Thursday, April 11, 2013

Is It Overplay or Am I Just A Dick?

I was driving home tonight and "On Your Own" by The Verve shuffled into the speakers. It is a song from their second record, A Northern Soul, which came out ahead of their near perfect career highlight album Urban Hymns. Soul was a tremendous project that understandably became over shadowed by its follow-up. Hymns had a number of high profile singles like "Bittersweet Symphony", "The Drugs Don't Work", "Lucky Man", and "Sonnet". The thought I had tonight was that I far prefer "On Your Own" to any of those songs. As always, personal taste leads the way, but then why wasn't it as big a song as those from Hymns? Countless reasons, none of which reflect on the calibre of "On Your Own" as a song at the end of the day.

So then...

as I am prone to do, I got thinking about another northern UK band from the 90's, in the lads from Oasis. Similarly, many point to Definitely Maybe as a crucial staple that must reside in the collection of any self respecting BritPop fan, yet through the matter of time it will largely be seen as in the shadow of its respective follow-up, What's The Story Morning Glory? Not unfair, but to keep the song comparative going, I still prefer "Live Forever" from Definitely Maybe to the chart shattering bit of awesome that is "Wonderwall".

So then...

with maturity, hopefully comes reflection. When we are young, we often choose things we like such as music to either seperate ourselves from masses or challenge an authority. At 40ish one would hopefully be past needing to push any listening agenda and one should be able to slide into a comfortable position of "I like what I like, and I don't care what anyone thinks." Yet these two examples of preferring the less popular song got me questioning my own motivations, maturity notwithstanding.

So then...

the natural jump in thinking here is to the idea of overplay. Do you really prefer the less popular song, or are you just worn out on the super popular? For me it's probably a bit of both. I fall into the category of music fan who listens very actively versus music as pleasant background sound. This would hopefully mean that I consider songs completely on their own merit, rather than discounting the quality of a song because I'm tired of hearing it. Everyone loves finding something first. It's why early band adopters always feel a bit slighted when people flock en mass later on. It's the feeling the band isn't yours anymore. Not unreasonable, but also not where I am with things these days.

So then...

the progression of this foolishness leads me away from The Verve or Oasis, where I am prepared to just accept I simply like a couple less popular tracks by two cool bands. I stick on the idea of overplay. Why after over 30 years can I still listen "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division every day, yet I never ever fucking ever want to hear "Stairway to Heaven" ever again. Part of it is the default foolishness that continues to perpetuate itself where Stairway still gets mentioned in circles prone to taking short cuts to clear thinking as the greatest song of all time. Never mind that it's not that great a song (they're my ears - I can't hate it if I want), why do I not want to hear it again? Classic overplay.

Overplay in my mind is when you're subjected to music repeatedly you might not otherwise source on your own, to the point where you become incredibly familiar with everything about a song despite, in many cases, never really asking to hear it that much. Because I'm old, I have all of Zeppelin's records on mostly original vinyl pressings I picked up as a kid. I used to enjoy them, but now I don't. Sonically and artistically I find them juvenile, primitive and largely a relic of a musical era well since surpassed by more interesting, innovative and evolved artists. That's a taste thing, which is discussable, but really no more disputable than me trying to get one of their diehard fans to change their stripes.

So then...

here's the rub. I heard Zeppelin everywhere growing up, even when it wasn't me putting on my own records. Alternatively, it was pretty hard to hear the Talking Heads, Simple Minds or XTC anywhere without completely sourcing those sounds yourself. This isn't even about mainstream vs. underground. It's the idea that the music I tend to love most (especially from over ten years ago) holds up much better to my ears not just because of taste, but because I have largely discarded stuff that was played a lot when I didn't ask for it. The phenomenon declined over the years for me once I stopped listening to traditional radio (especially in a town over-run by classic rock radio), but the damage was done.

So then...

in this whole logical chain of thinking the answer is I likely am a dick when it comes to music, but I am also likely a harmless victim of tremendous overplay. An innocent bystander caught in a virtual sonic drive-by of shitty 70's rock bands. Regardless, if there was a gun to my head and I had to hear Zeppelin, I would far rather hear "Custard Pie" than that terrible "Immigrant Song". This much I know is true. Oh yeah, I would also choose Spandau Ballet over Zep in a heartbeat.