Album or iPod?

There was a time when I’d bring home a cellophane-wrapped album from one of my favorite bands. Trembling with excitement for the experience to come, I would unwrap the LP and place it upon the turntable, looking at the graphical artwork on the album cover and in the artistically-rendered liner notes, reading the poetry or insider-information provided there. Then I’d listen to the album in its entirety…reading the lyrics, listening to the transitions between songs, the artistry of how the songs weaved together flawlessly to create the total listening experience.

Is the rock album a thing of the past? Not if bands like Porcupine Tree have their way. Steven Wilson, the band’s leader, said in a recent AP story, “When rock 'n' roll was born in the '50s, it was all about the two-minute pop song, and the album was just that single with some filler. Then we had the 'Sgt. Pepper' era, when the album became more important than the single. But then MTV came along and took everything back 20 years to just being about the pop single again.”

He’s right. And now, with the advent of the iPod, listeners are encouraged to download singles from their favorite artists, put them in playlists of their own choosing, and listen to a completely customized, individualistic set of songs, with the (eeeeyuck!) choice to shuffle those songs in a haphazard way. This is different than the communal experience of listening with some close friends to an artistically formed album that the artist has crafted as such—not just as a compilation of single songs, but as a total listening experience.

In the AP interview, Porcupine Tree’s Wilson adds, “For too long rock has suffered from lack of focus on the music, as well as turning its back on album structure, which can fuse a batch of songs into something greater than their own sum. There are so many people out there who mourn the loss of that great album era.”

Stop and think about that a moment...Granted, there are a lot of great bands today. But how many put the effort onto creating "album structure" and attempt to create a total album that is "something greater" than the sum of the individual songs? That is the beauty of albums.

Wilson has another take on what the iPod will do to bands in the future: "The iPod-and-download culture means that bands that really live or die by their next hit single are suffering more than the bands that make (proper) albums. Bands that offer just a couple of hit singles and a lot of filler — you can download them from iTunes, 99 cents."

Porcupine Tree’s latest album, "Deadwing" entered the Billboard magazine "Top 200" chart a few weeks back at number 132, and nabbed fourth place on its Alternative New Artist roster.

Maybe, just maybe, bands of a new era of the progressive rock genre like Porcupine Tree can bring on an album renaissance.


Scott Baxter said...

Hi, love your blog, can you give me some advice on how you managed to change the colums and insert pics with links as i am struggling with that. Thanks

Bob Robinson said...

Big Fella,
this link
for some insights on how to insert pics with links, along with other HTML writing stuff.

Bob Robinson said...

In Christian love, I have to call you to the carpet here.

Bill O'Reilly is hardly anybody for a Christian to defend, let alone try to emulate (I noticed you changed the name of the blog to “The No Kool Aid Zone,” no doubt being inspired by O’Reilly’s “No Spin Zone”).

I watched it. What did I learn?

You said, [[“What you can learn is the very different way conservatives tend to approach a debate, from the way liberals (well, at least TV/media liberals) do. Now, I guess in fairness to Letterman, he’s an entertainer, and O’Reilly is a journalist, but when you watch, Letterman always backs away from a discussion of facts, opting rather to insinuate, character-assassinate, cast aspersions on O’Reilly’s truthfulness, etc.”]]

I learned that O’Reilly got what he dishes out. Letterman did to O’Reilly exactly what O’Reilly does to guests on his show with whom he disagrees. O’Reilly is the consummate bully; whenever guests on his show disagree with him and attempt to try to prove their points, he talks all over them and dismisses them, falling back on his “You’re in the No-Spin Zone” line. He won’t have open debate on the facts. I know, you’re going to ask me to show evidence of these allegations. Just watch the show. It happens just about every night. And when one of his guests catches him in one of his half-truths that he often uses to prove his points, he simply bullies them from being able to do so.

You said, [[“O’Reilly, on the other hand, keeps driving it back to the facts, again and again…and Letterman always pulls away when truth is the issue. Letterman does candidly admit that he doesn’t watch The Factor, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to tear down the straw man he’s worked to erect.]]

I learned that some conservative are pretty oblivious of when straw men are actually being built It was Bill O’Reilly that erected the “straw man.”

First Piece of Evidence:
O'Reilly is the one who pulled the piece of paper out of his pocket to build the case about Christmas by citing the Wisconsin elementary school that “replaced the words to ‘Silent Night.’” Here’s the straw man: O'Reilly told Letterman that the school "knocked out the words and told the little kids to sing" alternative lyrics. According to O'Reilly, this incident "proves there are pinheads at the Ridgewood Elementary School in Wisconsin. That's what it proves.” But O'Reilly is telling a half-truth. The fact of that story is that the alternative song lyrics were part of a 1988 Christmas play called The Little Tree's Christmas Gift, in which a poor little Christmas tree is told that it won’t be sold and will become firewood, prompting the tress to sadly sing the revised version of “Silent Night.” On December 20, The Washington Post revealed the following:
The song is part of a copyrighted play. Really in-depth reporting—making two phone calls—revealed the offending playwright and composer to be one Dwight Elrich. No one had talked to him until we called.
Here is what we found out:
(a) Elrich was a music director for a choir at Bel Air Presbyterian, former president Ronald and Nancy Reagan's church in California, for decades.
(b) "Cold in the Night" is part of a children's play called "The Little Christmas Tree’s Gift.” The little tree sings the little song. The little tree is looking for a family to take it home, sort of like Charlie Brown's little tree. The play comes with a "Christian" page, which may be performed or not. In Ridgeway, where the play has been performed for years, it is sung with Christian Christmas songs, including "Angels We Have Heard on High."
(c) Elrich's other musicals: "What in the World Is Christmas?" (Answer: "Kids from around the world celebrating Jesus's birth.") "Christmas in Hawaii," "365 Days of Christmas Each Year!"
(d) "The Little Christmas Tree" has been performed in more than 500 schools and churches across the country for nearly two decades. Mostly churches.
The playwright, Dwight Elrich, is a Music Director at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles -- which a article noted was "former president Ronald and Nancy Reagan's church in California" -- and his play has been performed by churches across the country. According to Elrich's website, his products "make it easy for you to produce a fantastic Kids Christmas Musical Program." Elrich told the Post: "I'm just flabbergasted. I'm a choir director in a church! I perform 'Silent Night' 40 or 50 times each year! I thought the play was a really charming, wonderful, positive story about love and acceptance ... removing it from the Christian tradition was something I never thought anyone could ever come up with. We were telling a story about a little tree, so we used a familiar tune to help the kids get it."

Second Piece of Evidence:
O’Reilly brings up a grammar school in Plano, Texas which he reports as a fact that the school told students they “couldn't bring in any Christmas colors, like napkins that are red and green.” He then says emphatically (as if it proves his point), “That’s in court! That’s being litigated.”
The fact is this: It is in court! Neither side has been proven to be true yet. According the Houston Chronicle, “A federal lawsuit filed a year ago alleges a pattern of free speech and religious rights violations in Plano schools. The suit centers on a December 2003 party at an elementary school where a student wasn't allowed to give classmates candy cane pens with a religious message. Other restrictions have been alleged in the case, such as asking for only white party supplies and excluding red or green ones."

To state as fact that which is still in not proven is what yellow journalists do (Yellow Journalism, according to Wikepedia, is when a supposed journalist allows “sensationalism, profiteering, and in some cases propaganda and jingoism to take dominance over factual reporting”).

You said, [[“Letterman’s a funny guy, but he shows himself to lack either the intellect or the interest (or both) to engage in substantive debate. The sad thing is that way too many folks get their “talking points” from folks like Letterman and Jon Stewart, and actually believe that what they think has much at all to do with reality…”]]

What I learned is this: My friend Byron, who constantly insists to not being biased in his analysis of the issues, shows a tremendous amount of BIAS in this post. Providing simple and slanted “Talking Points” to people who do not want to investigate both sides of the issues is the exact modus operandi of Bill O’Reilly (again, just watch The Factor--this is how he opens each and every show). Letterman never attempts to provide political taking points to his viewers (he is, like you said, “an entertainer”). There’s no doubt that Jon Stewart, while being one of the funniest men on television, is a liberal--he doesn’t hide that fact. But O’Reilly says he’s “fair and balanced” while being a pundit for a very conservative political agenda.

Byron, to say that Letterman and Stewart are the ones guilty of providing their viewers with “talking points” that viewers would “actually believe that what they think has much at all to do with reality” in the DEFENSE of the one man in today’s media that is the most guilty of this is…well…sad.

Especially from the guy a guy like you--who says he hates “straw men” and insists on people not drinking the “Kool Aid.”