Empty Albums

In a previous post, Heavy Music for Indecisive People, I told you about the concept of the “Empty Album”, which I described as follows:

“In years gone by this would lead to me buying a whole (physical) album for any song I got hooked on; I amassed an entire collection of, essentially, ‘empty albums’, where I would only listen to one or two songs.”

This concept has cropped up again recently.

The key phrase I used is one that followed the above quote:

“That said, some empty albums go on to become favourites, but that’s the exception, rather than the rule. It justifies purchases, however.”

That is where I am at the moment, and I thought that I would tell you all about it. It all starts with a post on Facebook by a band called A Perfect Circle, about their unexpected new single, Disillusioned.

A Perfect Circle had published the lyrics to the new song as a Facebook post, but they had done so in an encrypted manner, using an alphabet which they had created for their first album, Mer De Noms. I had spent a very pleasant evening in my university dorm listening to that album and deciphering the text. I recognised the characters in 2018 from the halcyon days of 2001. Could I be bothered?

I could not. An easy click in to the comments of the song was all it took to get the full translation of the cypher. For the first album I was in my late teens, living away from my parents’ house for the first time, finding my way in the world; for the new release I am in my late thirties, with a partner, a child, a good job, a mortgage and two dogs; leave hard work to the eager beavers if at all possible.

The problem was that I didn’t really like the song in question. The great thing was that I discovered their previous (still new) single, and that was a song which massively floated my musical boat. This reignited my interest in A Perfect Circle, and I spent a few pleasant days listening to their first album, which I had had in my collection since May 2000. Eighteen years gathering dust; a free gift today.

The album has lost nothing over the last few years, even in its passing from physical object to a file on my hard drive. I listened a few times, but I was still left wanting. I was never a fan of the other A Perfect Circle albums, so I was not interested in spinning up the hard drive to pass any of those over to my phone (such is my way of regaining access to albums I have owned for decades, but “lost”).

The momentum dissipated and I moved on to other things. I listened to a bit of Cannibal Corpse, and some Trivium. Fun for a short time, but no more. I moved on and found Creeper. And there I stayed. Rather than an Empty Album, the new Creeper album is something I found on Amazon Prime. As with what I was listening to by Cannibal Corpse and Trivium, Creeper’s new album was free to me.

It won’t be free to everyone, which is why I am not offering many links. However, Prime does afford me the opportunity to dip in to a wide variety of music without paying for each and every song. The Extreme Metal playlist on Amazon Prime has opened the doors to lots of deeply unfriendly music in recent times. Oddly, it always starts with a song by Slipknot, before expanding massively outwards.

Creeper are not “extreme metal”, but they are rather good. I found myself hooked on several of the songs on the album at once, which is rare. The problem is that they were available for free to me. If I get hooked on an album I am old enough to want to pay for my own copy, but I had it for free, so I had no impetus to do that. I just kept listening to it, again and again. If it leaves Prime I will buy it.

This is not the first time I have lost my mind over an album which I was getting for free (legitimately, I’m afraid), and then fretted about whether I should buy the album. It’s what I’m used to doing, and it seems fair. Where I am far more comfortable is discovering music which is new to me, but which I already own. I spent a great deal of my time, my money and my twenties buying CDs, so it happens.

It actually happens a lot. In this instance it was Tool; in the past it has been Mansun, Rammstein and Paradise Lost. My favourite bands are only my favourites for short periods, lasting from a month to a decade; I will then move on to a new sound, leaving the previous ones behind me like a rather nasty smell. My embarrassment towards music which has fallen out of my favour bemuses me no end.

Years go by, I hear a song by a band which I used to be a massive fan of, and I dive right back in. The timing has to be right, however, or it will not take. It took with Tool. Tool are fronted by Maynard James Keenan, the same man who fronts A Perfect Circle, and his voice is mesmerising. The two bands are rather different, but there is a through-line, a shared perspective, which connects the two.

I had put a few Tool tracks on to my school run playlist, in the hope that I would find my way back in to the band organically. I put some great songs on from albums I already knew: Prison Sex from their first album, Undertow, and Forty-Six & Two from the classic Ænima. These were great, but did not entice me back in to the fold. I also included a song from a later album I had bought, and filed away.

Its name was Schism, and it came from the album Lateralus. Lateralus, rather than being a straight up rock or metal album, was an artistic endeavour: it was complex. I was put off by this, and I went off in search of new sounds. One morning, seventeen years later, the song found me and burrowed in to my head. I couldn’t stop listening to it and then to the rest of the album. Empty album no more.

And herein lies the lesson. I had three of the Tool albums, and I was enjoying listening to them, but I knew there was one more: 10,000 Days. I didn’t have it. It was not available on Amazon Prime, so I went looking for a digital version. I found it on YouTube and loved it, so I knew I needed my own copy. I no longer own a CD player, but I still had to buy the CD copy to rip it to my phone. It’s great.

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