From the blogs: 'Musicians have a habit of ceasing to matter'


ALL SENSIBLE PEOPLE will, of course, rejoice at the news that Kraftwerk, one of the five greatest music acts of the last half-century, are set to release a new album.

It has been nearly 10 years since the well-dressed Germans gave us the puzzlingly mono-dimensional Tour de France. It’s been three decades since they released a genuine classic: Computer World. Hang on. I appear to be talking myself out of my own enthusiasm. Do I not? Neither that cycling-related LP nor Electric Cafe from 1986 were in the top rank.

It’s also worth noting that the new album will not feature the great Florian Schneider, who, with Ralf Hutter, formed the dual-core of the band. That’s like releasing a Steely Dan LP without Donald Fagen.

Still, Hutter is no fool and everybody who savours the mechanical rhythms of post-war electronica will look forward to the new release with some enthusiasm. If it is really good, then we’ll all feel a little better about the business of growing old. Look. Folk like Kraftwerk continue to perform creatively for decade after decade. Maybe we are immortal, after all.

But will we play the blasted thing? Here’s my point. Popular musicians have an awful habit of spontaneously ceasing to matter. It can get to the point where, however good the new album, it just doesn’t seem to want to sit on your turntable (or appear in the iTunes window). A whole generation of musicians now specialise in releasing albums that get good reviews, sound super on first and second listen, but are almost immediately relegated to the file marked “ignore”.

Some people have written nice things about the new Bruce Springsteen LP. But, when it comes round to Boss Time again, will they really play Wrecking Ball (that’s what it’s called, right?), rather than Darkness at the Edge of Town or Born to Run? I don’t think I’ve played Bob Dylan’s highly praised Modern Times since the week it came out in 2006. Yet I listened to Blonde on Blonde just yesterday.

When St Leonard Cohen recently released some new batch of muttering, there was, in the coverage, a real sense of, “It’s nice that it’s there. But I’ll probably be sticking with Songs of Leonard Cohen.”

A film writer on another paper once described this condition to me as “The Blue Mask effect”. Nobody is more adept at releasing albums that, although good, don’t invite revisiting than grumpy old Lou Reed (not that I’d say it to his face).

Oh goody. It’s The Blue Mask. It’s Magic and Loss. It’s New Sensations.

It’s New York. It’s Set the Twilight Reeling. This sounds great. I’ll play it at 10. I’ll stomp around the room. I’ll put it back in its jewel case (remember them?) and never, ever play it again. Never again.