Monday, May 21, 2007
There's a band out there, Arcade Fire, that I kind of like. If I were twenty two years old, I'd like them even more (their lyrics are a bit childish). They're brash, exuberant and have a rich sound full of surprises. The first time I listened to their first CD, Funeral, I was smiling.
I listen to a lot of CDs. Most more or less sound like so many other CDs that after just a few minutes they end up ejected out of my car CD player and thrown into the back seat (where they, at the end of the drive, get collected and put into a pile to send off to be recycled).
Funeral was different. I listened to the whole thing straight through. I even sat in my driveway so I could get to the end.
This year, Arcade Fire put out their second CD, Neon Bible. It's been getting a lot of buzz mostly because many people missed out on the first CD. But when I talk to twenty somethings they all say the same thing: it's not as good as Funeral.
The second is rarely as good as the first in people's eyes. And I wonder if that's really at all true objectively. Are almost all second books, movie sequels, and CDs really all that bad? And the answer is, I don't think so. We just want something fresh. So we go on to the next new "brilliant first" this or that and leave the former golden boy artist behind. It's not so much a sophomore slump as we're fickle.
I've listened to Neon Bible. Just like those twenty somethings I've talked to, I'd have to say it's "not as good as Funeral." But if I hadn't listened to Funeral first, I'd have probably listened to Neon Bible straight through in my car and found it interesting and innovative pop music. I'm as guilty of being fickle as the next person.
Sometimes in fact, the second is much, much better than the first. We the public, however, are still resistant to embrace that sophomore work. Many moons ago, Rickie Lee Jones followed up her debut album - a solid piece of pop music - with the best thing she has ever done (and probably will ever do), Pirates. I still listen to that CD twenty five years later, which is rare for me for pop music. It didn't go anywhere in terms of sales or airplay. People had their one dose of Rickie Lee Jones with her first album. They were ready to move on.
Staying interesting in the public eye is a very tricky business. I don't know why some artists continue to have success year after year while others - who are still producing wonderful work - fall by the wayside. Much of it I think is just plain dumb luck.