Last night I dreamed musicians in this internet-addled age made albums for reasons they no longer could articulate, but knew they needed this sham, the album, to lay onto their moneyed fans as an object, a thing to own, but deep in their hearts they know the album is an artistic vehicle fading faster than the short story, a form equally born of financial (from "hey, I can sell this to the tinitinabulating Baltimore newspaper" to "hey- let's sell all these Elvis singles together") rather than artistic necessity.
And then they release their throwaways, as promotion, to the bloggers. Look at Jens Lekman. Look at all those Hot Chip mixes in the last few months. These used to be called b-sides. Radiohead threw their b-sides up in a fricking online concert.
And maybe some artists are releasing the throwaways prior to album release. Certainly seems like it from the new Magnetic Fields track bouncing around the blogs. Not to say it's all that bad, but "Three-Way" sounds like a vinyl b-side to a Feelies single. I have better vinyl b-sides by Merritt himself.
Maybe the EP is the way. Amid the flurry of writings covering Radiohead's significant blow (yet really only a good jab) on the jaw of the music industry, previous net-only attempts are mentioned, among them Prince, but few or none that I've read mention how Wire has now independently released their last seven years of recordings via the web and their own label. Their newestEP in this series of late-career stuff, Read and Burn 03, is out, and while not a momentous addition to their canon, it beats the pants off of the wussy soft-rock and prog-rock renaissance. Where are all the smart punks?
I had the luck to catch Wire a few (five?) years ago when they first fired this return shot, at Bowery Ballroom. If there's any bunch of reformed old farts to see, it's Wire, who, unlike Television etc, haven't really reformed but rather have found a reason to make a statement again. While I was witness, the show began in complete darkness, Colin Newman's head illuminated by a purple-glowing mike while he stalked the stage and screamed along angrily to a pre-recorded track harder than anything by that poser Elton John-lover Trent Reznor.
And to see Robert Gotobed play drums live is to see God, or something near.