Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gregory of Nyssa and Green Day: death/birth of the concept of the concept album

(photo credit)

It may not yet be the death of the album, or the concept album.

Not yet time for "incredulity toward the concept album"..
..though maybe time to bury the concept of the concept album.
"Concepts create idols, " Gregory of Nyssa offered, "only wonder understands."

It IS a very timely time for TCAAWI (The Concept Album As We Know It) so the concept album can be(re)born and remixed...or maybe killed are re-surrected.
No accident this parallels what Wolfgang Simson has coined CAWKI (Church As We Know It) and the appearance of CAGWI (don't dare read this Simson book unless you soundtrack it to one of the albums mentioned).

Fidelity of betrayal does not betray fidelity.
Or hi fidelity.

The album is dead; long live the album.

Expect it too look different.
Expect more ellipses in any story may be so that you can wiki-participate, maybe even create your own ending.
Expect some "new" ways of conceptualizing, and some holy synesthesia about precisely what is conceptualized.

This is all sounding much more like art.

Consider recent offerings:

U2's "No Line" (of course...could the album title itself...and selected lyrics..and music... be a clue that the concept is a non-linear linearity), Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," David Crowder's "Church Music' (here the concept is musical and historical more than lyrical narrative) and Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown...maybe even Switchoot's "Hello Hurricane" (note the band has been opening concerts by playing the entire album straight through..hmmm)

Some early poineers of a new breed of concept album would include The Violet Burning's
self titled album and its sequel (chronologically) and prequel (logically and thematically) prequel"Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic."

Here's an article a bit critical of the Green Day way of doing this, though the argument could also be made from the same evidence that they actually "get" the new way. No wonder these guys "love Jesus and thank God for church," even though one (or more) members may claim to be "optimistic agnostics":

From a conceptual standpoint, 21st Century Breakdown doesn’t differ from American Idiot‘s template at all: much like Idiot‘s heroes St. Jimmy and Whatsername, we are again following another boy/girl couple through the charred political landscape of post-millennial America: the confused, hedonistic Christian and the affected, lonely Gloria..

The Christian/Gloria storyline proves frightfully hard to follow, feeling almost abandoned by the time we get to “American Eulogy” (unless you really want to dig into it and claim it’s the same eulogy Christian is singing prior to his operation in “Before the Lobotomy”), and then, the group’s master statement is revealed: “I don’t want to live in the modern world” (repeated ad nauseum).

...Yet when you begin taking Armstrong’s lyrics at face value and stop trying to tie them into Breakdown‘s supposed three-act format, we get some of the best (and most venomous) lines of Armstrong’s career. On the scathing “East Jesus Nowhere”, Armstrong calls out those running on blind faith and tactical imperialism..
he’s taken very careful consideration in crafting his lyrics. Such quality care is evident throughout most of Breakdown, and, as such, individual moments positively glisten, even if the widescreen view of Breakdown feels a bit muddled and confused, the whole actually being less than the sum of its parts..

Though Armstrong’s declaration of not wanting to live in the modern age is undoubtedly a central theme of the album (he repeats it enough times), perhaps the most telling statement about 21st Century Breakdown‘s intentions rests simply in its last line: “I need to know what’s worth the fight”. After listening to the admirable, powerful, frustrating, confusing, and fiery Breakdown straight through, it’s hard not to wish that he actually followed that sentiment and picked something worth fighting for, instead of tackling everything at once.

-Pop Matters

You know, to be " again following another boy/girl couple through the charred political landscape of post-millennial America: the confused, hedonistic Christian and the affected, lonely Gloria" may not be a bad thing.

It may be the only thing. The only concept/metametanarrative we have,

Might even be the micronarrative storyline of U2's "Magnificent," and the album from whence it came.

The song's lyrics can be subjectively interpreted by the listener though Bono specifically "noted that the lyrics were influenced by both Cole Porter and Bach, and that the song is about "two lovers holding on to each other and trying to turn their life into worship"
Now, that's not only a concept..or better yet,a concept-free concept that Gregory might even approve of....and you can dance to it.

I close with a song with a "king must die/long live the king" reference, which ironically and arguably might even come from a a very early prophetic pioneer of the new bread of concept/reconcept album:

And if my hands are stained forever
And the altar should refuse me
Would you let me in, would you let me in, would you let me in
Should I cry sanctuary

No man's a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler's act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore

The king is dead, the king is dead
The king is dead, the king is dead
Long live the king

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