Here’s some thoughts I was having on my way home from work last night.
I’ve noticed that the band Coheed & Cambria polarizes people. Thankfully my friends who do not like them are reasonable and intelligent people, so when they tell me, a huge Co&Ca fan, that they do not like them, they simply state it as a fact. They do not hurl insults about them. I know that there have been many reports of D.J.s insulting their music; I’ve heard some myself, but then I don’t trust the opinions of radio D.J.s, and neither should you.
But last night, as I was having an imaginary but intelligent conversation with a friend in my mind about this band, I noticed there are two distinct ways to approach a band and their music. The right way or the wrong way depends on the band, I think.
The Genre Approach: This is when you pick up a CD or select a song by a particular artist because you know or have heard that they fit into a particular genre (or based on how strongly they are influenced by a more famous band, or to even judge a new album of a band based on how similar it is to their previous works). In my life, this happened the most in my punk and ska days. I picked up albums by bands such as Mustard Plug, Blink 182, I Against I, Pulley, The Eclectics, Ozma, and many many many others based purely on my understanding that the band fit into a genre of music that I liked. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, but it is definitely very limiting. I began to lose interest in all the new music I bought because I wasn’t interested in what each band was doing, I was looking for a sound that I’d already made my mind up on and was trying to find it. Now, some of the groups looked into for this reason were only worth that approach. Sorry if you’re a Pulley fan, but they’re pretty typical and nothing special, and I think that if you are a huge fan of them, it’s mainly because they best fit the kind of sound that you were looking for before you bought their CD. There are lots of other bands, however, that I started listening to in this manner and I found that they were better listened to with the 2nd approach:
The Digestive Approach: I really wish I could think of a better name for that. This is when you listen and pick apart a musician’s work in an individualistic fashion, measuring its worth not based on how it holds up to a similar sounding band, their previous albums, or the rigid definitions of a genre, but only on how it works as music. It really requires you to “digest” an album, which is why I chose the gross name. As mentioned before, it is certainly possible to look into a band based via “The Genre Approach,” but then begin to look into them deeper over time and learn to appreciate them (or not appreciate them) as simply an individual artist. In the past, this has happened with bands I love (such as Dead Kennedys) and bands I really don’t care for (such as The Dave Matthews Band). But I’ve found that there are lots of bands and artists I’ve listened to in this manner right off the bat. Some of them are worth it and endure, like Sufjan Stevens or Broken Social Scene, and some don’t hold up too well and are best left as novelty items, like (in my opinion) groups like The Killers or The Hives. So many bands can easily move back and forth or even exist simultaneously in both of these approaches, but Coheed and Cambria is one of those bands that I really think exists the best in this second one. Theirs is a sound that requires commitment and is not classified easily. I think the best test for this is to see whether or not a band’s songs fair well on a mix CD.
And I’ve completely lost interest in this blog. It’s hard to think through legitimate thoughts and put them into type when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure your boss isn’t coming.