It fascinates me how some bands are paraded with compliments one year and are egged with harsh criticism only a short time later. . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead were pegged as saviors of rock when Source Tags & Codes came out in 2002, but this year, there were way more negative reviews of Worlds Apart than positive reviews. Maybe that's the standard definition of backlash. I think of it more as what Kevin Smith went through with Mallrats when it first came out. He describes the feeling as one minute people want to hear what you say and think and then another minute the same people are telling you that your ideas suck. Is this being a fickle turncoat? I don't think so. People judge a work one at a time because loyalty can be blinding.
This year, a couple of bands that I really like their earlier efforts released new records: Coldplay and Death Cab for Cutie. Here are my reasons for why I didn't bother picking up their new records:
I'm a big fan of Coldplay's first album, Parachutes. Yeah, there are some Radiohead and Jeff Buckley overtones on it, but it's a warm and beautiful album from start to finish. With A Rush of Blood to the Head, there are a number of standout tracks, like the title track, "In My Place," and "Clocks." However, this album began a writing style that I couldn't really grasp: building parts with rather lame payoffs. Songs build and build, but a lot of them just whimper out in the delivery. I'm not implying that the band softened their sound for a broader audience, but it just sounds like the band is playing it too safe with the melodies.
With the gargantuan amount of press surrounding X&Y, I gagged at the sight of it. Does it really matter if they are or aren't "the next U2?" No. Coldplay will be Coldplay just like U2 has been U2-two different bands! So I see all this speculation every day for a few weeks straight and then certain tracks appear online. First single "Speed of Sound" is a safe rocker with an awesome atmospheric piano line but a rather lame feel to it (calling it a "Clocks Jr." is a good assessment). Then a couple more tracks are heard on a certain radio show/podcast that I like to listen to and a blog that used to be around and decide this: I'm gonna wait X&Y out and borrow a friend's copy. That moment hasn't come yet.
Death Cab for Cutie, Plans
I've never watched a full episode of the O.C. I'm aware that a certain character on the show really likes them and the band's music has been featured, but that's all I know. For me, I've been a very picky fan of Death Cab. I felt for quite a few years that their best material was their Forbidden Love EP, a collection of songs that weren't really labored over. That opinion changed when I heard Transatlanticism. The band's rather timid approach to rocking out was thankfully not there anymore and the songs hold incredibly well together.
With Plans, I didn't really get into the few tracks I heard online. First single "Soul Meets Body" is a good, dancey song with acoustic guitars. Definitely a change in what they had done before, but not a vast change. Then, after hearing a couple of tracks that Jeff posted on his blog, I decided to hold off buying Plans. The songs were too mellow and lifeless to get into.
So there you have it, one person's explanation as to why certain new records get a cold shoulder. I don't mean to be a fickle or passive listener, but there is plenty of other stuff out there that it's hard to give enough individualized attention to records that don't really impress me.