Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Quality, not Quantity

October 23, 2004

Quality, not Quantity

The alternate title to this month’s raving is “Why the Industry is Idiotic”.
I’ve noticed a trend over my time as a music aficionado. It seems that major labels require you to turn out an album a year if you’re new, an album every two years if you have an acceptable fan base, and an album every three years if you’re a superstar. Side note: Coldplay falls in its own category of “I got married and forsook my job because I’m a superstar and I can do that” category. I don’t know if they’ll EVER release the album that’s currently sitting in their vaults in some stage of completion. But back on subject-
The industry wants to make money. And by forcing bands to release albums, they in effect lower their profit. Why? Because bands can’t make the album they want, so they turn out crap for songs, put it in a good-looking package, and sell it, just to make the label happy. This small act sends the band in a downward spiral that’s tough to get out of.
Take Relient K for example.
Relient K’s breakout album was the stellar 18-song project “The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek”. I have most of those amazing songs memorized, and for good reason. The album glistened on all cylinders, from the production to the lyrics to the songwriting to the delivery to the song order to the packaging. It was simply blissful, unabashed, mature pop-punk. They went on an extended tour for the album (when you know it’s good, live it up!) and then they came home to start writing again. And write they did. But…wait…their CD release date was already right around the corner! Relient K then spazzed out and rushed to complete “Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right, But Three Do”. Not one element of this album was as good as “The Anatomy…”. There were moments of brilliance, but most of the album just felt rushed. Relient K virtually apologizes lyrically in places during the album. The album was junk. Period.
They took a short tour, then went home and spent a lot more time in the studio. Now they’re releasing a new album, entitled simply: “Mmhmm”. I’ve heard some songs off it- and time makes all the difference. The new tracks are more diverse, more personal, and more amazing than Relient K has ever been. Will the label learn? Hopefully.
How many one-hit wonder bands have been destroyed by the cycle of not getting their second album made the way they want, being forced to put out that junked second album (which fails to sell), then getting dropped from a label? Ever heard of Ruth Ruth? Ever heard of Semisonic? Kevin Max? Calibretto? even corporate darlings Lifehouse have fallen under the curse. It ruins bands! How many more have broken up under the stress? How about Watashi Wa, how about Days of the New, how about just about anyone from the mid-nineties post-grunge fallout session (where all the A&R guys were looking for the ‘new grunge’ and signing, then bailing, artists left and right)?
The industry kills. It doesn’t spare a couple of months to keep their artists in their peak and together. The industry is idiotic.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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