Friday, 21 November 2008

Expanding filler...

A return, today, to the subject of blogging. Well, in part at least. Over the past few days, I’ve drafted a few entries to go in here but decided not to post them because they were far too serious and – maybe more importantly – not actually very interesting.
Self-censorship is a very important thing, and it’s one of the hardest things to learn if you’re writing. I have recently started writing songs again – the change work situation for me means that I’m actually getting to spend time in the UK, and hence have the time to sit at the piano late evenings and twiddle – and one of the hardest things involved in that process is learning to cast away things which “don’t quite work”.
One of the down-sides to being the sort of person who buys albums rather than singles is that you’re stuck with having the “filler tracks” in your collection. This isn’t a problem when you are sifting through the library to find something to listen to – but when you’ve put a random selection of tracks onto your mp3 player for the walk to work and find that in some cruel twist of fate, your PC has randomly selected a load of album filler for you to wade your way through.
There are very few bands who are immune to the curse of album filler. I guess the pressure to get an album out and generate some sales for the record company can lead to the process of dumping the bad tracks being a luxury beyond means. The most commonly cited example of a band who typify the need for dumping bad tracks is Queen. Even the most ardent Queen fan would be hard-pushed to argue that the quality of the albums is anywhere near the quality of the singles. Of course, there are a few great songs on the albums which didn’t make it into hit singles (“Teo Torriate” springs to mind immediately) but there’s also a lot of dross too. In the case of Queen, you can’t argue that they weren’t capable of the two things needed to make a filler-less album..

a: the ability to write fantastic songs

b: the ability to know a fantastic song when you hear one

Another example, less commonly cited but still well-known enough to be worth mentioning, is the “Use Your Illusion” double-bill from Guns and Roses. There are some absolutely amazing songs spread across those two albums – but there’s equally a lot of dross. And this is a case where taking the contents of the two albums and picking enough great songs to fill one album would’ve made a much more impressive work.
So, I’ve waffled on about those bands who I think have fallen foul of the curse of the filler track – but are there any albums out there which I don’t think contain any filler? Of course there are. I don’t spot any filler on Ziggy Stardust, nor on Dark Side Of The Moon. It’d be hard to point at the filler on Wish You Were Here, or even on Automatic For The People.
Then, of course, there are albums which consist of nothing but filler – witness “The Id”, the second album from Macy Gray for a perfect example of that...

But, as someone who ocassionally writes songs, I know how hard it can be to dump something you've worked on for so long. I've written songs, spent hours and hours recording them, honing them - and unfortunately they're still crap songs - so they have to be dumped. It hurts every time, though.

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