Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I was so much older then...

Some will surely call it a midlife crisis, this recent behavior of mine,but not me. Still, let us consider the symptoms: There is my fondness for the young, barefoot Joss Stone, which, for the record, in my case is not that of a middle-aged heterosexual man lusting after a nubile nymphet more than half his age but rather a middle-aged gay guy respecting her taste in cover songs and her ability to deliver them well. Then there is the whole thing with Death Cab for Cutie, a band I like every bit as much as the pimply college kids in their target demographic. (More on them sometime later.) And the whole Adult Swim business...

Those are not the behaviors of a 45-year-old. Neither is buying albums on their release date, something I have never cared about in my entire life. I was not even aware of the significance of Tuesdays in the music-lover's universe until I worked at a record label and somebody told me that was the day new albums come out. To me, release dates are about the commodity side of music/movies/books--and every release date implies an accompanying expiration date.

And yet. And yet. Three times in recent years I have made a point to go to a record store on a certain day to purchase a certain fresh new commodity at its very freshest and newest, starting with a midnight sale, of all things, to get Hail to the Thief the moment it was available. (Okay, so that wasn't so recent, but at the pace I move it could have been only yesterday.) I looked around the crowd and realized I was old enough to have given birth to most of them. Then came Smile--but how could any right-thinking person NOT want this the second it hit the atmosphere, after almost 40 years of mystery? I mean, really now!

And then today, the new My Morning Jacket album, Z. I figure, okay, if they're my official Favorite Rock Band of the Present Moment, I might as well behave like an obsessive fan. Listened to it three times in a row at work, just like I once did with new Talking Heads albums, and my initial response was:

Oh. Okay.

Do you hear the disappointment in those words, or must I amplify it with some sort of emoticon? After the glories of It Still Moves, the live show earlier this summer, and the various odds and ends from miscellaneous EPs and compilations (confession: there are still at least two earlier full-length albums I haven't heard yet), my expectations were sky high, and I felt less than blown away. Some high points, to be sure (first stand-out: "Knot Comes Loose"), but the melodies didn't seem as catchy, the production not as swoony, that sort of thing. The band has always had a silly/oddball side, and they seemed to be indulging that one a bit more than their more majestic side this time around--or so I thought.

Then came Listen #4, motivated by the need to fill a couple of paragraphs in the magazine I work for with an album review of some sort. It dawned on me that, hey, I had an album right on me that I could write about, especially since I was planning to do so here anyway. And holy smokes, suddenly the damn thing kicked in. Strike everything I just said: Z rocks! (Note ingenious pun, which also quotes an early Hamell on Trial song title. Smooth, huh?)

To be more precise, it rocks on occasion ("What a Wonderful Man"), but it does plenty of other things, too, like abandon lyrics for sheer soaring loveliness (the aptly named "Wordless Chorus"); deconstruct and rebuild the theme from "Hawaii 5-0" ("Off the Record," the only new song I remember from the show in the Albright-Knox parking lot a few months ago); and so on. I'm pretty sure it will grow on me with the passing of time--and since only about four hours have passed by this point, I'll cut them some slack. To return to that Radiohead reference for a sec (and musically it's not so far off base this time, BTW), I remember my initial disappointment over Amnesiac, whose subtleties I now prefer to Kid A, the album that first got me interested in the band.

Ah, band talk! You don't find much of that here, given that I've pretty much lost interest in a lot of the new-fangled rock, and also the roll, since around the time that Cobain kid sprung up. But I can still haul it out when need be. And MMJ is a band I can get excited about, no matter how old I am or they are or anybody is. No expiration date on this one, I'm predicting.

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