Fogie’s music rant

I’ve rediscovered two solid CDs from the ’80s: World Party’s Goodbye Jumbo and Living Colour’s debut, Vivid. (Living Colour has reunited; their new one is on my Christmas wish list.) Both CDs are full of memorable songs.

World Party, which had a minor hit in Way Down Now, combines a Beatlesque sensibility with a New Wave vibe. Most of the songs are full of hippie optimism or relationship trouble, but the lyrical peak comes in a stirring putdown of theocracy called God On My Side. (See lyrics excerpt a couple of entries ago.)

Living Colour deserved more acclaim in its time. While rappers claimed to be the “CNN of the black community,” Living Colour backed up its incisive commentary with a blazing guitar-bass-drums approach. (That’s not to say the band turned its back on hip-hop; in their later releases, they blended some rap elements very well.) They lighten things up with a couple of amusing looks at relationships, and they have the best Talking Heads cover ever recorded in Memories Can’t Wait.

One thing these CDs have that most of today’s releases do not: Almost every song is memorable for one reason or another. I wouldn’t devote time every day to listen to a song like Living Colour’s Funny Vibe, but a couple of lines will pop into my head every once in a while.

I might be romanticizing the past a bit — I do remember back when I was buying tapes that I’d often have one side of good songs and one side of filler. But then there were CDs like these and the occasional entry that made an artistic statement as a whole, like Fishbone’s The Reality of My Surroundings, which sounds like a guided tour of a neighborhood by a bunch of witty guys who occasionally talk two or three at a time and have a great drummer.

You see where I’m going with this. Downloading sucks.

Sure, it’s great to go out and legally download some one-off song from an inconsistent band. But when I hear that we might be returning to the days when “singles” were far more important than “albums,” I worry that we’re losing a valuable form of artistic impression. Seriously.

(Incidentally, most music critics argue that Sgt. Pepper was the release that cemented the album art form. Perhaps so, but I’d argue that Revolver is better as a whole.)

I’d be inclined to wind up on these kids who spend all their time online with their blogs and downloads, but I’ve noticed that many of them tend to be Guster fans, so I can’t complain too much.

One thought on “Fogie’s music rant

  1. There’s an important aspect of filesharing that the new buy-by-download lacks. Filesharing was driven by the will of the sharers, in terms of selection – people shared and downloaded what THEY liked, including those album gems never released as singles, and even whole albums as a single mp3 file. The industry’s response lets us pay to download the song, but leaves the selection driven by them – there is a big difference between deciding what you like and being told what to like.

    In other music news, I broke my RIAA boycott in celebration of last week’s defeat of the RIAA measures in US courts and Kazaa being declared legal in Dutch courts. Actually that’s just a rationalization. My jaw hit the floor when I saw standing in line at B&N with some other things, the ***new*** CD by Killing Joke. Their first release in a decade, and with the original lineup from the 80’s restored. Hell Yeah. I’m afraid I just had to up and buy that. And it rocks.

    That’s another thing about a single-driven industry – it’s pretty much winnows out anyone who doesn’t have a “hit single”. I don’t like the looks of what this does to the indie and obscure.

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