The Case Against Analog Recording

With each day the world gets bleaker and I get increasingly reticent about creating any sort of content online, much less scathing criticism of artists’ work. But then a band like Florence + The Machine deliver two almost intentionally awful songs in a row and I have no choice but to systematically pick them apart to show how they are objectively bad.

Having to pay full price for a “song” under 2 minutes long is one thing, but it’s even worse when the song is weird nonsense like “Heaven is Here”. Florence Welch seems to have lost the plot with her most recent songs, focusing on faux-organic texture and style over anything even resembling substance.

Her 2018 album High as Hope hinted at this direction, opting for a warmer feel than Welch’s previous work, and the ensuing tour with its 70s inspired stage design only proved that she’d taken the “analog” pill.

With this past month’s “King” and “Heaven is Here” Welch takes things to ridiculous extremes, leaving in environmental sounds like fingers moving across guitar strings or the uncomfortably closely recorded woodwinds and vocals. Then there’s the anemic drums on “King” that are anything but kingly, dwarfed when compared to the monolithic percussion of “Cosmic Love” or “Blinding Love” from 2009’s Lungs – one of the absolute best records of that year. Both “King” and “Heaven is Here” are the antithesis of what the band used to stand for.

The big, clean, glossy Machine from the first three albums has been replaced by a rusty, inept contraption that creaks and groans and expects to be regarded as highly as its sleek, gilded predecessor.

Of course Florence Welch is not alone. I can gesture wildly at thousands of artists who have opted to underproduce their newer work; a cursory glance at anything I’ve written over the past few years will reveal that I’m kind of obsessed with the prevalence of this stupid trend.

Because that’s what it is: a stupid trend. It’s the equivalent of millennials and zoomers writing in all lowercase and intentionally changing any capital letters their phone may have helpfully suggested that they use. It’s the equivalent of every mega-company reducing their logos and graphics to Corporate Memphis flat-design. It’s the minimalist virus that refuses to die, and one day will be seen to be just as embarrassingly dated as people who used words like “amazeballs”.

I now bring up the band Tool, an act that created a fanbase so obnoxiously pretentious that they are a punchline for music journalists everywhere. Their convoluted approach to metal – as interesting as it might be – has pigeonholed the band as being artistically difficult for the sake of being artistically difficult. You literally need an algebra degree to fully understand their music.

You would think a band so avant-garde would have incorporated some facet of minimalism on their 2019 comebeck album Fear Inoculum. But they didn’t. They doubled down and made big, complicated math metal just like they always had. They stayed true to their own sound, unlike most bands these days.

Not only that, but this past week they released a new version of their 1992 song “Opiate”. Not only is it extended, but it’s fully cleaned up.

I will now repeat that last part to emphasize this very important fact.

It’s fully cleaned up.

Tool listened to the 1992 version, realized how awful it sounded with the primitive recording equipment they used, and made a new version that sounds good.

When you have thousands (or even millions) of dollars to make music, your music should reflect that. Old music only sounded bad because that’s how they made it, and if they had a chance to use better equipment they would have leapt at that chance. So not only does this trend of intentionally muddying up music sound bad, it also makes the artist look ironically inauthentic. You’re in 2022. You should sound like you’re in 2022.

Author: D-Man

Hey, I don't know what to say. Ok, bye.

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