Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thoughts On Long Albums

In a recent interview with Guitar World, Gojira guitarist Joe Duplantier warmed my heart by revealing that the band’s latest album, L’Enfant Sauvage (my review can be found here) was made deliberately short:

“(Guitar World): The Link, which is 48 minutes long, was your shortest album — until L’Enfant Sauvage. Why is that? Has your songwriting became more compact over the years?

(Joe Duplantier): We did this on purpose. We wanted a shorter album because our albums are most of the time very epic and draining. You cannot go through the entire album intact, you know [laughs]. So I wanted to keep it short because I have an experience as a listener of albums like Metallica’s Master Of Puppets. It’s so short, it’s just eight songs. And other albums like Death’s Human also has eight songs.
When I listen to these albums, it’s so good, so intense and short that you want to listen to it and experience it again right away. I wanted people to have the same kind of feeling with our new album. Sometimes when it’s too long, you get turned off. So it helps the identity of a record to have something that is a little shorter with more impact. So this was done on purpose. We had a lot of material, and we could have done this epic, long album like we do usually, but we made it short on purpose.”

L’Enfant Sauvage is still on the long side at 52 minutes, but it’s refreshing to hear an acknowledgment that albums have become too long. I’ve expressed this frustration in some album reviews. It may not be the biggest reason, but I’ve always maintained that long, drawn out albums have contributed to consumer preferences for buying singles and individual songs rather than entire albums.

With the rise of CDs in the late 80s, albums grew from being typically 35–45 minutes to 60–75 minutes long. Bands and record labels felt that since a CD could hold more music than a vinyl LP then the space had to be filled. I’ve never understood the business behind this since CD production costs are miniscule compared to recording and marketing costs. So an album length that used to be a double LP then became the new norm for a single CD. What used to be thrown away or used for B-sides or outtake releases was now being released as part of an album. I prefer to listen to eight of a band’s most killer, best songs at the time rather than a 12-song album bloated with weaker material. That isn’t value. Try this - take any typical 12- or 13-song album and remove four or five of your least favorite. Would you like this shorter album better? More often than not, you’ll find yourself answering “Yes”.

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