Double albums/Double trouble?
Much has been said over the years with regards to artists releasing double albums, but the recent release of Red Hot Chili Peppers' double album Stadium Arcadium got me wondering bout this subject once more. Double albums; double the value or double the trouble?
Firstly let me clarify what a double albums is; a record released on two discs as the content will not fit on to one disc. Historically vinyl LPs were often released as double albums as vinyl discs could not hold as much music as modern CDs. Most vinyl LPs were between 30 and 45 minutes long, where as CDs can generally hold up to 80 minutes of music. So, it could be viewed that in this day and age (the compact disc era) that there really shouldn't be much need for a double album. And yet, some are still released.
Aside from greatest hits albums and the more instrumental non-mainstream artists like; Aphex Twin, The Future Sound of London, The Orb and BT, and perhaps even releases of live performances, why would an artist release a double album? An obvious answer would be because they've recorded so much great material and they want to repay the fans kindness, god that sounded cynical! Some people would say that an established (already popular) group or artist may self-indulgently believe that releasing a double album will be a sure way to strike gold once more. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that there have been some great double albums, in-fact it would be great if you would reply to this post detailing any double albums that you have particularly enjoyed – but I'm gonna talk about a few that have left a slightly tainted view for myself…
- Eels – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
I'm a big fan of Eels (the band, not the animal), so naturally I was looking forward to this. Then I discover it is a double album, although I didn't really have an opinion on that at the time. The albums is two discs; first disc contains 17 tracks and the second disc contains 16 – total content length; 93m28s. You'd be forgiven for thinking that on paper it sounds like a good return for your dollars. The trouble I had with this album, and have with most double albums, is that I was so flooded with material it was difficult to really gauge one track from the next and form a balanced opinion on the listening experience. Off the top of my head I cant name one track from the album, let alone tell you which ones I liked best. I've listened a few times too, it just doesn't get any better. Which is not to say there aren't any good tracks on the album, just too many tracks.
- Foo Fighters – In Your Honor
Never been a massive follower of Foo Fighters, although on occasion I think they are pretty good. I liked the sound of the tracks I had heard on the radio, so bought this double album. So, two discs; first disc has eleven tracks and the second has ten – total content length; 83m17s. Once again it was a hazy listening experience, although not quite as punishing as Eels' 33 track marathon. One redeeming quality was the fact that the first disc was more lively and the second more mellow, that was a nice touch – plus I could spot the tracks I liked, such as; Best Of You, The Last Song and Cold Day In The Sun. But, still, felt like I was being swamped with too much material.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium
And so on to the latest (and 9th) Chili Peppers album. I only really got in to these guys when Californication came out, and I really like that album and also By The Way. I'm not a big rock fan at the best of times, so although tracks like Under The Bridge I find good, their earlier work really doesn't do much for me. But, here we are at present day with a new double album. Two discs; first disc offers 14 tracks and the second offers 14 also – total content length; 122m41s. A monstrous amount of music, anyone would agree. Firstly I just want to say that there are some great tracks on this album, my favs include; Dani California, Charlie, Wet Sand, and Animal Bar. Yet, once more there was just too much on offer to really gain a proper judgement overall as an album.
As I'm sure you can tell, the common theme amongst those three is the apparent volume of content (hence the need for a double album in the first place!). To rationalise, take your average normal size album of good quality – on occassion there will be an album released that has eleven absolutely amazing tracks, but generally (and more realistically) speaking, even a good album has perhaps just four or five amazing tracks, a few good tracks, and then a couple of take-it-or-leave-it type tracks. In my opinion, when you increase the volume of tracks on an album, you are more than likely increasing the amount of average tracks on offer – hence devaluing the whole listening experience. I would rather listen to just eight good tracks than listen to ten good tracks but then 16 pretty average ones.
Artists; save these double albums for your greatest hits release or live anthology – releasing such a quantity of material in one hit just weakens your stock. It's quality not quantity! Least that's what I keep telling myself! Once more I realise I'm just scraping the tip of the iceberg on this discussion, but maybe that's just cos I'm cleverly enticing you (the valued reader) in to voicing your thoughts via the comments feature?! Go on, let yourself go, leave me a comment bout double albums!