Sometimes, no matter how much I just want to give something a chance, it just doesn’t work with my ears or sensibilities.
Once or twice I’ve decided to slap my face with a freshly caught mackerel to forget some truly terrible music – the first was about the time I had first discovered punk music. The year was 1996 and my friend Steve had just started listening to MXPX which, for my hungry ears, was too soft. I dug around and found a band called The Vandals who had just released the album Hitler Bad, Vandals Good. This would go on to be a defining album in my life and to this day I consider it a benchmark of sorts – not all the tracks are great but they are written with a certain level of competence that I come to expect out of any artist I’m considering reviewing.
Around that same time we started to fall into a crowd that enjoyed things like ska and hardcore, which can be amazing stuff but when it’s bad it completely stinks. One of our new friends was nice enough to lend us some CD’s of this ‘hot new band’ he had discovered – if you can call finding Creed a discovery. After slapping myself upside the head with some fresh mackerel I realized that I would have to choose my music friends more wisely, fresh mackerel isn’t cheap.
Recently I was asked to review an EP from a group that has some interesting ideas but lacks in other areas – mostly their music just isn’t very good. Cool ideas, hooks, sounds, etc. will only get you so far on their merit, what I’m looking for is a well crafted song, a composition that has more depth than a good intro.
This speaks doubly so when a band puts out a cover song. To band members reading this my advice is to skip it, don’t do the cover, they rarely turn out as well as you think they do. Take a look at Anberlin’s take on The Cure’s Love Song, uninspired, bland, nothing new. Where the original has depth to it and fantastic, clean, penetrating production, Anberlin regurgitate the cover version with the energy of a Lutheran pastor.
If you’re going to cover a song it needs to be different, it needs to be so different that the band covering it could conceivably have written it, otherwise it’s a tribute. Take a listen to the original
You want a good cover song? Hendrix, All Along the Watchtower, arguably the most successful cover of all time. Dylan himself argued “He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using.” – that is how you cover a song.
The point is this, if you’re sending music out to me, I can’t cover it if you haven’t put effort into the product. Why should I, or anybody else, spend time listening to a mediocre product? Especially when probability holds that it’s possible to find something way better – I’ll skip your track and search for something else.
As the music distribution model continues to morph, releasing every couple of months is becoming increasingly important. If you’re not releasing your top work though, you’re not going to have an audience. Consider that your audience is comprised of fans you’ve impacted – they’ll tell everyone they know about you but if that first impression a new listener has is less than incredible, you’ve lost them.
Bands, you have a responsibility to post your best music every single time. If you’re not, change, because otherwise you’ll be another never was.