01 September 2009

I Bought This on Amazon for Less Than a Pack of Cigarettes

I have to confess that I am somewhat cheating on this one. I have heard this album prior to procuring it off of Amazon for roughly the same price as a pack of cigarettes in the greater Baltimore area. Once, I was in a girl's bedroom and we sat on the floor and listened to the first Passion Pit EP and an album by a band known as Department of Eagles, and while we sat we drank malt liquor out of a can. At one point and for whatever reason, I started out talking about how not hip I am, and as an example I started talking about how I had never heard TV On the Radio until "Wolf Like Me" started getting played on MTV. "Shit. You're missing out," is what she said, and shortly after that I heard desperate youth, blood thirsty babes for the first time. 
The album was released in 2004, and was awarded the Shortlist Music Prize, which is basically the American version of the Mercury Prize in which a group of musicians, producers, and journalists get together and vote on what the best album of the year was and they're only allowed to vote on albums that didn't go Gold that year. For instance, in 2004 when TVotR won, they beat out Wilco, Ghostface Killah, Franz Ferdinand, and The Killers for top ranking. 
On the flip side, music scribe Robert Christgau lambasted the album in his review, basically dismissing the band as art crap. He called them "dull", and said that the only people who would like it are people who praise every piece of new art as genius. "All told, pretty dull--unless you're so desperate that you'll sing hosanna for ever piece of intelligent-honest-original that comes down the circuit." (Christgau, Village Voice, 8/31/04).
In a way, I understand Christgau's criticism. I just finished reading this book called Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, and I harbored similar feelings. The book was written entirely in the second person which makes it clever, but clever only holds up for so long. Take the first line of the book as an example. "You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning." (McInerney 1). When you read that, you're like "Holy shit, this book is going to be awesome!!!" This is a fleeting feeling though, and eventually it wears off. As a reader, you finally get to a point where the protagonist may as well just be named "you" because as the story unfolds the reader begins to become a little weary from all the self-destructive behavior that the main character engages in. I finally got to a point where I felt like I was reading one of those Choose Your Own Adventure stories except this time I had no control and my character's options all revolved around drugs and sex. 
Anyway, back to TVotR. I wouldn't lump this album and that book in the same category, and the reason for that is because Bright Lights, Big City doesn't have "Staring At The Sun" on it. This is actually a fairly interesting record, especially when compared to the band's last two albums Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear, Science. Return to Cookie Mountain is the disc that rocketed the band into a whole other stratosphere, and Dear, Science was just really really good. Already, I feel like I could make the argument that Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes is my favorite and the best TVotR album. The beats and the loops give this disc its crackle and pop, and at no time does it sound like they are trying too hard. 
One of the big knocks on TVotR is that they are no fun. Haters say that the songs aren't fun to listen to, and when you see pictures of the band they look like surly bros. But, not everything is going to be fun all the time. That's just setting the bar way too high. And, besides on "Ambulance" the band attempts some kind of weird, avant-garde barbershop quartet singing which is kind of funny if only for the reason that this band is considered to be no fun at all. The songs don't have to be fun because they are heavy, and they pack a punch. If you want fun, then just skip ahead to Dear, Science and dance the night away. But there is something much more deliberate going on with this one. What it is, I have no idea, but the band's delivery makes me want to believe that they know what they are doing. 
(Writer's Note: Sorry for the absence, but a whole lot of awful shit has been happening. As a result, I may start writing on here at a somewhat furious pace, or, perhaps I will go back to reading books. As a betting man, I would say that I will be writing a lot more in the future. It's a new day. It's a new phase. It's all just so, new.)

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