Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ten is the Magic Number

From Merge's description of the new Spoon album:

It's worth pointing out that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is comprised of ten songs, the perfect number of songs for an album (see Fulfillingness' First Finale, Seventeen Seconds, Back In Black, The Queen Is Dead, The Charm of the Highway Strip, Nebraska, Nashville Skyline, Heroes, Unknown Pleasures, The Violent Femmes, The Woods, Sticky Fingers, etc.). We’ve also got it on good authority that 36 minutes is the ideal album length.

I love declarative statements like this, but tend to avoid making them myself—they're too easy to pick apart. I mean, the author makes a good point. There's nothing more disappointing than a release that starts out as a good EP before being padded into a mediocre LP. It's better for the artist to keep things brief if they have nothing substantial to add to their original statement.

On the other hand, it's a cinch to come up with counter-arguments: the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, the Clash's London Calling, Bruce Springsteen's The River, Prince's Sign of the Timesamong other classic double-LP sets.

Would any of these albums be better if they were shorter? To some, I suppose, but I wouldn't go there. I like them exactly as they are—self-indulgent sprawl and all. Yet I also like most of the
titles mentioned above, including Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, even if I think they peaked with Kill the Moonlight: 12 tracks, 34:57 minutes. For Spoon, that appears to be the magic formula.

Endnote: I had to look up The Charm of the Highway Strip.
It's a recording by the Magnetic Fields [above], who are better known for 69 Love Songs—69 tracks spread across three CDs.

Click here for my review of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and here for Gimme Fiction (11 tracks, 43:52 minutes). Images from the AMG.

No comments: