Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spin The Black Circle: You Can Shove Your Concept Albums...


I really like that “Chris Gaines” album- Said by no one EVER

I hate concept albums/rock operas. More or less detest them save for a infinitesimal few records.
Which also is not to say that I don't love songs from these type of records, I just hate the bloated ideas and pedestrian indulgences that come from them. These usually are spawned out of a musician becoming an "artist". 
As Gene Simmons of Kiss once said, "You're an artist? Then paint my house bitch" 

Be it Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell", The Who's "Tommy", Coheed and Cambria's entire catalog or Marilyn Manson's... well anything they have released aside from "Smells Like Children", listening to these concept albums are asinine and most often boring. 
I realized how much I despise this type of musical endeavor from being subjected to Meatloaf's aforementioned album from 1977 while at work.
It's a overblown story having something to do with teenagers fucking in a car and getting married. All I hear when that plays is like 9 minutes of Meatloaf simply singing "like a bat outta heeeeeellllllllll!!" over and over.
 Fucking bleh!
"Tommy" from The Who, being the story of a blind, deaf, and mute pinball genius( pinball seriously?) who becomes a latter day jesus which to me proves that people are dumb and put faith in the stupidest things. And if I remember correctly there is also an insinuation of a molesting uncle in there somewhere too.(though maybe I'm still thinking about some Marilyn Manson song but i digress) 
The only song that is halfway memorable is "Pinball Wizard" otherwise I couldn't tell you how a single song goes from that album. 
I get too exhausted trying to follow the narrative.
Oh, while mentioning "Tommy" I have to throw out there Green Day's "American Idiot" which if Billie Joe Armstrong is really honest, is nearly an exact rip-off of "Tommy". And like "Tommy" there is only one memorable song so named after the album from which it is spawned. 

When I was 15 I was dumb enough to think that Marilyn Manson's "Antichrist Superstar" was some work of genius. FALSE!
As the years have progressed I've come to understand that it is some lame attempt to channel Alice Cooper, the Devil and the Christian view of the apocalypse all flattened together to make a fruit roll up of a shock rock story of again some other type of cult-ish figure. 
I dunno what it is with all these band's obsession with messiah figures. I'll let someone else psychoanalyze, I just wanna spew vitriol that they do. 
Oh another shit-tastic concept album is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and talk about over hyped. Absolutely wretched to endure.
Oh fuck, that Angels and Airwaves band, pure musical masturbation as so many concept albums are.
Last one I will pick on is Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. They reason it is so lauded I think is because when people are in high school and start to experiment with drugs they are told from older kids how amazing it is. It isn’t. Its at best a record with one great song and then you have to listen to the rest and to make matters worse, which seems somewhat common with concept albums, it is a two disc or multiple vinyl record. So much unnecessary bravado that it was spewed past just one disc.

I'm sure this sounds like an Ipod generation pissing and moaning about not wanting to listen to an entire album. Perhaps a child of singles who are too hyper-active that can’t understand the value of “art form” of an extended story. Very much not the case, I actually enjoy listening to an LP from beginning to end. I absolutely enjoy it when a record has a cohesive flow to it. 
Starts up and builds then cools it down before bringing back to a great ending. A sonic rollercoaster if you will. That’s a great thing and so many bands can accomplish just that without having to stoop to concept albums. Thematic elements can make a record a classic but without stroking the musicians ego to the point of decadence.

For instance, AC/DC's "Back in Black" is basically entirely about getting pussy but it isn't a stupid story about getting laid. Similar themes yet not necessarily having to listen to the entire album to understand idea of chasing tail. 
Also the Replacements made great music which could be said that a fair amount of the songs have similar themes but they never indulged in musical masturbation. Even though Paul Westerberg is an extremely song writer he never let his ego outweigh what the band was about.

What bugs me the most is when a band mistakes a common thread linking the songs with having to make some epic statement. If you want to tell a story write a damn book or a fucking screen play, then maybe I'll care because that way they have editors that can give criticisms before it makes it to print. Concept albums strike me as a songwriter convincing him or herself that their grandiose ideas are good. Almost always they aren't. 

There are a few of these type of musical endeavor that I do enjoy, Weezer’s “Pinkerton” is one, can be enjoyed on a level of a great emo/rock record but then you can see the songs together as a updated version of M. Butterfly. I do not remember the band making a big deal of this, they just kind of let the audience figure it out for themselves.
I dig “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” which is one of the most famous concept albums and has probably inspired tons of terrible attempts of bands creating their own “Ziggy Stardust”. I really like this album because nearly every song on the album can be heard singularly and not get lost in in the overall message of the album. Perfect job of straddling  that line of intent without being bastardizing the experience.

Here are a just couple others that I can exempt from my hatred:

Modest Mouse “We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank”
The Lawrence Arms- “The Greatest Story Ever Told”
Arcade Fire “ The Suburbs”

Lastly I want to re-iterate that hating a concept album does not mean that I don’t like songs off of them, just that the idea on a whole fucking blows.
I’m not gonna for shame anyone who enjoys these as god  knows they have their reasons but I just find those records to be one or two decent to great songs and the rest is just wasting time and space.
Oh and I’m also not saying in the least that albums without concepts behind them aren’t also completely fucking dreadful. Those horrible ear rapes are another rant altogether.

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