Shelved Albums

The Man Killed Our Music: This week on Sound Opinions Jim and Greg take look at albums by major artists which the record companies wouldn’t release. Plus, they’ll discuss the latest music news and review the hugely successful debut album from The Arctic Monkeys.

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Music News

The week’s first news story concerns two different markers of achievement in the music industry: The Grammy Awards and the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll. Everyone, of course, knows about The Grammys—the annual awards given by the Recording Academy—but Jim and Greg argue that a better indicator of who deserved praise this year is the Pazz & Jop poll, which was taken by almost 800 music critics. There aren’t many crossovers on the list of Village Voice winners and Grammy nominees, except for the critical and popular favorite Kanye West. The other musicians who finish out the top five— M.I.A., Sufjan Stevens, Sleater-Kinney and Fiona Apple—definitely don’t appear on the Grammy ballot for Album of the Year. The artists honored in that category include Mariah Carey, U2, Gwen Stefani and Paul McCartney.

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not The Arctic Monkeys

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

One of the albums Jim and Greg review this week made so much news that they need to discuss it at the top of the show. The British band The Arctic Monkeys broke records this week when its debut album became the fastest selling in British chart history. While neither Jim nor Greg can fully comprehend this phenomenon, they both like the record. Jim gives the album a Buy It rating, but admits that The Arctic Monkeys are not nearly as amazing as the hype might have you believe. Greg likes lead singer Alex Turner’s Streets-like approach to lyrics, but doesn’t think the Arctic Monkeys are a great band yet. He gives Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not a Buy It too.

The Arctic Monkeys are not the first British band to face this kind of hype. There have been a number of UK bands who achieved rave reviews and huge success but were never able to break out across the pond. A look at lists compiled by British media outlets The Guardian and NME demonstrate this point. Bands like The Jam, The Stone Roses, The Libertines, Blur and The Smiths are up there with The Beatles and The Clash in the minds and hearts of British fans and critics, yet none of these groups achieved any major fame in the States. One theory given by Jim: Americans are discerning of imports ever since the first British Invasion. Greg points out that there was a second British invasion in the ‘80s, and wonders if it is the very Britishness of some of these bands that prevent American fans from identifying. Or perhaps some tastes just don’t translate.

Shelved Albums

On this week’s show, Jim and Greg stick it to the man—or, more specifically, the record companies. They discuss the phenomenon of major labels pulling the plug on established artists. The most recent victim is Nellie McKay, whose album Pretty Little Head was denied release by Sony Music. McKay wanted to release one version, Sony wanted to release another, and after the Pretty Little singer told her label to take it or leave it, they left it. Of course, upon hearing the advance copy, our hosts can’t necessarily blame them.

Whether you enjoy the music or not, McKay’s situation does pose an interesting question of how much creative control an artist has while under major label contract. In Jim’s words: As long as there have been major labels, there have been executives deciding that they know better than the artist. What are some of the other lost albums that fell prey to the big bad record company? Jim and Greg list off some of their favorites.

  • Butthole Surfers, After the Astronaut
  • Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  • Brian Eno, My Squelchy Life
  • Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • The Velvet Underground, VU

Duets: The Final Chapter Notorious B.I.G.

Duets - The Final Chapter

Next up Jim and Greg review the latest album by the Notorious B.I.G. They hesitate to say it is by him, however, being that the rapper died in 1997. Despite this fact, his music is still being released, and on this go-around, Duets: The Final Chapter, he was even paired with another deceased music icon. Biggie Smalls is the latest in a long line of musicians to continue to do big business after death. Other artists with posthumous releases and commercially successful legacies include Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Johnny Cash and Jimi Hendrix. Biggie’s posthumous release is approaching platinum status, but our critics wonder if it really needed to be made. Duets is so chock full of all-star cameo that listeners may wonder who this record is about. For the sheer novelty of it, Duets gets a Burn It rating from Jim. For Greg, though, the songs are mediocre and the sentiment insincere. He gives it and the entire posthumous phenomenon a Trash It.

Jim

This week Jim gets to choose a Desert Island Jukebox track. He brings the show full circle by choosing a song by another witty British pop group: The Kinks. David Wattsis a song where Ray Davies sneers at Watts, a member of the English upper-crust. Davies takes the gentleman to task for being too gentle. One shouldn’t be too quick to label the songwriter a homophobe, however. His 1970 hit song Lola was a loving portrait of a transvestite. Whatever the lyrics are about, David Wattsis a great sing-along, and we encourage all Sound Opinions listeners to do just that.

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