Sep 192008

Here’s a humble oldie but goodie that was initially posted with a hard-to-find Pere Ubu video that was quickly removed from YouTube, as we learned is the case with this band’s scant videos. A Kinks video that only a Kinks fan could love was put in its place, and this gets to the heart of our discussion. We’re a discerning bunch, and many of us have been known to kill off the “runts” in our favorite artists’ outputs, such as a friend’s literal shooting of his copy of London Calling, the Clash album that marked, in his mind, the band’s betrayal of their initial purpose. Who knows, on the other hand, what kepts others buying Clash records right on through Cut the Crap. Us parents call it unconditional love.

This post initially appeared 5/31/07.

No longer Maimone’s mullet, but hair treats nevertheless!

Am I incorrect in thinking that there are some long-running bands and solo artists who somehow manage not to bum out their dedicated fans? I’m thinking, in particular, of The Kinks and Richard Thompson. Do diehard fans of either band ever bum out at the release of a lesser work, or do they just “walk on by,” content with the fact that their underdog favorites have lived to see another release? Come to think of it, I probably do this for Pere Ubu, who haven’t put out a decent album that I’ve heard among occasional releases for what must be closing in on 15 years. Is there a band for which you turn the other cheek?*

*Really nice people, who never bum out over a bad turn by a favorite band, need not apply.


  31 Responses to “FRIDAY FLASHBACK! Bands That Don’t Bum Out Their Fans”

  1. I have to say Van Morrison. And I also have to say that as a once die-hard Richard Thompson fan, I’ve paid very little attention to his spate of recent releases. Though I’d love to hear if anybody thinks there’s an unacknowledged masterpiece, even a semi-masterpiece, among them.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    Van Morrison’s a good one! When he’s not interesting to his fans, they just shrug and go back to enjoying whichever old album of his they like best. Does anyone come to a place like Rock Town Hall to bitch about the great disappointment and outrage they felt when one of those ’80s albums with the stock photo sunset cover shot was released? Compare this with the sort of people who can’t get through a month without bitching about the apocalyptic implications of Elvis Costello’s release of Mighty Like a Turd.

  3. It could have something to do with taste and tastelessness. A second-rate Van or Thompson record isn’t tasteless, just bland. It doesn’t offend the core values of people who like that kind of music; it’s just a mediocre example of those values. Costello’s bad records somehow manage to offend the values of a good Costello record. Same for bad Neil Young, I’d say; a bad Neil Young record isn’t just bland, it grates on the nerves even of fans, because on those records it sounds like Neil doesn’t even understand what made Neil great.

  4. saturnismine

    that’s really well said about neil, mark. somehow, we need to reconcile the truth you speak with neil’s “it’s better to burn out, ’cause rust never sleeps” line. where’s dr. john? bring in the academic literary team!

    but what about bands comprised of burnouts and who have mostly burnouts as fans?

    sonic youth, bardo pond, grateful dead? the can’t burn out. they already are. no wonder they just keep going…on…and on…and on….

  5. I probably turn the other cheek for the Moz, whose album Vauxhall and I was an exceptional disappointment, but it’s Morrissey and he usually comes back to form even if he lost me for a bit, same thing with Paul Weller – he had me at Hello.

  6. sammymaudlin

    I learned to appreciate Skylarking. I even learned to like Oranges & Lemons in an “I’ve heard the other albums so much that I’ll listen to this again and I dig the cover art” kinda way. But Nonsuch… OMFG. There are fan sites devoted to this king of turds. It bummed me out, bad, but… Didn’t stop me from picking up up Apple Venus pt.1 which is my favorite of all mentioned above.

    This reminds me- Can there maybe be an subset of Rock Crimes? They give Skylarking a full 5 stars, 4.5 stars to Drums, Black Sea, NONSUCH and Apple Venus and 4 stars for English Settlement????

    Let’s call “Bullshit” on Fuckers.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Right on, Townspeople. The way you articulare the difference between Van and Neil, Mark, makes a lot of sense. Art, I had not considered the whole burnout scene. I was attributing almost all of this to underdog phenomena, but as Sammy makes clear, even underdogs can piss off their loyal fanbase.

  8. Dude, the AMG star ratings are basically useless, and I say this as a person who works there. Ignore them.

  9. BigSteve

    Enjoy the Pere Ubu video while you can. David Thomas has a strict no youtube policy, and he makes them take them down when he finds out someone has posted one.

    And btw the four records the band made for Fontana in the late 80s/early 90s (The Tenement Year, Cloudland, Worlds In Collision, and Story Of My Life) have just been given the upgraded reissue treatment, after having been out of print for years. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Some of their most accessible music (the video is from this period), and the sound, packaging, etc are all first class.

  10. As a huge Richard Thompson fan, his last album Front Porch Ballads really turned me off. I’d have to think a bit to state it definitively, but I’d say it’s easily the worst album by a favorite that I have.

    His latest is out this week and I haven’t heard it yet. But the last was such that I’m not in a big hurry and I have no expectations.

    And speaking of XTC, Oranges & Lemons is my least favorite of theirs. On the other hand, I quite like Nonsuch.

  11. Just wanted to add my two cents as a Kinks fan. They did plenty to bum me out as a fan. I eagerly bought Phobia THE DAY IT CAME OUT and felt deeply betrayed when it turned out to mostly be 71 minutes of horribly recorded hard rock. I do defend latter-day Kinks from time to time, but there’s much of the whole 1980s and onward era that I find kinda depressing for a variety of reasons.

    Richard Thompson is indeed the model of the dependable/non-bummer artist. Even if when his music is occasionally unremarkable, more of the same, he’s never really embarassing.

    I’d say that Neil Finn has maintained a pretty high standard of output, particularly from Woodface onward. But I haven’t heard the new Crowded House album yet.

    Also, Joe Pernice.

  12. general slocum

    Jesus. That video! Doesn’t David Thomas’ Schizo-Kabuki affectation make you appreciate Van Morrison anew? We opened for him in one of his Pedestrians or whatever guises back in the day at Folk City. I went to head down the stairs after our set, and he was coming up. It was a tiny passageway, and he was huffing and puffing and carrying a bottle of medicine and a hand full of kleenex and was making angry grunting noises. Now, I’m a big guy, but he was fucking intimidating! He looked like a pissed off rhinoceros with a goatee. He went on and played a very angry set to the very angry men who had scowled through our set. Funny.

    I think one of the reasons why Van Morrison doesn’t dissapoint, at least in the last decade plus, is that he’s off in his own bubble, and doesn’t seem convinced at any time that he has concocted a “new thing” which will really place him on top again. When some of these guys reinvent themselves, or try to invent a version of their first success, that’s what depresses me.

  13. Mr. Moderator

    Great story about you and David Thomas in the stairway, General! Good point on Van the Man, as well.

    Oats, I’m sorry to hear your experience with that Kinks album. I misjudged your ability to roll with a favorite rock artist’s punches.

    BigSteve, I didn’t know Thomas had a no-YouTube policy. Figures! The sooner that turd is taken off the web the better. I put it up there to test my own tolerance for some of his crap releases. Of those albums you mentioned, I can second The Tenement Year and Story of My Life (the latter with reservations), but I need to turn the other cheek to the two in between.

  14. BigSteve

    When I saw Thomas with RFTT he was drunk and genuinely scary, even from a distance. Some people down in front were pissing him off during the performance (I think by moshing .. I know go figure), and I don’t want to know what he did to them. I knew he was big, but I didn’t know he was tall too. The guy is huge.

    And for those who want to know, here’s the full story on youtube, from a response on the Ubu page to a fan who had illicitly posted an Ubu performance:

    Thank you for your email. The YouTube thing is a particular irritant and becoming more so the more I learn of it. As a consequence we may be altering our approach to the problem so I’m not sure I can give you solid answers right now.

    What is particularly galling is the law in this matter. As you discovered we own the copyright and any posting of our material violates that copyright unless it is licensed. When we discover a violation we inform YouTube and they promptly remove the material. However, the law is written in such a way that should the same material be posted after a week, or weeks (I’m unsure of the time frame), YouTube is legally permitted to host the new posting until they are AGAIN notified of the violation – even though it may be the same material. You can imagine then that for a small company of artists like ourselves this becomes a matter of constantly policing the site. It becomes a significant waste of time and energy. And it constitutes what I would call a form of harassment. Though not legally. So here we are, two different parties viewing the law from two different angles, both frustrated by the same law.

    It is our stated policy that if you ask permission to post we will consider it after you supply us with a 1:1 digital copy of the material. I do not know what you posted. I have no interest in viewing these clips and more to the point, I simply don’t have the time.

    In our current state of irritation we must now consider changing our policy. If we license some material and refuse license to other material it means that we will have to spend even more time and effort weeding out what is permitted and what is not. At the moment we can send a notification saying that everything they have is in violation. It’s irritating but still simple. If we permit some and refuse others then the process becomes even more time-consuming. Another element to the equation is YouTube’s policy whereby the posting of material to their site grants them a copyright to the material for all time. There then arises a legal question in that should we license a posting are we granting them a copyright in the material? Yet another time and life consuming issue. I am a musician. It’s amazing how little time I can devote to creative work in my year as time goes by and worldwide bureaucracy expands.


    So it’s not just a control issue, but a copyright issue.

  15. BigSteve

    I would say that in general it’s very rare for me to cut an artist I like loose. The only one I can remember consciously doing this to is Graham Parker, and it wasn’t because he was bad. It was because I felt like he was never going to do anything different enough from his past work (to say nothing of as good) to warrant continued purchases.

    I bought all those weird Neil Young albums, and I’m glad I did. I liked Reactor and Landing On Water. I guess I stopped buying the Van Morrison albums only because he seems to be doing genre projects now. An all new album of original songs would be tempting. I bought all of what someone called the sunset albums in the 80s and 90s, and the double CD of outtakes. The only Lou Reed album I skipped was The Raven. I’ll definitely be getting the new Richard Thompson.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks, Steve. Let me think about the best way to respect their wishes and replace this video. I’m a fan and can empathize with the hang ups of underappreciated artists and all that jazz. Farewell, Tony Maimone’s mullet!

  17. Mr. Moderator

    OK, see if you can turn your cheek to he replacement video.

  18. BigSteve

    I really wasn’t trying to get you to take the other video down, but thanks for the new one. Soap Opera is one of my favorite Kinks albums (seriously), and I’d never heard this alternate version of Ordinary People.

  19. Enjoy the Pere Ubu video while you can. David Thomas has a strict no youtube policy, and he makes them take them down when he finds out someone has posted one.

    So he claims that policing the site is a significant waste of time and energy and yet he was the time to create lengthy replies to the posters in question? It smells like bullshit to me.

    Regardless, aside from Graham Parker (who I’ve stuck with), the obvious answer here (for me at least) is The Fall. Even if an album isn’t that good, it’s still The Fall and it’ll still have a few really good songs on it. And you can always rely on an album within the next year. Oh and the Von Sudenfed (Mark E. Smith with Mouse on Mars) collaboration is excellent (better than the new Fall album, actually), so that’s even more dependability when the side projects are good, too!

  20. Um, while I can’t personally stand the guy, does Mr. Mod’s death-dance with Lou Reed count?

  21. Mr. Moderator

    Good question, Rick. I hadn’t thought of him, but I guess so. I’ve walked on by Lou’s releases for many moons now. He and Graham Parker are in the same boat for me. I don’t even think about their new music, I know it’s going to have only limited appeal (because they are so entrenched in who they think they are), but none of it bothers me. More power to them for whatever they’re up to these days.

  22. diskojoe

    I’ve been a Kinks fan for around 30 yrs. now (shock! horror!!) & Soap Opera ranks as one of my favorite albums since I bought my 1st copy @ Ann & Hope for $1.99. I noticed recently that someone posted the entire Soap Opera concert on YouTube. It’s too bad the production values were crappy, as I would have loved to seen the Kinks live in the “RCA concept album” years.

    Although I think that the Kinks’ post 1970 output is not as great as their previous output (I commented on a previous post how I shared Oats’ pain about Phobia), I think there have been enough gems scattered through their subsequent albums (including “Scattered”) to make it all worthwhile (hmmm…going back to Soap Opera). It seems to me that there’s a Kinks album for every mood. Sometimes I’m in the mood to listen to VGPS, other times I’m in the mood to listen to Soap Opera or something from their Arista years. I also feel that Ray’s solo albums have been a big step up from Phobia.

  23. Again Giles Smith and his 10cc obsession comes to mind with this thread.

    Beck is someone followed religiously by a few of my friends. (I own only 2 of his albums)

    For me: U2, Damon Alburn (who has been very successful in my mind at staying interesting), Radiohead, Sloan, and I’m starting to get that way about Costello (do I really need to own “Il Sogno”?…only if there’s a cheap used copy). Eels as well (although again, he’s staying pretty interesting).

    But the artist who gets the biggest pass and who I will never stop buying or being interested in is Brian Wilson. He still surprises with good music, but I find that I’m just as interested in listening to his new work to see how Wilson himself is doing. I feel a little like a psychoanalyst when I sit down to listen to a new album of his for the first time. I sighed with relief on his new album which I really like, and lyrically is pretty happy.

  24. I have to say that the band that never lets me down is Weezer.

    I love each and every song song written by by Rivers and crew.


  25. Can’t agree with diskojoe as Muswell Hillbillies was the beginning of the long swoon downwards for the Kinks and me (and before that they were as close to the Beatles as possible).

    And I no longer can give Brian a pass either. That Lucky Old Sun is a collection of recycled melodies and banal lyrics and the best thing on it is a 60 year old song. But mac and other Brian fans will enjoy this:

  26. If you can’t criticize something that you love, your opinion can’t be trusted.

    I’m very unforgiving. I cut Guided by Voices loose because I felt that the quantity was causing the quality to suffer, although at the very least, they always seem to have 2-3 good songs on every album. I broke up with Westerberg after Suicaine Gratification (sic), although we’ve since reconciled.

    Tom Waits is the only case where I buy everything. I’m missing a few 70’s hipster-beatnik albums but I suspect I’ll eventually fill in those gaps.

  27. BigSteve

    I’m happy to hear that someone else besides me like Soap Opera. I’ve never understood why some Kinks fans are so negative about it.

  28. Soap Opera is good stuff. I like most of those 70s Kinks reccords that I’ve heard.


  29. I love That Lucky Old Sun. I suppose I am with Mac on this one. I give Brian a free pass, too. I guess it’s unconditional love. I was disappointed with the last “original” album, Gettin’ In Over My Head. I then forgave with the Smile thing that totally eclipsed it. After that, it’s amazing to hear Brian still on top of his game with one of his all time best solo works. Sounds to me like a lot of demons were cut loose after Smile.


  30. Mr. Moderator

    The unconditional love Townspeople are showing once again is inspiring.

  31. I seem to have brought them up here a lot lately, which is weird because I haven’t been listening to them religiously or anything, but: I have yet to be bummed out by a Stereolab release, and it would probably take a lot for me to be.

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