A Contemporary Opera-ish thingy. Let me explain: we've got all these wonderful singer-songwriters and bands out there doing some cool things and some even doing some cool things well, but the one main thing none do well is make albums that contain an extended narrative - a story-cd. Even two of my favorite bands have given it a shot and failed: Of Montreal with their Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse and Gus Franklin (from Architecture in Helsinki) with his The Outer Void Intrepid Sailor. Now, poets have done and are doing this successfully and not so successfully for a long time, why can't bands?
Who do we have?
Sufjan Stevens: Though his songs are narrative and his album centers on a theme, I wouldn't count him as making story-cds.
Tha Mars Volta: Their first two LP's did it for me - and I'm sorry to hype another Rick Rubin production but dear God De-Loused was good. Yeah, I know Flea did the bass, and Rubin did the sounds, but come on, you ever heard anything like that before? And though hard to hear and understand, this surrealist album, and Frances the Mute both moved me. But I couldn't help feeling more could be done. Especially on Frances. Tom and I were discussing this and I agree with his statement that "De-Loused blew us all away, showed us what could be done, it was so innovative, and then Frances and Amputecture were kind of let-downs. It was the same thing again - they didn't keep innovating." Amputecture is definitely their worst LP but it contains some great songs. However, lacking a story I can't really get into the album like I can with De-Loused, I keep trying to connect the songs but can't. So The Mars Volta has almost done it. Their music is innovative and interesting as are their semi-surrealist stories, and I certainly wait in line for their albums the day they come out, but they haven't quite perfected it yet. I haven't yet watched El Búfalo de la Noche, but hopefully that film helped them perfect their storysong telling. January 29th will tell a lot about their ability to attain my Holy Grail of Music.
The Kinks: I haven't yet heard enough. Do they do it for you?
Pink Floyd: Close as The Mars Volta, but not quite there for me.
Coheed and Cambria: Yes, and no. They are the closest, as far as pure storytelling goes. And on some levels I really enjoy knowing the middle of the story without knowing the beginning and the end, but the highly sci-fi nature turns a lot of people off.
Why Not? Okay, so it could make a better CD - and has in the cases of Coheed & The Mars Volta - because of this grand unifying gesture so sought after in architecture today. However, most bands use over-arching stories as a way to excuse crappy - or filler - songs. I lust after this working.
Please send me or comment on what your favorite concept album is - not thematic concept album, but story concept album. This is an idea/concept/tactic I want to experience more of.