Musical Pet Peeves: What I Love to Hate About Music
Our taste in music clearly ranks among the most personal choices we can make in life. In fact, I don’t think I’d hesitate to say that our taste in music says as much about us as our taste in significant others.
You’re either nodding in agreement right now or cursing me under your breath for being shallow.
One of the problems, then, with holding music so close to our hearts, is that we’re easily offended. Maybe our favorite band goes in a new direction on their latest album, or we overhear some bland pop song on the radio and decide to blog about our hatred for the people who enjoy it.
Whatever our particular grievance happens to be, it’s clear that music has a unique tendency to make our blood boil under the right conditions.
As for myself, I have a number of pet peeves that I tend to get animated about. Music is one of my greatest loves in life, so it’s both a blessing and a curse that I take it this seriously.
Anyway, I’m going to name an even half-dozen of my musical pet peeves. Some of you may agree, and some of you may not. Maybe this stuff isn’t worth complaining about so long as the music is good. I’m going to complain anyway.
No Lyrics in the Liner Notes
I may be dating myself by using a phrase like “liner notes,” since so many of us exclusively buy our music in various digital formats. Nevertheless, I’m going to be buying physical music releases until the very last CD factory closes down. The thing is, there’s a right and a wrong way to do a CD release, and way too many bands get it wrong.
If you don’t put lyrics in the CD booklet, I hate you. Hate you. I hate you even if I love your music. I listen to a lot of heavy metal, sure, but even a lot of the “softer” stuff I like features inscrutable vocals. If you weren’t blessed with the gift of enunciation, it doesn’t matter how emotive your voice is – I want to know what you’re saying. Show me the words.
This is probably another one that not a lot of people get that upset about, but it’s always felt to me like obvious evidence that a band has had a serious lapse in creativity.
I understand what an eponymous album is supposed to communicate. It’s usually something like: This is the real us; this album truly represents who we are as musicians. You know what? I don’t really care. I’d much prefer an album that bears a distinctive and significant title – something that communicates the message or theme of the album in a memorable way.
Even some of my favorite bands are guilty of this, such as Dream Theater. Their latest album, while excellent, is always going to feel like a cop-out thanks to its lazy title.
Let me put it to you this way: anything that needs to point out that it’s a “bonus” probably isn’t. Case in point: bonus tracks – those insidious things that try to convince us that we’re getting more than we’ve paid for – or, even worse, try to convince us to drop money on a reissue.
Maybe it feels like a stupid thing to complain about, so let me compare it to a novel. Would it make much sense for a writer to include a handful of paragraphs that “didn’t make the cut”? And if they did, would it contribute anything to the finished product? Of course it wouldn’t. Novelists toss out material all the time, never to be seen again.
I like to think that every album represents a finished, cohesive, and polished artistic expression. Whatever was left on the cutting room floor is there for a reason; don’t put it back in and tell me it’s a “bonus.”
Stupid Band Names
I don’t even know where to start. Do you think Goatwhore ever planned on becoming a headlining act with a name like that? Probably not. On the other hand, the name Pink Floyd is inscrutable enough to be memorable, yet still has a great deal of personal meaning to the band, and to anyone who’s interested in the band’s inspirations.
Metal bands are particularly guilty of terrible lapses in judgment when it comes to band names (Dying Fetus? Cannibal Corpse?), but it happens in every genre. I absolutely love Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but they have one of the stupidest band names I’d ever heard. It’s not artsy or clever – it’s just pretentious.
By all means: draw inspiration from the world around you. But if you do a random Google search, happen upon the phrase Membrane Filtration, and decide to stick with that, I’d encourage you to look around just a little longer.
Actually, now that I think about it, that’s not bad. Band names inspired by random machine parts have worked out pretty well. How about Clutch or Prong?
Anyway, my favorite band name might be Tool. It’s simple, iconic, and memorable. And best of all, you get to decide for yourself what it means. However, if you have some insight into the band members’ lives, you can still make an informed guess as to its meaning. That’s what a good band name should do.
Unimaginative Cover Art
It’s become clear to me that album cover art has never been less relevant than it is right now. Back when people actually bought music that was stored on physical media (LPs and CDs), cover art was absolutely essential for capturing peoples’ attention and letting them know what they were in for.
While lavish gatefold LP sleeves have made an unlikely comeback recently, album art has largely been relegated to tiny pixelated images on our digital devices. They still serve as useful visual reference points, but we don’t really spend the time to pore over the details anymore.
And while there have always been bands that phoned in their cover art designs, long before MP3’s were even a thing, a great many more bands these days seem to take the easy way out.
One of the worst album covers I’ve seen this year is Slipknot’s .5: The Gray Chapter. The title itself is a reference to their late bassist, and the artwork could have been a similar tribute. Instead, we get what looks like a tween in a Hot Topic costume.
Long Waits for New Music
Two things: first, I appreciate that many things in life are worth waiting for. Second, I understand that bands don’t really owe their fans anything, least of all an explanation as to why they haven’t released an album in seven years.
I understand that band members do have lives outside of their music, but at the same time, some level of transparency would be nice. No matter what kind of tunes your band plays, there are people in the world who live and breathe your music. Toiling away in silence for years at a time is no way to thank them for their dedication.
Whether regular updates would actually make the wait more tolerable, however, is another question entirely.
At the end of the day, though, the fact that so many things in music can be complained about is just further proof that it’s worthy of our love. If you haven’t periodically hated your favorite musicians, you’re not doing it right.
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