I’ve got two words for you today. Just two simple words. They are:
My friend is obsessed with the new Mastodon album. They’re not really my thing (nor are most of the metal genre or their fans, especially), but he bought it yesterday (it’s been leaked for weeks, but he’s refused to download it, instead wanting “to experience it in it’s purest form”), but in reading about it out of curiosity, it makes me wonder what happened to the idea of the concept album.
Back in the 70s it was practically the de rigeur, wasn’t it? These days, other than metal and prog acts, the last concept album that springs to mind is, what, American Idiot? Green Day? Not fucking good enough. Who’s going to go out and write today’s version of The Wall or Tommy or Sgt. Pepper’s?
I remember reading a few years back that Trent Reznor brought somebody in to help him write the story for The Fragile. Is it me or is that not impressively lame?
And one should not confuse a concept album with a theme(d) album. All albums, in my opinion, should be theme albums. They should all come from the same place, chapters from the same novel, short stories from the same messed up thought process. Every artist should be able to say, “This is my divorce album,” or, “This is my ‘I just beat cancer album,’” or, “This is my Here, My Dear.”
But still, nothing can match the beauty of a concept album, the combination of an indepth story set to sometimes poppy, but sometimes also slightly avante-garde-ish, tunes is a magical combination. That’s right, I said it: magical.
Stepping back a bit, this is Brann Dailor, the drummer from Mastodon describing the “story” on their new album, Crack The Skye:
“There is a paraplegic and the only way that he can go anywhere is if he astral travels. He goes out of his body, into outer space and a bit like Icarus, he goes too close to the sun, burning off the golden umbilical cord that is attached to his solar plexus. So he is in outer space and he is lost, he gets sucked into a wormhole, he ends up in the spirit realm and he talks to spirits telling them that he is not really dead. So they send him to the Russian cult, they use him in a divination and they find out his problem. They decide they are going to help him. They put his soul inside Rasputin‘s body. Rasputin goes to usurp the czar and he is murdered. The two souls fly out of Rasputin’s body through the crack in the sky(e) and Rasputin is the wise man that is trying to lead the child home to his body because his parents have discovered him by now and think that he is dead. Rasputin needs to get him back into his body before it’s too late. But they end up running into the Devil along the way and the Devil tries to steal their souls and bring them down…there are some obstacles along the way.”
Wow. That’s impressive. On top of all that metaphysical hootenanny and sci-fi mad craziness, there’s a more personal element, a deeper meaning, if you will, dealing with the drummer’s sister, Skye, who committed suicide at age 14, and that the timeless emotional story of the element has to do with the moment in which you hear that a loved one has left the world and you become filled with so many feelings rising up high enough that they could crack the sky.
Well, whatever. That’s heavy, man.
Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool is no MACHINA/The Machines Of God or Kid A, but it’s got it’s own charm.
I think I want to get a job writing ridiculous concept album concepts. Probably for a group like Mastodon, whose last album, Blood Mountain, didn’t just have a wonderful title, but also packed a similarly crazy story to go with it (again, sonically/musically they’re just not my thing)(though as someone who plays guitar, I can admire their technical expertise and their ability to seriously shred). And certainly Trent Reznor needs the help because those tales of woe and bleak futurescapes just aren’t going to write themselves. And of course there’s always a Slayer-ific group like Coheed and Cambria. Those guys are just dying for new concepts for their wacky albums. Claudio Sanchez, the frontman from Coheed, eventually turned all the wacky material from his albums into a comic book series, The Armory Wars, parts one and two, and here’s the solicitation from The Armory Wars II #5 (of 5):
Coheed and Cambria are dead, Mariah’s Rebellion is destroyed, and Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan rules the expanse of Heaven’s Fence unopposed. The final issue of “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” cuts to the quick – and all that remains is a bloody trail of death, destruction and self-immolation.
Self-immolation. That sounds about right.
Incidentally, this is my favorite new comic book. Word to your momma.
The beauty of me getting a job writing concept album concepts is that in the off season, I can just loan out my big beautiful brain to the Japanese. It’s kind of funny, if you think about it, in that we know Japanese cinema (usually horror movies) and we know about the anime, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anything about a Japanese sitcom or a Japanese one hour drama, you know? Regardless, I’m not one of those weird anime lovers, but I’ve seen a little, and I like it. I like the depths of imagination they mine for some of their work (and some of it sounds like it was concocted in the throes of a serious peyote binge). When it’s not about giant robots and tentacle rape, that is. Maybe they’ll let me throw out a few ideas for them, not that those crazy wonderful bastards need it, of course.
So, in conclusion:
1. Concept albums rock. They need to come back in a big way soon, but not just in hands of metal bands and shit acts like Insane Clown Posse.
2. I’m aware that a better concept album/idea was discussed in This Is Spinal Tap, but I didn’t want to call this post, “Saucy Jack,” though now I kind of wish I had.
3. ELO’s Eldorado is one of the greatest albums of all time and if you disagree, I will fight you. I will fight you to the death.
4. Blind Guardian, leaders of the pack on Tolkien music or Lord Of The Rings-core, fucking shred: