Ive been reading the thread about the Bloc Party album... and it reminded me of this article I wrote for my Uni's indie music mag... so I thought id post it here... and people can comment on how amazing (ly shit, the case may be) it is.


Open up any indie-snob’s phrasebook and sure enough, on the first page, you’ll find the inevitable mantra that your average indie-phile will repeat ad nauseum; “I prefer their earlier, less commercial work”. You have probably heard this phrase blurted out at you hundreds of times. You may have even used it yourself on occasion, perhaps as resistance to prevent yourself being backed into a corner by another indie-snob in full flow wielding the latest Neutral Milk Hotel album. The idea that upon hitting the mainstream, bands suddenly lose their ability to write good music is one that has become such a cliché that no-one has really stopped to wonder if it is in fact true? And if the case… why?

Before continuing, I put forward to you a challenge. Are you able to name any band with at least three studio albums, where each album was notably better than its predecessor? Clearly such a question is skewered by a degree of subjectivity. Blues lovers will obviously prefer the more recent work of BRMC to their earlier efforts, whereas fans of Kraftwerk samples will have noticed a huge improvement in Coldplay’s work circa spring 2005. There are exceptions to the rule, but on the whole this exercise should bring to your attention that fact that for the sheer majority of bands, their best work came at the starts of their careers, often in their debut LP, and they spent the rest of their tenure trying to rekindle these past triumphs while fans collectively sighed at each subsequent effort.

These exceptions are few and far between, with The Beatles and Radiohead often being two who spring to mind that buck the trend of musical depreciation. The truth however is that when we talk of bands of such ilk we are not referring to mere mortals. These artists, and the few like them, are of a different breed, being held up to almost messianic status by their peers. They have constantly evolved their sound and never succumbed to how others defined them, choosing instead to break down the barriers they themselves had previously erected. To compare the majority of your musical collection to these few torchbearers would border on blasphemy; one must of course not forget that even Jesus himself left his best work to the end of his career.

So where do the excuses begin for the rest of the musical fraternity? It is incredibly tempting, one must admit, to lump the majority of the blame at the door of major record labels, radio stations and record shops. It is nothing new to hear people complain about how “the mainstream” goes against the principles of creating good music. One cannot underestimate the effect that a major label breathing down the neck of an emerging band can have. Tales of bands imploding under the pressure of having to produce what everyone in the industry have already labelled their ‘Make-or-Break album’ are a dime a dozen, and the results are rarely pretty with either the music, or the band members suffering dire consequences. This however is just the beginning of what bands must battle with; their problems run deeper.

Perhaps the greatest reason for most band’s debut being heralded as their greatest work is simply that they have spent their whole lives writing their first album. Even great bands take years to establish themselves and record an LP and the fruits of these years become the great songs that define a band that bursts on the scene. Some of these bands are lucky enough for their first album to propel them to the world’s stage; leading to months of global tours, promotional work and festival appearances. Before they know it, they are being ushered back into the studio by their label who want a second album of material, and are sometimes given as little as a few weeks to produce it. Not only that but often the ‘majors’ make the mistake of assuming that the bigger and more expensive the studio, the better the final product. Bands who earn their reputation on an edgy, natural sound are thrown into the deep end of glossy over-production. It is hardly surprising that the results are pale in comparison to the early work.

The upheaval involved with relentless touring and promotion affects more then the music. Many bands’ hardcore support is the result of sincere lyrics based on everyday life that fans can all empathise with, and the bigger the band gets, the less the lives of its members could be accurately described as ‘everyday’. It’s hard to imagine an army of sweaty teenagers singing along as emphatically to an Arctic Monkeys song about sound checking at Reading Festival as opposed to nightclub romance. Even if they did, it would not feel the same coming from an indie-superstar as from the puny teenager who once stood before them. Size of venues change bands, comparing the Muse of today to the Muse of old will show the transition from acute alt-rock to arena-rock of hyperbolic proportions. Ask yourself if you’d rather see a gig at the Ice Arena or at The Social? The answer is easy, but once bands leave the intimacy of small venues behind, they no longer write songs that capture the imaginations of their original fan base.

The sad truth is, the majority of bands simply do not have enough ideas to spread over the whole career. One amazing piece of musical enlightenment is often enough for most bands to make it big, and as the army of post-libertines indie gangs have shown, even one original idea is not always necessary. One look at the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Razorlight and you realise that these are bands that happened to produce the perfect debut album at the perfect time, but what was once fresh and exciting, quickly becomes unoriginal and stale. It is an inevitable fact of life that some bands, like most things in life, will simply never be as good as they once were; so cherish your debut albums… no-one can ever take them away from you.
Originally posted by guitarkid27
RobbieMac2002 gives good advice.
Interesting. I am not sure i agree 100%, as i rarely agree with anything 100 % :P

I think some of it is fan expectations and "snobbery" if you will.

A lot of the new crop of rock fans seem to equate success with "selling out", even if the band in question has not changed their approach to music one iota.

While it's true that most debute albums contain the strongest material culled over the years suffered as a "starving musician" ( and, let's face it, you can't duplicate 5-10 years of living your life on deadline of 1 year or less.. ), there are many bands that have made amazing records on their second attempt, and beyond.

But i would be happy with a good debute album, and if i had to wait 2-3 years to make a follow up, so be it.
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Angelus Mortem
Wow...great and so true.
Originally Posted by evening_crow
Quoting yourself is cool.

WARNING: I kill threads.
Quote by Angelus Mortem

But i would be happy with a good debute album, and if i had to wait 2-3 years to make a follow up, so be it.

Thanks for reading it all heh... and i do realise its slightly biased and over the top in places, but the editor gave me free reign to be subjective :P

I think the point i quoted is a major one. The truth is... most bands cement their place in the limelight with an average 2nd album released quickly... as opposed to an amazing 2nd album released 2/3 years later. Im sure record labels have a lot to do with it... a band rides a wave... and they feel that if the 2nd album isnt released before the wave hits the shore then they will kind of have to start a whole new wave to create hype for the 2nd album.

does that make sense? I hope i described that right.
Originally posted by guitarkid27
RobbieMac2002 gives good advice.
So true, and if you pay attention, most bands will have a mediocre/average 2nd album after a great debut one. Most likely they have to face the new pressure and end up with an album that wasn't what they wanted. By the third they're kinda settled in and are more used to the whole production thing.
Originally Posted by evening_crow
Quoting yourself is cool.

WARNING: I kill threads.
I blame the A&R guys, they're generally the ones that get to choose where the band records and who produces the album. But the main problem is the fact that these bands without the natural ability to write get chucked into studios too quickly. In the 60s/70s there used to be songwriters that could churn out a batch of 10 tracks that were top notch (mainly because there wasn't quite as much that had to go into them at the time), and maybe these days we've become used to things having to be thought out too much, and extra little bits added in to fill out songs. Maybe we should in part blame dance music.
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Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about bullsh*t in order to be comfortable?

That's when you know you found somebody special. When you can just shut the f*ck up for a minute, and comfortably share silence.

It's so true it hurts.

you should post that on the UG articles
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very good, i agree with it for the most part, probably cause i'm always complaining about these types of things. couldn't have wrote it better myself

Comparing Radiohead and The Beatles to Jesus was way over the top, but good article nonetheless, with some interesting points.
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