Is the debut album cursed?
Many reviewers have said this, all a lot more experienced than this one, but an old idea is a good idea; bands have their whole life to record their first album, no-one is listening and much of the time no-one is waiting for it.
You are some indie bloke still naïve enough to ignore anyone in the room with a cynical world-weary view of the music industry. In time you either become the cynic or you drop out due to the weight of the rather large chip on your shoulder because your band didn’t get the attention you feel it deserved.
The select few are able to go above all that, if you are very lucky or perhaps a surviving Beatle, you transcend that and from that point on yours is the power and the glory forever and ever. At that point, you record what you want, went you want to, maybe even perhaps on your own record label named after a little-known track from the first edition of your first album, as an in-joke with the true fans who have been down the road and back with you and your music many times. For the rest of the bands, the first album is at once both illuminating and sad.
Illuminating because it is a sound based on nothing but attitude, I have these songs and they are good. Listen, don’t listen…either way you decide.
Sad because it marks a departure point for the band’s sound at the very point they make impact. Oasis and The Stone Roses are two that have crumbled under the weight of trying to recapture their first albums. Oasis are still trying, The Roses’ had the decency to stop and leave us with a legacy. Others, such as David Bowie, for example have refused to play earlier, perhaps more acceptable hits, in a pursuit of frontier chasing to match that of the Starship Enterprise, always forward thinking. Sometimes this is not a wise move as it only brings home the fact that their new songs are not up to the old standard. When new material sends you back yearning for the early stuff, it is a bad thing.
Billy Joel will never ever record another music collection, other than perhaps classical instrumentals, again. At this point he feels he has nothing more to say and he would simply be repeating himself with an ever depreciating quality mark. Who are we to argue with William. He has become the Piano Man, literally, lumping his piano up and down the United States and sometimes elsewhere, to packed houses and appreciative crowds (funnily enough though not at the MEN Arena recently). I would still sell my nan’s last water tablet on ebay to fund a ticket to see his concert but I am terminally annoyed by him for the stance he has taken. There are some acts you would like to see do more and there are some that stopped having anything useful to say years ago and simply play the old hits. I believe it was John Lennon who said it would be something approaching a bad idea to be singing Beatles songs when you are fifty. Paul? Sir, he is looking in your direction. Having said that, I have seen the Macca live and although he does the hits and should fall into the criticised category, recall the hits, with that band and his others and you will understand why Sir Paul is one of the transcendent artists, most of the time. Some of the studio output from him is poor at best and serves as an example of why going beyond successful is not always a good thing. People around you lose the ability to disagree.
But at least for debut album every one is on the same level. Artists generally go in one of two directions. Route A is a sound that best captures the band, sound and song quality which, after this point, will be attempted but never regained, for the rest of their career. Route B is the capture of a sound and style at the particular moment of recording and one which serves as the foundations upon which to build a long and varied career.
Music is meant to inspire your own feelings and thoughts, these are simply mine and you can feel free to disagree. If nothing else, music inspires debate and nobody agrees. One man’s coffee is another man’s tea…whatever that means.
© Simon A. Moult / Moultymedia 2006
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