whatever format…and i’m lucky that there are folk like you who still have time for what i do after all these years…y’know i don’t disrespect the album bren…it’s just that i respect the future and all its new possibilities even more…i HAVE to,or i’ll just gather dust in a new world….so great to hear from someone who knows my history….thanks for writing.

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  5. Bren says:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply I know that formats have to change and the way an artist connects with like minded people has to change
    I still love the album and anyone lucky to be old enough to remember the buzz from sliding a new album out of the sleave and the placing it gently on the turntable
    Placing the needle on that groove and sitting back and soaking it all up
    Musicians were more godlike in those days
    They worked hard to get there .. practice .. tour…practice… tour … single….tour and on and on
    Now its instant stardom
    (I’m very old school)
    I feel that if someone is taking the time and personal effort to produce a song or a book or whatever then they deserve reward or paid or recognition
    By placing music on an album or disc or whatever produces a lasting testemony to the art
    Its like a picture….it needs a medium to be displayed
    I cant do that with a MP3 or an i-tune or any other form of digital media
    So I’m saying dont forget the old stuff
    You went off the radar a few times over the years and I missed that
    Please keep the blogs and the words going

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  6. Zelle says:

    I like what you had to say here and I like what you have to say in your current music, say away. I think the DIY artist should be in it for the music, the melody and what sounds good to them. Tell the story they want to tell and just produce what their ears want. Much Love, Zelle

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  7. Andy Evans says:

    Hi Greg it’s a very long time since you spoke to me Andy Evans but you may remember me through Rod Wallace who was the keyboards player in your band back in 1985 which was all admittedly a very long time ago!
    I still remember those times with great fondness when you had just released Think Of Swans which I still rate as a bloody great album and you did a tour of the universities with your band, needless to say Rod still remembers it all very well too. Rod is nowadays living up in Epping in Essex and I am living in Bristol. I am not sure where you are based in London but it would be great to get back in touch and maybe we can all meet up some time. If you fancy doing so let me know and you can contact me on andyevans62@hotmail.co.uk or give me a call on 07807 776436.
    I hope you do get in contact as it would be great to see you again.

    Cheers

    Andy

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    • hi andy…of course i remember you…and rod was a delight to play music with…i think the last time i saw you was at the mean fiddler at one of my performances, or maybe it was the university of london students union round gower st….i’ve often thought of rod and wondered how he is and what he’s doing…i hope he still plays piano,cause he has real musical style,and both of you were very funny too…..i’ll ring or write soon…maybe we can meet in town for drinks or perhaps you can both come out here to the house…what a lovely surprise to hear from you andy ..it’ll be great to hear what you’re both up to these days….are you still doing quantum physics or whatever it was?…i remember you being a brainy box[though fun with it]…give my warmest regards to rod.

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  8. Andy evans says:

    Hi Greg thanks for the reply and great that you remember me and rod. I eventually ended up as a solicitor and have been in the game for nigh on 21 years which is a frightening thought!
    Many years ago I did a masters degree in music industry management which was good fun but I never followed up properly a career as an entertainment lawyer although I still maintain a keen interest in entertainment law as I do general commercial contracts work, so I am happy to attempt to answer any queries you or colleagues have free of charge so can’t say fairer than that!
    I hope rod gets in contact with you as whilst he has not pursued a music career he still loves his music and it would be really interesting for us all to meet up and talk over times you were in the band together and what happened to you afterwards, as I gather from reading about you that your musical direction changed quite radically over the intervening years.
    I think the pieces you write on your site are extremely interesting, sometimes a bit cheeky but always done with a humorous twist. Keep up the good work mate, it is reassuring to know that there are still genuine artists like you out there who continue to plough their own furrow and don’t give a shit about whether they are “commercially” successful according to the conventional wisdom.
    Cheers
    Andy

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