Welcome to the first instalment of yours truly’s seven-part editorial series – The 7 Deadly Sins: A Musical Perspective.
What makes a sin a sin? In the shell of a nut, a sin is essentially, I believe, too much of a good thing.
Hold that thought. Before I spin off into tangential oblivion, let me clarify something: I’m not here to analyze “good” and “evil”, discuss whether there’s a “heaven” or a “hell”, or whether such a thing as “sin” actually exists. It’s irrelevant. I don’t really care what you believe in (or don’t), and vice versa (I assume). I don’t mean that callously. All I’m saying is that my intention here is not to challenge your beliefs (or lack thereof) and get you to raise arms or punctured palms in defense. So – religious zealots, feel free to fast forward to the comments section and begin your misdirected persecution. I’d appreciate the kindling.
What I do want to do here is examine music through the seven, soiled lenses of sin. That’s all. Perhaps my introduction led you to believe this would be a more serious thing. It isn’t. I apologize. Prepare yourself for a monumental letdown. No controversy here. Sorry. I’m not really sorry. Get over it.
Oh! Please note – every week you’ll be able to feast your eyes on a new Amy Sparrow original photograph inspired by that week’s sin. How cool is that?
Now. Let’s have some fun. Get in the mood and throw Clutch’s “Binge and Purge” on.
Part 1 of 7: Gluttony
‘Scuse me. It’s just that I’ve been wolfing down music since January 1, 2012. Oh, I’ve always been somewhat of a gourmand when it comes to consuming music, but I’ve kicked into high gear this year.
At the end of 2010 and 2011, I compiled my own personal Top 10 Best Albums lists. It’s primarily for my own personal enjoyment, of course, but I also do it because I like to share good music as well as receive recommendations from friends. That, and making a Best Albums list and sharing it helps me rationalize why I wasn’t working a second job to make mo’money or pumping iron at the gym – I didn’t have time, man! I was doing research for my Top 10 list, you see.
But something clicked at the end of 2011 – I realized it was presumptuous for me to call “Best” what were really just my own “Favourites” (Who knows, maybe that’s the same thing in the end…). I shouldn’t say “just” my favourites. I’m proud of what I like. I try not to be a prick about it. Sometimes I fail. See last week’s editorial…
For the sake of argument, my Favourite Album of 2011 is, hands-down, Mastodon’s The Hunter. This has proven to be a tricky pick. The normies find it too heavy, and a lot of previously fan-for-life metal-heads consider it Mastodon’s “sellout” album. Whatever. I’ve loved Mastodon since first hearing “March of the Fire Ants” ages ago (thanks Max!) and since then, my love has blossomed into a full-grown and fragrant hairy metal flower with razor sharp petals that cut you if you come too close. If people can’t handle The Hunter, it’s their loss. I don’t think Mastodon will starve because of it. That said, I enjoy recommending music and sometimes it’s hard to take when someone goes “meh” to something you love, y’know? Such is life.
I don’t have trouble justifying #1s, 2s or 3s. That’s not the issue here. It’s that ruminating about the amount of time I spent making that list ended up lighting and fueling the following obsessive compulsion – “I need to spend even more time on this list. I need to listen to more music than ever before. I don’t want to… I can’t miss anything. I must hear everything. I can’t let anything get past me. I must begin now.”
And so it began. At first, I streamed and downloaded anything and everything I could find from 2012. I held a torrid pace for weeks. For a second, I think I truly believed that “Hey… maybe I can listen to everything that comes out this year… yeah!” You name it, I was on it.
My Woody Allen-esque look at the camera:
Listen, just to give you some perspective on my perspective – if I have to label myself, I’d say I’m a metal-head. Or a rock-head. I’m hard-headed, ha. Y’know what I mean, though? Rock’s where it is for me but it doesn’t stop there – Tool, Slayer, Jamiroquai, The Stooges, Tripping Daisy, Soundgarden, Nick Cave, Massive Attack, Johnny Cash, Mars Volta, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Sheep Wall, Pixies, Tom Waits, Rammstein, PJ Harvey… I’m leaving out hundreds… OH! And my favourite band of all time – The Doors. There you go. Music-head… let’s go with that. *ahem* Forgive my nauseating self-indulgence. Back to business.
So – was I able to keep up with every piece of music being released in 2012? Of course not. Was I naïve enough to think it possible for a second? Hell yes. Metal, hip hop, indie, punk, post-this, new-that, folk-this, folk-that, folk-folk FUCK! It didn’t stop. I was doing ten new albums a day at some point. Get it, play it, love it, hate it – put it on the list. Next. Next. The next day, I’d barely remember what I had listened to (especially if it hadn’t blown my mind)… But at least it was on The List… somewhere… The ever-growing list that was spiralling out of control. I’d stay up to the wee hours, bleary-eyed, digging for that new album, and I’d find another five unknowns during my search. Shit. I’d speed through those and I’d find a whole other bank of music somewhere online. Hundreds. Thousands of albums. “God no… there’s… there’s more… There’s always mooooorrrre!”
I was staring up from the bottom of an abyss… guitars and electronic beats echoing all around. There was a bit of light at the top… I could see it… I think… but there was so much music to eat, barely digest, and excrete before I got there.
Once in a while I’d find a jewel in the wall of albums I was climbing. It would make me pause, stunned. My reaction was a combination of all the shit that had gone into my ears (and boy, is there some shit out there) and the outstanding beauty of this new music I was hearing. “The Life and Times’ No One Loves You Like I Do… Hm. I like this.” I liked it enough to give it a second spin, still clinging onto the wall, knowing I had to move on from this one if I ever had a hope in hell to make it out of here. “Jesus, this is great. I… I think I love this… The Life and Times… Who knew? It reminds me of what Failure would release today or something… this is good.” Third spin. I’m in. I love it. “This is in the Top 10 for sure. Oh, what’s this! Orange Goblin… what a silly name.” I put on Eulogy for the Damned. “This… this is great too! Wow. What wicked music from a band with such a ridiculous name… I love it.”
Sadly, those moments were too few and far between. I knew I had to keep going. I had to keep notching albums off the “Listen” list… The Fray; the new Lionel Richie album; Modern Day Escape; Slaves On Dope; Epica; Dark New Day; Blessed By A Broken Heart… My god, this is… this is just so awful. All of this. Shit. Who listens to this, hell – Who makes this? “HEY! WHO MADE THIS SHIT?!”, I’d shout out from below. “ANSWER ME!” Nothing. “WHY WOULD ANYONE MAKE THIS GARBAGE?! EH?! WHYYY?!” Never any answer. “I DON’T WANT TO LISTEN TO THIS!”
Then it hit me – there was no one to blame but myself. Nobody forced me to listen to this awful… awful music. I looked for it, found it, and choked it down. I barely chewed. I was… addicted. I was a junkie. I had “succeeded” in turning my up-to-this-point enjoyable music listening experiences into a too-often grueling task. It had become work. Unpaid, self-imposed work. I had forgotten why I listened to music in the first place – to bop my head, to expand my mind, to learn some new truths, to air guitar to that devastating riff, to be floored by the awe-inspiring talent and musical beauty coming from everywhere on this planet.
I let go of the wall. I cleaned myself up. I flicked some things off my “Listen” list I knew I would not enjoy. Some things you just know. The new Our Lady Peace? Not interested. I’d rather not hear it. I’ll end up hearing the singles on the radio anyway, so if I happen to like it (nope!), maybe I’ll check it out. I have better things to do with my time. I have the new Mars Volta album to listen to again. Sure, I could spend that time taking a chance on another wholly new artist, but I really like Noctourniquet. It’s not done with me yet. Same with Meshuggah’s Koloss. A Place To Bury Strangers’ Onwards to the Wall. Plants and Animals’ The End of That. I could go on but I’ve kept you long enough.
I have to give some credit to Six Shooter Records. Their slogan became my mantra while working my way out of this self-abuse – “Life is too short to listen to shitty music.” Ahh, simple truths.
Don’t get me wrong, my “Listen” list is still quite long. Too long, perhaps. I may not get through it by December 31, 2012. But I’m done swallowing music indiscriminately to the point of aural indigestion. New music comes out every day – I won’t get to listen to it all. You won’t either. And that’s okay. Let’s just promise to share the gems we do find along the way, shall we?
Original photography by Amy Sparrow