Wednesday, February 16, 2005

They Might Be Out of Ideas

One of my newest “virtual” friends is a young woman who describes herself as a Tori Amos fanatic.

I told her that while I really enjoyed Amos’s first two CDs, Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink (from 1992 and 1994, respectively), I was disappointed by her subsequent releases, and I’m clearly not alone. Her third disc, a trifle called Boys for Pele, was the beginning of a long creative slide, and I noted with some despair that Rolling Stone magazine gave an alarmingly mediocre notice to her new CD this week.

My fanatical friend informed me that her personal favorite Amos CDs were more recent efforts, and that I hadn’t given her enough of a chance.

Spoken like a true fanatic.

Maybe I should give Tori’s albums from the last 10 years another listen. Right now, though, I’ve got the new album by They Might Be Giants in the stereo. I used to be quite a TMBG fanatic, but in recent years, I have noticed that they, too, have experienced a backslide in musical creativity. They seem just as prolific as ever, following a popularity resurgence that sparked with “Boss of Me,” the theme to the popular TV show Malcolm in the Middle. Lately, though, they seem to be focused on writing music geared exclusively for children. Back when I discovered the Giants, even their “adult” work was quite accessible to children. Oddly, it was only when they started to release music specificially for kids that I began to lose interest in their work. The new CD, Here Come the ABCs, is certainly their weakest collection of songs (with the possible exception of their last CD for children). I can’t believe there’s a kid in the world who would be interested in listening to throwaways like “Pictures of Pandas Painting” or “Fake Believe.”

Enough kid stuff, John and John. They aren’t buying albums. I am.

Is it inevitable that our musical heroes are destined to fall back on weak material?


Melissa said...

I tend to believe that almost all artists, no matter much of a musical genius they have proven themselves to be, eventually run out of ideas sooner or later. And I think that's OK. It's natural... we all do at some point or another. Of course there are exceptions, and there are those that make impressive comebacks, but I think even the best of the best sit down one day and go "You know, I think I've finally said everything that I have to say." Unfortunately these artists aren't about to give up their cushy rock star careers or tear up their multi-million dollar contracts just because their creative fount has run dry. And their fans can be so dedicated that they are willing to buy every single piece of work by the artists and continue to praise it.

I like Tori Amos okay. Just a few of her songs, but she doesn't wow me. I'm a much bigger Kate Bush fan. I know she must get tired of the comparisons, but when I want to hear am eccentric chick at the piano I reach for Kate more often than Tori.

I used to be big into TMBG also, but like you said their more recent output hasn't sparked. They are a good example of folks running out of ideas but still continuing to mine the same formula that worked for them in the past because it pleases the fans.

dUgE k said...

I have the new Tori cd. It's not bad, but like you Brett, I still favor the first two.


I love Kate Bush too. according to Kate: new album out in 2005. It's apparently done and ready to be released soon!

Brett said...

Honest to God, I've been reading that Kate is about to put out a new CD since about 1997. I doubt it'll happen but I will be delighted if she proves me wrong -- Kate is one of the very few artists who, in my humble opinion, continued to improve with each successive release. In fact, my very favorite of hers was the "Red Shoes."

Ironically, my two biggest musical heroes, Todd Rundgren and Randy Newman, still produce some of the freshest material in their 50s. Ironically, Randy Newman has a song called "I'm Dead" on his most recent non-soundtrack CD that lampoons these artists who don't know when to quit -- singing, of course, from the point of view of one of those artists:

I have nothing left to say
But I'm gonna say it anyway
Thirty years upon a stage
And I hear the people say
Why won't he go away?

I pass the houses of the dead
They're calling me to join their group
But I stagger on instead
Dear God, sweet God
Protect me from the truth, hey

I'm dead but I don't know it
(He's dead, he's dead)
Please don't tell me so
Let me, let me, let me go!

dUgE k said...

Here's where I got my Kate info:

Read "Latest News" in middle of page.

Brett said...

Hey DuGGie!

I found some information for you right here:

dUgE k said...

I'm sorry Brett, that link takes me to a picture of you and a nude Ruth Gordon (during the filming of 1980's My Bodyguard).

Ah-ah-ah Brett. The bike stays here.

It's Moody's now.

You Think That Chain Makes You Tough?

Best, Mike