I think most of us regularly go through the motions of eagerly awaiting a new release from one of your favorite bands, just to find it to be a rather moderate achievement or an outright disappointment. Sometimes we loose patience with a band and more or less give up on them, expecting nothing from them that would deserve our attention.
Why write about this topic? Don’t we just get over the disappointments and get on with it? There are after all plenty of other bands we can depend on to deliver what we need.
It is true that we turn to other sources, but if you are like me you never really get over the past. Once awed by the talent of “your band”, you tend to crave more of the same, and if you don’t get it, you wait, hoping for the day when they will take themselves together and bring back the “sound” of their former glory.
Reality check: Are the bands in question really getting worse in means of quality or did something happened to our perception of them?
Yes. Most bands are getting worse, either for real, or in relation to our expectations.
It is a known fact that great quality and innovation instills equally great expectations, expectations we tend to let grow regardless of how well a band keep churning out good quality music. We always expect or at least hope that “the next” album will give us as many, or even more, exciting moments as its predecessor. So, for a band to stay “on top of the game” they constantly need to outdo them selves. Maybe this seems unfair, but that is just how it works, music is above all entertainment, and if it doesn’t entertain its existence is moot.
So basically there are 2 ways a band can “loose it”:
1. The quality of their music it truly getting worse
2. Their talent has stagnated, enabling them to keep the level of quality, but produce nothing new that challenges or surprises the listener.
To back up my line of thought, lets look at some examples.
This used to be my all time favorite band. What’s up with these guys? Here you have an orchestra whose members can be counted among the best of the best when measuring their talents on their respective instruments. They are in the club of the few that have fronted or even pioneered a genre (only counting those that have some level of public success). Unfortunately they seem content in doing what they do, and leave it at that. Their last time they really innovated was with the “Scenes from a memory” album. Everything since then has, broadly speaking, been more of the same.
Pain of Salvation
My first introduction to POS was "The Perfect Element"
Problem: Stagnation and Quality
When it comes to creating real epics Neal is a mastermind. Lately though, his involvement has been rather 'its hard to put my finger on it, but it feels like something is missing’ish. Not too many years ago Neal made a decision to make Christianity the central part of his message, since then it seems like he has lost some of his genius. He never makes bad songs really, but they are just not as good as they used to be. I’m not sure how big a finger print he has on the latest from Transatlantic, but the trend seems to be similar…
What can I say? My favorite “late teenage” heroes seem to have lost their soul…completely. I don’t know where they play, but it’s definitely not a band I hear in my “now frontier”. This ex-band is simply as close to zero as you can be on my care-o-meter. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little…..or maybe not. Just take a listen to anything released since “Promised Land”. As a side note: Try to listen to one of their recent live albums and notice how Geoff has to go low on some notes that caused him no problem s earlier.
You could say that all this is not important since the mission of most band members is NOT to do what you like, but to do what they enjoy…playing their music. That is true to some level, but since I have invested time and money in their music, which helps them (I hope) to keep their dream alive, I feel I have the right to complain when I’m disappointed.
Now to the tough question: When a band fails to deliver would it be better if they just called it quits? I’m not sure, but sometimes it feels like the only justification for some bands to still exist, is to milk the cow for all its worth.