As reported by every media outlet this side of Modern Drunkard, today, January 18th, is ‘officially’ the most depressing day of the year (they must be mistaken - the Hadouken! album isn’t out until the 25th).
It’s nonsense, of course, one of those non-stories that gets churned up regular as clockwork each year, alongside ‘Bank Holiday Travel Chaos’, ‘Council Bans Nativity Plays’ and ‘Michael Eavis Hails The Best Glastonbury Ever’.
Even so, a glance at today’s music news suggests bands are indeed being unusually curmudgeonly. MGMT have vowed that their forthcoming second album will contain no singles, in a bid to discourage people from downloading individual tracks and “not listen[ing] to the rest of it.”
Given that the tracks will all be available on iTunes, it’s not clear how they’d enforce this, short of coming round your house and glaring at you menacingly while you listen to the thing. And I’m not convinced scowling coercion would quite fit in with the duo’s spaced-out, cosmic starchild shtick.
More to the point, it’s a weirdly joyless statement to make, the equivalent of saying “You know how you loved ‘Kids’ and ‘Time To Pretend’? Well tough, because we won’t be doing anything as enjoyable as that again’.”
MGMT are not the only band to have made less-than-encouraging noises about their new material. In last week’s NME, Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis promised a second album offering, not spring-loaded tuneage in the ‘Balloons’ mould, but rather “delayed gratification… our more fair-weather fans will be dismayed.”
As sales pitches go, it’s hardly, “It’s our best since ‘Definitely Maybe’.”
Fleet Foxes, meanwhile, have flat-out admitted that their next album will be ’pretty boring’. Naturally you hesitate to dismiss records before hearing them - but if bands themselves can’t summon enthusiasm for their latest efforts, how can we?
Klaxons have at least attempted to build an aura of intrigue around their already-semi-mythical
second album - although Jamie Reynolds’ wafty talk of being inspired by “Shamanic ceremonies” and the “coming of the sixth sun” doesn’t exactly lead you to expect a streamlined work of all-killer, no-filler. Indeed, a cynic might point out that “Shamanic ceremonies” is traditionally the kind of thing bands blurt before curling out a dud of humungous proportions.
What is going on? Why this curiously listless attitude? There seems to be a new mood afoot in music at the moment, a spirit of resistance to the tedious demands of the ‘old’ industry – chief among them, the need to pen songs that the radio will play. And this applies to music consumers, as well as creators.
It’s a sign of the times that the album currently getting critics excited is These New Puritans’ bracingly avant-garde ’Hidden’. It’s quite brilliant, but as much fun to listen to as you’d imagine a record comprised of sharpened knife sound effects and oblique blasts of cor anglais to be. Ie: not very much fun at all. It will sell roughly 89 copies.
Vampire Weekend’s current album, too, appears to be a deliberate attempt to swerve the demands of mainstream fame. While dazzlingly inventive in places, it’s willfully low on tunes of the sprightliness and charm of ‘M79’ or ‘A-Punk’.
Well, I’m making a stand. Enough subtlety. Enough understatement. Enough nuance. Enough ‘It’s a grower’. We need great, hulking, celebratory anthems to haul us through the bleak grey days of midwinter. Songs to drag us out of bed in the morning. Songs we can get drunk to and bellow in our best friends’ faces (after forcibly restraining them if necessary).
To that end, and in a spirit of wishful thinking, I’ve unearthed a few alternative album previews that you won’t have seen in last week’s mag.
Produced in LA’s Sound City Studios by Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi), album two sees Marling abandon spectral acoustic folk in favour of sleek, fist-pumping power ballads. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Bonnie Tyler and Pat Benatar,” explains the softly-spoken singer.
Set to be released under their new moniker, XXX!, fans can expect a double LP of rowdy, libidinous sex-funk, interspersed with foul-mouthed answer-phone skits care of Ellie Goulding.
Aided by a pop songwriting dreamteam comprising Xenomania and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder. the New York avant-rockers are aiming high with their sophomore effort. “Fuck ATP,” says guitarist Ian Williams. “We want a spot on The X Factor.”
Out goes discordant digi-punk; in come chiming guitars and epic soundscapes, courtesy of producer Brian Eno. “This album is our ‘The Joshua Tree’,” explains vocalist Alice Glass. “I always hated being a hipster anyway.”