Wednesday, October 06, 2004

2nd time around

Today I'm thinking about sophomore efforts by artists, particularly for those whose first effort gained a fair amount good criticism. You've made fans based on a certain mode or style, and you have to choose to either continue with something similar or to verge off into other areas.

What prompted this was the new Interpol album, Antics, that I just bought yesterday. The first album floored me; the Cure-like textured guitars alongside the bouncing bass and droning vocals remenescent of Joy Division but with just enough indie-stylings to make it relevant was an easy sell to someone with my musical tastes. It made me feel like I was 20 again, and brought back a love for rock music that I thought I lost a few years ago. The new album is good, but is more of the same. There is a little more focus on rhythm, the bass is a little more upfront in the mix, but it's essentially a direct extension from their first album.

Is this a bad thing? A good thing? I'm not sure.

Given a choice, and I'm speaking in generalities of course, I'd rather see an artist evolve and strive towards different things. Even if that means a little failure. David Bowie comes to mind in music, Jonathan Lethem and Joyce Carol Oates in writing. To continually re-define your artistic self takes enormous energy, time and determination, and I have great respect for it.

To place this pressure on young kids like Interpol (I think they're all in their early 20's) is probably unfair. Particularly when you throw in the pressure they probably got from their record label to put something else out as soon as possible. Given time (assuming they stay together) they will probably progress onto other things as they gain more experience and exposure to other influences. But pulling it away from Interpol, I have to wonder what I will do. If my first novel is accepted and does even passingly well, will I write something similar for the second one, or make a break onto something different?

I don't know.



Anonymous said...

I understand what you're saying, but I admire those artists who examine and examine and examine the same area, like they are trying to perfect it. I'm coming from a painting background, so I can think of lots of examples. I can't think of any in writing, but there must be some.....

Hebdomeros said...

Thanks for posting!

I do understand your point. You mention being a painter, and Rothko immediately leaps to mind. The basic format of his color field paintings were the same, but it's the subtle variations in color, tone, etc that make his work interesting. They are particularly powerful when shown together.

For writers, they of course have strands that carry through work to work. Samuel Delaney and his themes of homosexuality. Kathy Acker's deconstructions. On and on. I guess part of what I'm struggling with is if it's better to define yourself early in your career (ie I write horror, I write porn) or is it better to play around a bit? I don't know why I'm worrying about it now, since my fist isn't even out yet.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Interesting, I've been thinking about getting something by Interpol and your description of it makes me think I'd better.

Being rather old school, I listen to more old-school music than new-school (lots of the "new cutting edge" stuff really makes me think of stuff I listened to 15 or 20 years ago) and this just reminded me... I picked up the album "They Were Wrong So We Drowned" by Liars, and I loved it. Some music critics panned it -- dubbed it unlistenable, and it seems it was because it disappointed them because it was a total 360 from the last album that Liars put out, which got some critical acclaim. So they kind of got some punishment for recreating themselves too soon. Shame on them, right? Anyway, I loved the fact that I loved an album called "unlistenable"...

Meanwhile, I got my hands on the new(ish?) album by the Strokes, and while perfectly likeable, damn, it didn't really do anything different than their breakout album.

Anyway, sorry to be long-winded, I get that way sometimes. I think it's good to recreate. I would never want to be in a pigeon hole, as a writer, but I'm sure that that makes some find the artist less marketable, because you're no longer a quantifiable entity.


Hebdomeros said...

I don't know the Liars. I'll have to look into them.

I was pretty burnt out on rock music until recently. Aside from some old favorites, I was mostly buying experimental jazz and some electronic. Interpol, along with a few others, brought me back. You're right, though. Much of what's new is tied so much to music that I liked when I was in High School. The whole pop-punk thing, now 80's new wave and post-punk is rearing its head. Makes me feel old and young at the same time.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Liars.... I do highly recommend them, especially "They Were Wrong So We Drowned."

So what's good in experimental jazz?