Return to Rock is an exploration and reevaluation of the music that seemed important at a particular time. What was it like to get in to an album the first time, and has my opinion held up over time?
First off, apologies for the brief unannounced hiatus. Untoward events and all.
Right, so I should have picked an REM album this week in order to be timely and thematically consistent with the rest of the rock world. Truth be told, REM was always a musical blind spot for me, and despite repeated efforts over the last few years, I never made a concerted push to “get into them.” So instead of writing about a beloved, stately, and vaguely paternal band, I decided to pick a decent album from a very minor, inconsequential, and transient band, The Music.
Surely you remember The Music, one of many bands to spring up in the early 2000s with the need to qualify themselves with a definite article (e.g. The Walkmen, The Hives, etc…)? A shining exemplar of British-dance rock? If they’re not ringing a bell, don’t worry too much; I had forgotten about them too until I saw a video from Mike Skinner’s The Streets and thought to myself, “Why does the singer sound so familiar?” A: Because he’s The Music’s Robert Harvey, and he’s got some pipes on him.
My initial reaction to The Music was always, “Yeah, they’re alright.” Good enough to listen to occasionally, but not quite good enough to follow from album to album, share on burned CDs, and make plans to drive to NYC to see. Apparently, they caught a lot of guff over their vaguely pretentious name to the extent that some critics thought The name was The thing that was really holding them back. Enjoyable, yes, but occupying a space just a hair over mediocre (at least in my memory).
Eight years later, The Music’s The Music remains a fairly enjoyable, but unremarkable listen. Chances are if you remember The Music, you’d remember Take the Long Road and Walk It. It has a particularly grand/powerful feel, strangely punctuated by a scat-singing interlude. The video for this was not the most literal I’ve ever seen, but I get the sense that the production meeting included some debate over how they could make things more epic. The obvious answer: Wind machines.
Some songs are positively Zeppelin-esq with a really bluesy vibe, like The People and Turn Out the Light. Turn Out the Light was a genuine surprise to me, and really stood out as the highlight on the album to my 2011 ears. My 2003 ears, on the other hand, loved Getaway though that sounds surprisingly dated and very much a product of the era. I had never seen the video for Getaway before writing this, and look here, more wind machines! And, yes, there’s a couple of stinkers buried throughout.