Just under a year ago I had a personal rant in a notebook about Guy Garvey of Elbow getting all precious about people downloading individual tracks from Seldom Seen Kid. At the time I thought about posting about it here but then got over it. Then today a similar rant raged through my head as I read an article on the BBC News website about a record club that believes albums have to be listened to in their entirety, as the artist intended. No skipping, no playing just one track, no playing out of order! They are proudly anti-download.
I felt the blood pressure rising. So in response, and as a cathartic act, I felt I had to post about such bullshit. Stop reading now if you are not in the mood for an opinionated rant.
So, first up, I've dug out my notebook from a year ago and here's what I wrote on 27 March 2010:
"Some may care that Elbow spent two hours in the studio arguing about whether the gap between tracks should be three seconds or two and a half. Fine, they can listen to the CD in its entirety. But there are a couple of tracks on Seldom Seen Kid that I really got into walking to work, a walk that is decidedly shorter than the album length. I kept repeating these tracks to concentrate on different aspects of the songs; the rhythm, the lyrics, the bass, the vocal intonation, etc… just as people have different learning styles, I believe people have different listening styles as well and it is up to the individual to decide how they listen to something. I'm a lover of the portable stereo, as it used to be called. From the age of 15 I don't think I've been anywhere without a walkman, minidisc or within the last 6 years, several generations of iPod. I used to love mix tapes, compilation CDs for the car and now shuffle and personal playlists. That is my choice."
But back to now:
I'm so tired of artists being so precious about their work. Let it go. People who know me well will agree this is a bit of a bug bear of mine, but what got me today with the article on the BBC News website was that it wasn't just the ego filled artist vomiting such pretensions, but pedantic listeners unleashing their fascistic world view of what constitutes an artistic experience, as if they have the right to make that call. For a start the argument is full of holes—artists don't write and record songs in the order they present them on a record, nor do they play a record live from start to finish (excepting the recent trend of 'classic' albums being performed in the whole as an obvious cash cow for ideas defunct performers to milk). Are these music Nazis really telling me that The Clash's Sandinista! isn't a better record when edited down to about 14 tracks? Or that The Beatles White Album isn't a far superior record without Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da confined to the trash? Is there really a Squarepusher CD that works from start to finish? (Leave it Roki!)
No artist or fan has the right to dictate how a work is consumed once it has been unleashed on the world. I've bought the license to listen to it, it is mine now. If a band wants to retain total control over their commodity then they shouldn't release it. Pompous precious fucking artists and their ego massaging hangers on really piss me off.
Right, that's got that out of my system.
BBC News Anti-shuffle brigade