Think of the following two scenarios:
Scenario 1: You buy a new album. It is from an artist you love, have many records of, have followed for years, love everything they have ever done. How long before you give your verdict, before you make your mind up as to whether it is a jewel of an album or an Iron Maiden with Blaze Bailey disaster?
Scenario 2: You buy an album by an artist you have never bought before. You may only know one song or you may know a few songs. Either way buying an album from them is a new experience. How long before you give your verdict, before you make your mind up as to whether it’s a classic or a Rolling Stones Dirty Work type catastrophe?
In the case of the first scenario I would be extremely optimistic. For example when Guns n Roses released Chinese Democracy I raved to every one about it. In my mind Guns could do no wrong. I wanted to defend Axl at every opportunity and would bristle if anyone disagreed. Some months later I realised it wasn’t a masterpiece, however I also realised that is want’ a disaster. Maybe a 7 out of 10 effort. In truth much better then many could have wished for.
With the second scenario I would be much less defensive. I would never totally slate an album though and would always try to find the positives yet I would be far more honest with myself. For an artist I have little experience with; no history with; no baggage attached; then there isn’t a danger of it damaging my love for the artist because it wasn’t there anyway.
What I mean is that I can be too defensive about the artists I love. Some, like Queen, I genuinely think everything they have ever written, sung or released is great. As a consequence I can never try to critique them properly (who am I to do so anyway). If asked, I am far better giving my opinion on an album by an artist I know little about because it will be totally free of that baggage.
So what about other people? I have a friend who is extremely negative about any new album. I call it the 'NME disease'. In complete contrast to me he often writes off an album within one listen (as an aside he criticised the new James Bond movie even though he hadn’t seen it. When I asked him some more he said his friend was telling him about it…turns out his friend hadn’t seen it either…). He is one of those that when an artist starts having some success he criticises them and ‘goes off’ them. There are many like him. A band has a hit record and that’s it. They have sold out. He was particularly vocal about Green Day recently and how they had sold out since American Idiot. Everything since has been terrible in his mind. He feels that way about many bands. Ask him about anything and his default position is ‘It’s crap’. With me it’s ‘It’s great’.
I have another friend who loves his music. He knows lyrics to many songs (something that I have always struggled with for some reason). He tends to be more balanced in his opinions about albums and in the main I would trust his views. Yet even with him there are some artists (that I love) that he will simply not tolerate. Even if they wrote a classic song he wouldn’t give it the time of day.
Just recently I started listening to the new Aerosmith album. I loved it after a few listens. I’m not sure if that is because it is 11 years since their last one and I was thirsty for any new material or whether it genuinely is a great album. Ask me again in a few months. I think that is the key for me. I have to give it time before I stop feeling that I have to defend an album. I was asked my opinion of the Aerosmith album recently by a friend and I actually didn’t want to answer him. If I said it was great then he wouldn’t believe me as I had always said that in the past. I simply told him that I would give him a copy and he could have a listen…in other words make your own mind up.
Of course there are some artists that you may be aware of but have never bothered listening to. Pink Floyd were like that for me for years. For some reason I had never listened to them until 5/6 years ago. Now I think they are great and wish I had listened to them decades ago. I guess the musical palette changes just like your taste in food. I used to hate cheese but now I have it coming out of my ears (not literally as that would be quite gross).
You may now think that you can’t trust any concert ‘story’ or ‘review’ I put up on here. Well this site was never about criticising artists, it is more about the concert experience as a whole…what happens at gigs and whether I had enjoyed myself or not. In fact I pretty much always enjoy myself at gigs…it’s just some I enjoy more than others.
So what am I trying to say? To be honest I’m not entirely sure. I think maybe it’s just that I really dislike the negative attitude people have towards artists whether they are musicians, actors, or whatever. If you take one thing away for reading this then it’s to try and give a little more time before giving your opinion on an album or an artist…
…except anything by One Direction. Can’t stand them :-)