Author Topic: Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?  (Read 1106 times)

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« on: January 29, 2007, 12:06:58 AM »
I see a lot of people criticise bands for their self indulgence and I was just wondering why it's a bad thing. For me music is about expressing yourself and experimenting, trying to come out with something that sounds good to you and conveys what you are trying to convey. If a band does an experimental album or something and it doesn't pay off they're called 'self indulgent'. It's almost like saying doing the safe thing and watering down music for everyone is preferable to someone doing their own thing. I'd prefer a band try and make something they want to rather than reproduce their last album because they know it will make money. My favourite musicians would be making music if they were getting paid for it or not, E from the Eels for instance talks about how he doesn't care about getting music out there, he just wants to make it. That's pretty self indulgent isn't it? Why is that kind of thing seen as a negative? So yeah, not a great idea for a thread but I'm bored and avoiding doing work. What does it mean to say a band is self indulgent and why is it a bad thing?

rudi

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2007, 12:15:20 AM »
It's more a short-hand for "self-indulgence at the detriment of accessibility" which, while not in ityself a "bad" thing, becomes a bad thing when you put it out in the public domain.

You could also say it's short-hand for "TOO self-indulgent" - again referring to the fact that, while you can do what you like, if you want me to listen to it it has to be something I can access in some way.

There's a whole swathe of music that's enormous fun to create and play, but pretty difficult to listen to.

Personally I find extended and, though technically excellent, thoroughly dull and soulless solos the dark side of self-indulgence, but yer Steve Vai fan (in the main they're also guitar players so understand the fun he's having) would disagree with me vehemently, busting out of their hilarious sleeveless denim jackets in their haste to pull my hair.

Of course, one man's self-indulgence is another's amaaaaazzing odyssey, innit?

Funcrusher

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2007, 12:43:40 AM »
In the days when I used to read the music papers (and there was more than one of them), whenever anything was described as 'self indulgent'  it usually made more more likely to take an interest in it, since it often meant something more interesting than middle-of-the-road indie.

Shoulders?-Stomach!

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2007, 10:53:12 AM »
Quote
Personally I find extended and, though technically excellent, thoroughly dull and soulless solos the dark side of self-indulgence


I agree. My best mate loves that sort of stuff and reckons I'm jealous because I can't play them myself. I prefer hooks rather than post-chorus guitar skill exposition- it's easier to listen too. I like a bit of improv around the hook but for me a good hook has to be at the centre of it.

If self-indulgence means bands making music for themselves, rather than the fans, then self-indulgence is probably a good thing. Once bands start making music for any other reason than the love of music, it goes stinky.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2007, 11:26:35 AM »
I'm not really one for rules and regulations in music because they tend to stifle creativity...but...making longwinded rambling solos that are entertaining to noone but yourself is probably OK in the comfort of your own home, but I think they become a problem if you put out a CD or go on tour and expect people to pay for it, especially if your previous albums were more accesible. There is an expectation there that you are going to 'deliver the goods'

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2007, 05:40:31 PM »
I think self indulgence only comes into play when you make a song uneccessarily "more" than it should be. Songs dictate their own length, when it's ran out of steam, stop it, whether it be 1 minute or 14 minutes. And if a song doesn't need lots of weird sounds or whatever, why put them on? That's when I would say it's self indulgence, and I've certainly been guilty of it myself.
"I'd really like to add 5 minutes of me playing my bass really well at the end of this song". Fine, but no-one else wants to hear it.

Catalogue Trousers

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2007, 08:08:44 PM »
Because, left unchecked, it leads to such aural detritus as the seemingly endless run-out groove (and dubbed-on applause!) of Oasis' Whatever, or the sheer tortuous tedium of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. That's why.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2007, 08:20:38 PM »
Quote from: "Catalogue Trousers"
seemingly endless run-out groove (and dubbed-on applause!) of Oasis' Whatever.


Of course, they only did that because the run out groove on original pressings of Sgt Pepper do the same... Noel and Liam - always original.

chand

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2007, 08:42:41 PM »
I've become pretty pro-self-indulgence of late, as the spiralling length of my own songs seems to testify. Mainly because I'm into bands lately who feel like they're off on their own tangent and doing what they want to do rather than being cajoled into what their audience expects, within reason. Certainly on record, in these days where people get to sample before they buy, if a band wants to ditch pop songs and noodle themselves into oblivion on a record that's fine. It's maybe different if you're paying to see a Greatest Hits gig and the band launches into a 3-hour improvised free-jazz piece; then you might feel a little ripped. But broadly speaking, I want to feel that the band I'm listening to believes in what they're doing.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2007, 11:21:22 PM »
It's just when you start to feel kind of left out that the self-indulgence thing kicks in. I went to see Steely Dan once and they ruined "Peg" by including a guitar solo, a sax solo and two bleeding drum solos. Steely Dan were always close to disappearing up their own behinds on the muso aspect of things though.

non capisco

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2007, 11:44:52 PM »
I think I like the idea of a band or singer being self indulgent and relaxing their sense of focus more than I do the outcome. Albums like 'Sandinista!' and 'Stereopathetic Soul Manure' perhaps become more than the sum of their parts due the sprawling approach of being a carnival of ideas with little or no commercial concerns (I love Strummer's enthusiastic accounts of making what's generally considered to be The Clash's white elephant, running around like blue arsed flies just trying things out). But I go back to 'The Clash' and 'Odelay' more frequently.

If self indulgence has a sense of vitality about it then I guess it's OK. The worst kind of self indulgence was the reformed Television playing Patti Smith's Meltdown at the RFH a couple of years back. They were happy to indulge themsleves widdling about and jamming aimlessly for three songs before tossing out a piss-poor 'Venus De Milo' and then telling the audience 'in case you haven't guessed you're watching a rehearsal'. Yeah, one I've paid to see, Verlaine, you knob.

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2007, 12:43:29 AM »
Quote from: "non capisco"
I think I like the idea of a band or singer being self indulgent and relaxing their sense of focus more than I do the outcome. Albums like 'Sandinista!' and 'Stereopathetic Soul Manure' perhaps become more than the sum of their parts due the sprawling approach of being a carnival of ideas with little or no commercial concerns (I love Strummer's enthusiastic accounts of making what's generally considered to be The Clash's white elephant, running around like blue arsed flies just trying things out). But I go back to 'The Clash' and 'Odelay' more frequently.

If self indulgence has a sense of vitality about it then I guess it's OK. The worst kind of self indulgence was the reformed Television playing Patti Smith's Meltdown at the RFH a couple of years back. They were happy to indulge themsleves widdling about and jamming aimlessly for three songs before tossing out a piss-poor 'Venus De Milo' and then telling the audience 'in case you haven't guessed you're watching a rehearsal'. Yeah, one I've paid to see, Verlaine, you knob.


If I went to see Television and there weren't plenty of long solos from Verlaine and Lloyd I'd probably demand my money back.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2007, 11:28:17 PM »
Patti Smith having a meltdown at the right fucking horn?  I'd pay to see that.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2007, 11:42:50 PM »
Quote from: "non capisco"
I think I like the idea of a band or singer being self indulgent and relaxing their sense of focus more than I do the outcome. Albums like 'Sandinista!' and 'Stereopathetic Soul Manure' perhaps become more than the sum of their parts due the sprawling approach of being a carnival of ideas with little or no commercial concerns (I love Strummer's enthusiastic accounts of making what's generally considered to be The Clash's white elephant, running around like blue arsed flies just trying things out). But I go back to 'The Clash' and 'Odelay' more frequently.


I actually prefer Stereopathetic Soul Manure to Odelay - I was pretty disappointed when I heard the latter album, I've always found it quite boring, never got into it. I could listen to SSM, Mellow Gold or One Foot In The Grave endlessly, but Odelay and Mutations leave me very cold. I loved Midnite Vultures though, so maybe I'm just fucked in the head.

I can understand why you'd revisit The Clash more frequently then Sandinista! though. I think the latter is a great (and most definitely underrated) album, but I do go through phases where I find it utterly unlistenable. I can live without most of sides 5 & 6, but I'm still glad they're there, mainly for the remix of 'Junco Partner' on side six. Oddly, I can listen to all of Sandinista! straight through no bother, but I struggle to get through Combat Rock and Cut The Crap (no surprise there - definitely not an underrated album).

buttgammon

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2007, 02:59:50 AM »
Quote from: "Egyptian Feast"

I can understand why you'd revisit The Clash more frequently then Sandinista! though. I think the latter is a great (and most definitely underrated) album, but I do go through phases where I find it utterly unlistenable. I can live without most of sides 5 & 6, but I'm still glad they're there, mainly for the remix of 'Junco Partner' on side six. Oddly, I can listen to all of Sandinista! straight through no bother, but I struggle to get through Combat Rock and Cut The Crap (no surprise there - definitely not an underrated album).


I feel the same way about Sandinista. I do prefer London Calling to The Clash, though. It seems to me that Sandinista is almost like an extended and expanded attempt at making an album like London Calling (a melting pot of styles again). I sometimes think it's wonderful and end up listening to it all and thoroughly enjoying it, but other times, it seems too long and full of filler material to me. I still love Sandinista, though.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2007, 09:19:11 AM »
Quote from: "buttgammon"

I feel the same way about Sandinista. I do prefer London Calling to The Clash, though. It seems to me that Sandinista is almost like an extended and expanded attempt at making an album like London Calling (a melting pot of styles again).


I'd agree with that, but unfortunately the songwriting on Sandinista! isn't as strong or as immediate. The first time I listened to London Calling, at least half the tracks jumped out at me and I immediately knew it was a great album. Not bad for a double album - few doubles feel as short and snappy.

Sandinista! has a lot of excellent songs, but on first listen none of them exactly jump out and grab you like, say 'Spanish Bombs' or 'The Card Cheat' do. Even if it had been trimmed to a 90 minute or even 70 minute double album, I reckon it would still have it's longeurs. It certainly didn't deserve the panning it got (especially considering the band took a royalty cut to make it available at a single album price - there's got to be at least a single album's worth of stuff in there for every Clash fan), but then London Calling was not critically acclaimed on first release either. People tend to forget that the (now) less acclaimed Give 'Em Enough Rope and Combat Rock were greeted more warmly by the critics.

buttgammon

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2007, 12:25:36 PM »
Quote from: "Egyptian Feast"
Quote from: "buttgammon"

I feel the same way about Sandinista. I do prefer London Calling to The Clash, though. It seems to me that Sandinista is almost like an extended and expanded attempt at making an album like London Calling (a melting pot of styles again).


I'd agree with that, but unfortunately the songwriting on Sandinista! isn't as strong or as immediate. The first time I listened to London Calling, at least half the tracks jumped out at me and I immediately knew it was a great album. Not bad for a double album - few doubles feel as short and snappy.

Sandinista! has a lot of excellent songs, but on first listen none of them exactly jump out and grab you like, say 'Spanish Bombs' or 'The Card Cheat' do. Even if it had been trimmed to a 90 minute or even 70 minute double album, I reckon it would still have it's longeurs. It certainly didn't deserve the panning it got (especially considering the band took a royalty cut to make it available at a single album price - there's got to be at least a single album's worth of stuff in there for every Clash fan), but then London Calling was not critically acclaimed on first release either. People tend to forget that the (now) less acclaimed Give 'Em Enough Rope and Combat Rock were greeted more warmly by the critics.


I can definitely see what you mean about the songwriting on Sandinista. It sometimes seems as though a few of the songs on it would never have made the cut if they had released a double album like London Calling. I certainly think the critics got it wrong with the endless praise Give 'Em Enough Rope (which I really dislike) and Combat Rock were given at the time, but I suppose Sandinista is an album which requires patience to warm to. There are some brilliant songs within it, but you have to find them.

explodingvinyl

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Re: Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2007, 02:44:53 PM »
Quote from: "A Passing Turk Slipper"
Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?

Muse.

Famous Mortimer

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2007, 04:22:59 PM »
I could happily listen to "Metal Machine Music" over and over, but I understand the point being made. The classic example of a band where self-indulgence went that step too far is Guns n Roses with the two "Use Your Illusion" records- two double albums that contained maybe one single album's worth of half-decent material on it (speaking as, back then, a teenage GnR fan).

It means to me bands thinking too much of themselves and releasing any old tat- there's no hard and fast rules. I find Mogwai live to be massively self-indulgent- when they first started out, they were incredible live, but now they've got the fanbase who'd pay to hear them fart they do songs which have wind-downs which last ten minutes. When people from the audience started shouting "get on with it", you know you've lost them, especially fans of a band like them. It just drifted on and on, and I was begging them to get to the next song.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2007, 06:27:52 PM »
Quote from: "Famous Mortimer"
I could happily listen to "Metal Machine Music" over and over, but I understand the point being made. The classic example of a band where self-indulgence went that step too far is Guns n Roses with the two "Use Your Illusion" records- two double albums that contained maybe one single album's worth of half-decent material on it (speaking as, back then, a teenage GnR fan).


I was listening to both of them recently as I was planning to put a compilation together of the best bits, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well a lot of it has aged. I jetissoned most of the covers, filler tracks and the nine minute ballads, leaving me with a consistently good 80 minute double album that builds up to 'Coma', one of the last great rock epics IMHO. Most of the best stuff comes from Volume 1 (no, 'November Rain' did not make the cut); Volume 2 is pretty self-indulgent  and boring ('Get In The Ring' really is pathetic).

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #20 on: January 31, 2007, 06:45:24 PM »
Yup - 'Get In The Ring' is pointless and stupid.  On the other hand, though, that second album contains 'Yesterdays'.

Oddly, back when they were new releases ('Get In The Ring' aside) I preferred the second album.  I heard them again fairly recently and it's definitely the first one which is the stronger of the pair.  Neither of them are anywhere near as good as 'Appetite For Destruction' though.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2007, 08:17:45 PM »
I've always liked Prince's "Lovesexy" which is quite self-indulgent I suppose.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #22 on: January 31, 2007, 11:45:12 PM »
Quote from: "trotsky assortment"
Yup - 'Get In The Ring' is pointless and stupid.  On the other hand, though, that second album contains 'Yesterdays'.

Oddly, back when they were new releases ('Get In The Ring' aside) I preferred the second album.  I heard them again fairly recently and it's definitely the first one which is the stronger of the pair.  Neither of them are anywhere near as good as 'Appetite For Destruction' though.


'Yesterdays' made the cut. A wonderful song. Agreed though,  at it's best, Use Your Illusion doesn't even begin to challenge Appetite For Destruction. Still, my edited version is still a pretty amazing album.

Quote from: "Ciarán"
I've always liked Prince's "Lovesexy" which is quite self-indulgent I suppose.


But how many Prince albums aren't self-indulgent? Lovesexy was my first Prince album so I'll always be fond of it. It's a mess, but a fine mess. 'Alphabet Street' is all over the place, but it's my favourite Prince single. Cat's rap is truly delicious (as is Ween's cover of it in the mid-section of 'Let Me Lick Your Pussy'). It's a very unconventional single, but it's one of the catchiest songs he ever did.

Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2007, 08:25:07 AM »
Quote from: "Ciarán"
I've always liked Prince's "Lovesexy" which is quite self-indulgent I suppose.


I like 'Lovesexy' too.  Granted, it's not a patch on the man's previous four releases though.
I still find it irritating that the CD pressing doesn't come with track breaks.

Famous Mortimer

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Why is self indulgence in music a bad thing?
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2007, 08:52:34 AM »
I might have to revisit those two albums then, admittedly I've not heard them in a decade or so but I was an enormous fan of "Appetite..." so those two annoyed me a bit.