It’s a lifetime’s decision, recovering the satellites.
Recovering the Satellites
Dave and I have been playing this fun game where we rank all of a group’s albums based on our satisfaction with them. You can check out ongoing results on his blog. It is really part of our on going debate about the future of music and the role of the album going forward. While ranking the various albums of bands that I like (and you will probably see more of those in the near future) I started thinking about the “why” of my choices. Why was August and Everything After a 95, and Boy a 75? It is probably impossible to compare those two albums to one another, given stylistic differences and the passage of time, but I’m going to use these two debuts as the basis of my discussion. First the basic stats:
Album Year Tracks Billboard Singles Sales
AEA 1993 11 4 4 7x Platinum
Boy 1980 11 63 1 Platinum
It’s apparent that one of these albums was a highly successful, break out debut, while the other was well received but didn’t set the world on fire. I think it’s interesting that after 15 years (the point the Counting Crows have reached) the Crows have not reached the same height that U2 had by 1995 (their 15th year from Boy). Now given that the two albums came out 13 years apart you wouldn’t exect them to be musically similar, but I can draw some comparisons that help my analysis.
First the number of singles is telling. There are at least two more stand out tracks on August and Everything After that didn’t become singles. I don’t think there are any other songs that would be particularly popular, though I do believe that The Electric Co. is a better song than the more well known I Will Follow. Out of Control found some life when it was played as part of their big Dublin show that became a DVD.
Second, I think one of the main differences between the albums is refinement. The Counting Crows seem much more cohesive and mature than U2. After these albums U2 certainly grew and evolved a lot more than the Crows, which is evident in their later works. But at these points one was certainly further along than the other.
Although I do enjoy Boy there are a number of tracks that I either skip when listening or just get through. On August and Everything After I love eveyr track, and never skip one to get to the next. A “95” album has to be one I would never dream of skipping through. Having seen both bands live on multiple occasions, I know I am way more excited to hear a lesser known song from the Counting Crows, like Ghost Train, than I am to hear A Day Without Me.
The last point I would like to make deals with something that is less about music and more about circumstance. It is a fact that I heard each of these albums for the first time at different points in my life. I wasn’t alive in 1980, and wasn’t aware of popular rock music in 1993, so I reached each album later on. The Counting Crows were one of the bands that dominated my high school years, and carried that dominance on to the present. My interest in U2 peaked during my undergraduate career and has waned in recent years. I imagine I put more weight on my CC albums because they are a bigger part of my musical identity.
This has been my attempt to explain the thought process I use to determine an albums satisfaction rating. Don’t forget to keep an eye on Dave’s blog for more of these, and feel free to join in the conversation.