Consistency in Music

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La Dispute

La Dispute
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I realise this isn't an either/or thing, and bands that are consistent can also be high quality, but over time I've deviated away from artists I feel are almost too consistent but aren't especially creative and their albums don't contain a whole heap of high points.

Fleet Foxes are a perfect example of this. Every few years they'll come out with a new LP, it'll be nice from start to finish but by the end of it I'll have no huge inclination to return to the album for a few months. Then I'll go through the motions of listening to Helplessness Blues and combining it with the new album, but there so far hasn't been anything really prompting prioritising them as a band. Helplessness Blues, for all it's critical acclaim, suffers from essentially creating the same kind of folk sounds they'd been renowned for on their previous LP and Singles. They'd added a few extra instruments, made some longer songs (which are really just two or three tracks slapped into the same 8 minute song) but it was essentially just a basic reprisal of what they'd already done.

From early on they were compared to Crosby, Stills & Nash (Young), but to me CSN they were far more visionary in their construction of songs, with the way the guitar parts would kind of jut in and out, and their harmonies were far less about layering sounds than creating actual melodies that married up against each other in unusual but effective ways. When I listen to any of their best LP's it's an exciting journey that goes in a number of different directions.

A band like Cymbals Eat Guitars generally puts out very good albums which aren't consistent, but they contain some sections that are incredibly inspired, really take you by surprise and make you wonder how they'd actually managed to make those kinds of sounds or even come up with the ideas for them. Even if it's just an oddly-structured verse or all the instruments drop out for a couple of seconds, those are the kind of changes and genuine thought into composition I like. By contrast too, it actually seems to elevate the weaker songs on the album. IMO the perfect example of this is The National's High Violet, which has a bunch of very, very good songs: Terrible Love, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Afraid of Everyone which prop up the poorer tracks (Anyone's Ghost, Lemonworld) and make them appear better than they are. I've had a similar opinion on Oasis' (What's The Story) Morning Glory for quite a while too.

Melancholy & The Infinite Sadness, Sufjan Stevens Illinois and the White Album are some other examples of albums that are undoutably bloated, but are probably my favourite of each artist because of how far they push sonically, and how unexpected and interesting the peaks and troughs are. Guess you can always skip over songs if they're really compromising your enjoyment of the LP.

Is being consistent counterintuitively sometimes a bad thing? (Or are Fleet Foxes boring and not worth your time).
 

Schauermann

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Of course there were Motörhead.

But generally I am into the idea that most bands best material is on their first 3 albums. Know only a handful were this is not the case. There has been good stuff on later albums, but when I pick a band to put on it is mostly one of their early works.

PS But actually I first thought on consistency was Rush. Making nearly 50 years without a change in lineup (and only Death ended it).
 

La Dispute

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Of course there were Motörhead.

But generally I am into the idea that most bands best material is on their first 3 albums. Know only a handful were this is not the case. There has been good stuff on later albums, but when I pick a band to put on it is mostly one of their early works.

PS But actually I first thought on consistency was Rush. Making nearly 50 years without a change in lineup (and only Death ended it).
You definitely get used to a kind of standard once they’ve reached their peak and declined, and the most you can hope for is something solid and cohesive. Unless you’re Radiohead or The Beatles and capable of releasing classic albums for each decade you’re active, there’s maybe a 5-year window to create some decent music.

Then it kind of comes down to personal taste. I’d put every LP Isis put out from Oceanic to Wavering Radiant a 9 or above, but that was still a 7-year period of time.
 

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the_interloper

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From the hard rock/metal realm Tool are the most consistent band i can think of. I'm a fan obviously but every album is at least 4 stars for mine, can't say that about any band I'm into.

They are less prolific than other acts of course but pound for pound the standard of their discography is as high as anyones.
 

La Dispute

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From the hard rock/metal realm Tool are the most consistent band i can think of. I'm a fan obviously but every album is at least 4 stars for mine, can't say that about any band I'm into.

They are less prolific than other acts of course but pound for pound the standard of their discography is as high as anyones.
Their worst album (10,000 days IMO) would still be a 7, which is reasonably high. Lateralus and Aenima are head and shoulders above as classic albums, but they don't churn out bad albums.
 

CharlieMortdecai

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But generally I am into the idea that most bands best material is on their first 3 albums. Know only a handful were this is not the case. There has been good stuff on later albums, but when I pick a band to put on it is mostly one of their early works.
The Go-Betweens were remarkable in this regard. First proper album (debut was a mini-album), Before Hollywood, was a little patchy but had more good moments than bad, including classics like Cattle and Cane and A Bad Debt Follows You. Then they just got better with every album, until 16 Lovers Lane, album number 5/6, was just glorious.
Then they fell apart, which was no surprise when they were all in romantic relationships with each other.
But the remarkable thing to me is 12 years later they made a comeback (McLennan and Forster, utilising Sleater Kinney for the comeback album, safe from becoming lovers with their co-musicians) and ******* nailed their last three albums. Then GW McLennan up and died.
I think they are some of the best late career albums I've heard.
 

PhatBoy

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They aren't everyone's cup of tea and I get that, and their last couple of albums even as a fan finally started to drop in quality, but US are a great example of a band who didn't just avoid peaking in their first three albums, they managed to continue to put out exceptional albums year after year, in styles that were barely related to each other.

You can draw a line from one U2 album to the next generally, but if you listen to Album A and then skip to Album C. or go from B to D, there is often barely any resemblance there, so there is no lack of creativity or willingness to experiment. And with a lot of their albums - Zooropa is a good example - the most obscure songs on there are among the best. They aren't albums propped up by 1-2 singles.
 

Hoos

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But generally I am into the idea that most bands best material is on their first 3 albums. Know only a handful were this is not the case.
I tend to think that most of the great bands - that stay together for more than 2-3 albums - hit their creative peak somewhere in the 4-6 album mark.

Obviously, there are some exceptions.

My personal high water mark regarding albums from bands is the Stones from Beggars Banquet through to Goat's Head Soup. And that was album #7 to #11.
Unless you’re Radiohead or The Beatles and capable of releasing classic albums for each decade you’re active
The Beatles were only active for one decade.
 

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