mapping legends

Two new-ish blogs over in the links area, with similar concepts. Matthew Perpetua of Fluxblog fame has started a blog, Pop Songs 07, where he will write an entry, eventually, on every R.E.M. song (I’m assuming he means official studio releases). So far, the site is full of Perpetua’s usual insight, and I actually think it better displays his capabilities as a writer and analyst compared to his main gig, simply because Fluxblog focuses on a whole bunch of different music he likes (which means writing about sometimes very different things), whereas here, with a more concentrated focus, the range and flexibility of his abilities become clearer.

Already, Perpetua’s been flattered in the time-honored way (which I believe he invited, in fact), in that Phil Reed (who’s occasionally popped in here with a comment or two) has begun a similar site dedicated to the songs of Talking Heads, More Words About Music and Songs. I haven’t read much of Reed’s work before this…but so far, he’s revealed himself also to be a talented and insightful critic and writer.

Both writers are working their way through their respective band’s catalog in random order, with Perpetua saying explicitly that he’s doing so to break away from the album-focus (and resultant career narrative) that’s most common in criticism of R.E.M.

I’m not sure if anyone’s done this sort of thing before. The closest parallel I know of is Alan W. Pollack’s song-by-song musicological analysis of the Beatles (highly recommended, although slightly technical in spots) – but the two things I most appreciate about these projects is their focus on songs (since that remains the basic unit of popular music, despite most criticism being focused on albums and careers) and the fact that I happen to have discovered both projects nearly from their beginnings, and can therefore watch them unfold in real time. That’s important – because even though both writers chose the bands they chose because they’ve long loved those bands’ music (and well chosen, in that both bands have relatively manageable catalogs and are well enough known that for many readers, posting mp3s would be superfluous), the process of relistening to their catalogs in order to write about the songs will inevitably alter each writer’s perspective on the band he’s writing on – if only because most people, no matter how much they might listen to a band’s music, rarely do so with the intention of writing up their impressions, track by track.

And yes, I find the idea tempting…and am sort of mulling over the notion of what band I might work a similar project on. Any suggestions? (Anyone who says “The Fall” will be summarily shot…)



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5 responses to “mapping legends

  1. Phil

    Many thanks for the link to my Talking Heads project…not to mention the very kind words about it.

    The “random order” of the songs I’m covering was a decision I made so that I wouldn’t have to write about almost all of the songs I dislike at the end…and get many of the ones I truly love out of the way at the start. It’s a little healthier to mix it up a bit, I think. And though Perpetua’s claim that it breaks him out of the album-by-album analysis of REM is well-founded and absolutely correct, I suspect he’d also be averse to writing about the songs in sequence for exactly the same reason.

    Anyway, you deserve at least a little credit for pointing me toward the idea. As much as I love REM I don’t search the web for related sites very often. If you hadn’t linked to him first, I’d never have found it.

  2. yellojkt

    I’ve always wanted to do a series of posts where I rank all The Clash’s songs, but the task is a little daunting.

  3. James

    Suggestion: XTC. You’ve written about them before.

    The Fall-ah, it’s all one song! Or MES discourse, if you prefer.

  4. stormville

    Hey, why not do the Loud Family.

  5. 2fs

    stormville: That’s not a half-bad idea…but the problem is (unlike, say, R.E.M., Talking Heads, or probably even XTC) that relatively few people have heard the band. Granted, if I were to do this, and do it well, that would encourage my three readers who aren’t already LF fans to check them out…but there we run into the dubiously-in-print problem, setting folks up for disappointment.

    If I had megalarge hosting, and Scott Miller didn’t mind, I might consider doing LF if I could post the tracks from out-of-print CDs (anything still in print, of course, would be linked to 125 where folks can buy it).

    The right combination of boredom, inspiration, and time hasn’t yet arrived for me to undertake such a project though…

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