Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Love Is Lovelier, the Second Time Around"

A recurring discussion on these pages, whether initiated by me or by readers in their comments, is the one that involves an established artist and the year or album when it all changed. Or more accurately, the year we "stopped listening."

When Graham Parker & the Rumour's reunion LP was released, I got a feeling that everyone was excited except for me. This had something to do with the fact that I gave up on GP after not liking 1989's "Human Soul" or 1991's "Struck By Lightning" very much. This, coupled with some offputting comments Parker made in an interview 20 years ago, I simply decided not to care anymore. Silly, and really, who was I spiting but myself? When I picked up where I left off with Graham, I realized how much great music I had been missing.

This is what I'm interested in, possibly for a project in the very near future-

Pick two artists/bands who you loved and tell me the year and the record where you called it quits.

What I am hoping will happen is that you choose artists I've stayed loyal to, so that I can make an argument for the albums you've been missing. Of course, I am hoping you will do the same for me, choosing artists I've abandoned so I can go back and revisit what I have been missing.


vanwoert said...

Jackson Browne, around 1982 with "Hold On" and Elton John around 1977 with "Blue Moves"

buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm a terrible fan. Every artist I can think of has made the album where I stopped listening.
David Bowie is one of the few I've come back to.

Here's two:

"Feets Don't Fail Me Now"-Little Feat
"Animals"-Pink Floyd

Troy said...

Elvis Costello - Spike (although I did listen to The River in Reverse w/ Allen Toussaint)

Anonymous said...

Seems like only yesterday that my lifelong Dylan fixation was becoming more and more of a Guilty Pleasure - that string of albums between "Infidels" and "Time Out Of Mind" was pretty fucking bleak, Jack. Now he's back, and everybody loves him, but it doesn't seem like it was THAT long ago that I was paying good money for "Under The Red Sky," or whatever that was called.
It's always been natural for me to embrace an artist, burn out/become tired of them, and circle back and rediscover them some years down the road. I've done this with Bowie, Springsteen, Lou Reed, REM, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, and the list does indeed go on. (And with the exception of Lou, all were making pretty solid records at the time, but my saturation point had been breached.)
I've tried, but I can't make myself love any Who album after "Who Are You." I concur with Sal's line that new EC records feel more and more like "homework."
And someday, when I'm REALLY old, I intend to sit down and seriously parse the Stones records from the last 20 years that I've mostly ignored - but I haven't done so yet. - bill buckner

Joelhb53 said...

So many to choose from ... best example is Procol Harum. After Home, I stopped listening. Not as good without Matthew Fisher.

Noam Sane said...

Elvis Costello - I check out at Punch the Clock, which was half a great record. The only thing he's done since then that gave me the old thrill was "My Mood Swings" from the Lebowski soundtrack. Come back Nick Lowe.

And it could be happening with Donald Fagen on this last record, which I find unlistenable. This flinty funk thing is played out, as is the old-man-with-younger-girl-who-doesn't-understand-him trope. Soundwise it fits in with the old Christgau quote about Gaucho, it sounds like it was recorded in an operating room. There's just nothing there. Come back Walter Becker.

A walk in the woods said...

Similar to Troy: Elvis Costello would be my top candidate - everything after Spike, especially the fuckin' Juliet Letters. Although later I did go back and realize "Painted From Memory" is great.

I guess I should mention Rod Stewart, although it wouldn't take much to bring me back into the fold - just a straight-up, non-glossy poststript to "Gasoline Alley" and I'm there.

Van Morrison has to be mentioned too. For years he was my favorite (replaced by Dylan), but man, every new album gets the "best thing in 20 years" bit and I never listen to any of them more than once. Other than "What's Wrong With This Picture?" from 2003, that's the one recent exception; one of his best recent albums, even if that only means that 4-5 songs are great.

REM of course - everything post-Bill Berry. Heck, everything from Green onwards actually - including Green.

I've maintained my Stones thing all the way through; always something to like. And Paul McCartney too, and definitely Paul Simon, they have really never let me down.

Anonymous said...

are we talking they became totally dead to us, or just dead past a certain point in time?

I had a similar thing happen to me as Sal with Parker - Neil Peart said something something and since 1979 I can't bear to hear a Rush song. a shame because I had only just begun liking them around "2112" and the live album.

a band i really tried to like was Crack the Sky. I got to meet them on their tour for "Safety in Numbers, tho, and i had never run into a band more bitter about their lack of success. lost interest after that. other than their cover of "I am the Walrus," I could no longer even describe their sound to you.

Have to agree with Jackson Browne, too - the way he went after Joni Mitchell a few years ago scotched my appreciation of his albums. I can only listen to "Saturate Before Using" now for the nostalgia.

Also agree with "Animals"-era Pink Floyd and everything after, but Little Feat's "The Last Record Album" (following "Feets") is one of my all-time favorites. I think I connected with it because they were all over Tom Jans' "Eyes of an Only Child" (love Jans' Columbia albums) which came out at the same time. Not crazy about what came after, tho.

Sal Nunziato said...

So much to address so far...but I have to begin with this. I am really surprised by the universal dischord over post-Spike EC.

If what Bill Buckner said what I said was true, about EC's records becoming more like homework, let's not forget the great satisfaction we once had over finishing an essay or science project. The journey may not have been as easy as first grade Phonics, but the end result was rewarding.

"The Juliet Letters" may not be for everyone. But the songs found on "Brutal Youth," "All This Useless Beauty," The Delivery Man," and especially "Momofuku" and "Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane" rival some of the early classics.

Those records may not offer the 100% satisfcation of the glory years on Columbia, but EC is most certainly not phoning it in like Van or Rod.

If there was a group of records I strongly suggest revisiting it would be those EC records I just mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Lou Reed - New Sensations (though now I can't listen to anything after Street Hassle)

David Bowie - Scary Monsters

(with Graham Parker I never listened to anything after Another Grey Area)

cmealha said...

I packed it in with Todd after "2nd Wind", Prince after "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic", Elvis Costello after "North"

Anonymous said...

Last record for Graham Parker for me was "Live Alone In America". "Spike" diminished my affection for EC for several years, but I got back on board at "Brutal Youth" until "Momufuku", which was a huge letdown after "The Delivery Man".

The BIG switch-off for me was Lucinda Williams: Her 3 record winning streak (s/t, SOW, Car Wheels) were just about perfect. A couple of weaker/affected tracks on Car Wheels, but still amazing overall. After those, she's become mostly shrill and unlistenable, and her compositions are a pale shadow of the winning streak era.

Rob said...

I loved Yes when I was a juvenile rock kid, they were the first band I ever went to see live, but I bailed out after Relayer. And I absolutely adored Todd Rundgren but we've been estranged since The Ever Popular...

I still listen to all the past glories now and then (even Topographic Oceans), like flicking through a photo album from a long gone relationship and remembering the fun I had. Sometimes I'm idly curious about what they might be doing now but I have no desire at all to rekindle the flames.

J. Loslo said...

My temporary split with Dylan wasn't over an album, it was over a movie. After I saw "Reynaldo and Clara" I couldn't listen to Dylan for a couple of years. By the time I got back to listening, he'd found Jesus, and I purchased no Dylan albums between Desire and Modern Times. Now I'm back in the fold, but I missed the eighties & most of the nineties. I do wonder what I missed.

A walk in the woods said...

Dang, I forgot about Lucinda... I hate to admit it, but after "World Without Tears" I got less interested, other than her "Live From The Fillmore" album, which is one of my fave concert albums. Each successive album had a couple good songs, but... I haven't touched "West" since that first play or so. And "Blessed" has a couple good ones, but... nothing that's really stuck with me.

Sal, here's the problem with post-Spike Elvis Costello for me. What happened was that the problem I'd always had a little bit of with him got more pronounced: I've just never liked his vocals. Especially when he got more affected with them as time went on. Over-wrought, trying too hard. I'd never noticed it on favorite songs like "Possession" or "You'll Never Be A Man" - but from Spike onwards his vocal style got in the way of the songs for me. Also: let's admit it, Costello sometimes gets too intricate/cutesy with his lyrical wordplay - sometimes it's like a polymath just showing off instead of hitting the right verbal phrase and moving on.

(He did more of THAT as a youngster, to me - "The salty lips of the socialite sisters/With their continental fingers that have
never seen working blisters/
Oh I know they've got their problems/I wish I was one of them")

Interestingly, it was not even a recent Elvis song or performance that brought me back on track with him, but - this is weird - it was Neko Case performing Nillson's "Don't Forget Me" on Elvis' talk show. Somehow - Elvis' emotional reaction to her performance (or so I think when I watch this) brought me back from him over-intellectualizing things and reminded me how much he surely feels. Check it out:

A walk in the woods said...

^ My above comment reminds me of another fun topic that might be good to kick around, which is the inverse of what we're discussing here: i.e., what artists have you always avoided for some reason, consciously avoided, then come around to eventually? Neko Case is in that category for me, and it's all down to that video above. I've watched that thing a hundred times over the past couple years!

Bands I consciously avoid and have NEVER come around to yet include Wilco and especially Radiohead. If either would every perk up for an extended suite of songs, and unfurrow their worried brows, I'd come around.

William Repsher said...

A Crack the Sky mention on the web! You don't see that every day.

For me, Flaming Lips. Really locked in Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi, clearly progressing to a higher level as a band, and they were already pretty good. At War with the Mystics, not as good, but still some glimmers of hope. And everything they've done since then has been utterly unlistenable to me -- amelodic, atonal, just a mess. I love it when die hard fans describe a new album as a "challenging" listen. Very nice way of saying they can't bring themselves to admit how much it sucks.

Re: Costello. It's not just him. Nearly every major/serious pop band/artist gets way too esoteric or obtuste for their own good at some point. Costello. Squeeze. Crowded House. Graham Parker. This may sound strange, but I can usually tell by song length on a given album. If I see an artist like this put out an album where every song is between 4 and 5 minutes ... I know it's going to be mediocre. There's something about winding every song on an album out to that length that reeks of padding and too much wordplay. Most of my favorite pop artists nail it in 2 or 3 minute blasts of glory. Compare Costello songs like "Red Shoes" and "Battered Old Bird." One is effortless, the other is a guy working real hard ... maybe too hard for his own good. (And I like that song.)

It's pretty rare when I stop listening to an artist or band all together ... but Radiohead and Flaming Lips have managed to kill it for me. I don't feel like I'm missing a thing.

Bombshelter Slim said...

Funny about Lucinda, the live album was the one that pissed me off (she doesn't sing so much as bray like a mule). Todd: anything after Faithful (or was it Hermit, or maybe Wizard?)
Macca, well Wings were the end...
Dylan, Slow Train Coming was the final straw. I'm sounding old, aren't I. Van Morrison still gets a "chance" every now & then, along with Graham Parker. That takes care of the rock'n'roll portion of our broadcast....

Robin said...

Late by a day here but for me also, with Jackson Browne, I stopped after " The Hold Out" (I think it's "The Hold Out"). Not sure what happened, but I never gave another one another listen. Until he did the Love is Strange/ En Vivo album with David Lindley, but that's a lot of old material (and wonderful, lord I love Lindley, and what chemistry they have, I always thought of David as JB's sort of Clarence Clemons- in terms of the personal chemistry).

I can't think of anyone else I did a real "hard stop" on, though I may have not bought as many of their releases as I did in the past. This may have more to do with the coming of iTunes, etc., where I tended to cherry pick songs I like from a new release of say Emmylou's for example, but did not buy the whole album as I did in the past, but that's not a reflection on her, just my buying habits. However with JB, I really did tune him out completely!

Scott Kennedy said...

Radiohead lost me on The King Of Limbs. Seems like they just want to be an experimental, electronica based band now. A far cry from The Bends and OK Computer.
I still love Willie Nelson, but his output since Teatro and Spirit has just been a mishmash of retreads. And, of course, his voice has weakened considerably with age.
Don't understand how people could have dropped Pink Floyd after Animals. It's one of my favorites. I'd say The Wall was their last great album, and anything that came after was less than stellar.
I dropped Rod Stewart pretty much after Blondes Have More Fun, which I liked enormously. Everything after that for a while was Disco Rod. But I have to say I like his new album fairly well.

Shriner said...

I stopped listening to Alice Cooper when he got *too* metal (around the time of the crappy "Constrictor" album.)

However, I got really back into him when Chuck Garrick took over on bass and steered the direction of the band toward the classic ACG sound.

Costello -- I lost interest after Bruce Thomas left the band (with the exception of the EC/Burt Bacherach album -- which is brilliant.)

KISS -- I lost interest in the non-makeup years. Came back to the band with "Revenge" and have enjoyed everything since then.

New Pornographers -- the last two albums have been a pale shade of the brilliance of the first 3 albums. I give them one more shot before I move on...

The thing is there are a lot of artists I still listen to who have new records that are decent, but if I hadn't heard them, I'd never have missed them (Brian Setzer, Aimee Mann and Matthew Sweet jump to mind...)

Anonymous said...

Led Zeppelin was afavourite for me . The song days of my youth started me on my music journey. I quit Led Zeppelin after Led Zeppelin 3. I have the albums after but have never played them.



William Repsher said...

Another one hit me, actually based on an anniversary reissue this week: Green by REM. I recall at the time thinking this was a choppy album, overall bad, and where I started backing off after seeing them get progressively more popular with high-school kids (as opposed to the college kids of the 80s who were their core audience).

The odd thing is seeing that this was reissued this past week, I went back and listened ... and this album is actually pretty good. I went for years really disliking REM (after being fanatical up through Document), eventually disowning even the early stuff ... only to realize in the past few years that there was a lot to love about them back then, even in the early 90s.