November 15, 2022

There’s a Reason for My Silence


It’s been over a month since my last blog post. There is a reason for that and it’s not personal in any way. I’d like to say that I’ve been in Hawaii for a month but, alas, that’s not the case.

Most writers of the sort I am (essayists and humorists really) try and keep up a regular cadence. It’s the only way to build an audience and make money from what you do. The more you write, the more people read, yielding larger advertising revenue. That’s not my jam. I’m not trying to make money from this site, nor am I courting advertisers. Similarly, music journalists have to review whatever album comes out even if it’s mediocre. I do what I do only for the love of music. That frees me from having to maintain that constant stream of articles that others rely on. I write when the spirit moves me, in response to great (or exceedingly terrible) album releases.

That leads to my current drought. While there is always new music, there are cycles in which more good music is released followed by fewer quality releases, and sometimes nothing good. I’ve seen a number of these cycles. For example, in the late 80s, rock, pop, and the emerging alternative scene were moribund. New wave, punk, and hair metal bands that had dominated the first two-thirds of the 1980s were played out and much of the releases were lesser albums from established bands. That’s not to say there was nothing good. Sinead O’Connor’s amazing first album, The Lion and the Cobra was released in 1987 and grunge was percolating in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Still, most of what we were hearing was bland music designed for MTV visuals. One had to dive deep into the underground for satisfaction. The same was true in the early 2000s and, unfortunately, now.

The previous ten years have seen a trove of amazing new artists and new genre. Retro themed rock and pop bands, new Americana, and young artists, such as Billie Eilish, have all emerged in just the past decade. Now, however, we are seeing a predictable stream of sophomore album fails, pandemic releases (which I’ve written about many times), older bands trying to be “artistic”, solo albums from leaders of existing bands, and generally “meh” releases.

Here are some examples of what I’ve been listening too that weren’t worth the time to write about:

  • Marcus Mumford, (self-titled) – putting aside for the moment the silly conceit of a title like (self-titled), the solo debut from the leader of Mumford and Sons, is just dull. Having thrown off the Americana trappings earlier, thereby ruining Mumford and Sons, Mumford produces something akin to Bruce Springsteen without the dynamics that make The Boss great. His voice is a bit too sweet, stories too banal, and music predictable. Why would anyone dedicate more than a few lines to this album?
  • Young the Giant, Act I, Act II, American Bollywood: Acts III and IV – Young the Giant have been releasing a bunch of EPs as Act I and Act II, and now III and IV. The latter is double length album with the additional moniker of American Bollywood. I get that this is a concept album about the experience of South Asian immigrants and such. That doesn’t make it any less ponderous. Young the Giant hasn’t learned the lessons of the 1970s and the 1980s where double and triple album concepts tended to be more than most listeners cared to hear. I’ve yet to get through all of the EPs and album before becoming bored with it all.
  • Bruce Springsteen, Only the Strong Survive – I know I don’t typically write about older artists releasing new albums, but this is The Boss. However, I won’t write about this album. It’s not even up to the quality of Springsteen’s late 2000s releases such as Magic and Wrecking Ball. Sorry Bruce but when you said you retired, we all thought “Good. He goes out on top.” Now this? Why?
  • The Regrettes, Further Joy and Further Joy (Deluxe) – It’s more like No Joy. The Regrettes 2017 and 2019 releases were an amalgamation of 70’s power pop and 90s punk. That made them fun and interesting. This album is neither. I don’t know if some record company executive convinced them that changing their sound would make them more popular or if the pandemic messed with their heads. Whatever the cause, Further Joy is the kind of sub-par, twee, indie pop that only a tween girl might like. I couldn’t even finish listening to this album as background noise while working out. It’s that stupid. Why anyone thought a deluxe version was a good idea is beyond me.

Not all is bad, of course. I am very much liking the new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album and hope to have something about that soon. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the latest album by Christine and the Queens, Redcar les adorables etoiles (prologue). Her music always excites me, and I have hope for this new release. Still, the flow of good releases has slowed leaving a lot of dross in their place. I know it’s bad when I find myself listening to the latest Taylor Swift and thinking “that sounds fresh”. Maybe things will improve in the new year. We can only hope.