The return of the concept album

Comfortably numb
Comfortably numb

The Floyd has never really been my kind of band. As a rule, I don’t like prog rock, hair rock and interminable noodling on the guitar. It’s a short step from that self indulgence to Rick Wakeman doing King Arthur (actually I’d kind of like to hear that) …

But I’m revising my view. Some of my favourite music is coming from that former bastion of irredeemable uncoolness ‘the concept album’.

The Who sell out has long been of my faves from that legendary group. It pretends to be a broadcast from a pirate radio station, complete with fake adverts (Odorono anyone?). Classic tracks like “I can see for miles” and lesser known goodies like “Mary Ann with the shaky hands” rub shoulders, and it is lots of fun. Plus Roger Daltrey on the album cover is in the oft replicated “Yeah I’m sitting in a bath of baked beans, so what?” pose

More recently, there is Neon Neon’s Stainless Style, and in 2004 there was The Streets album A grand don’t come for free …

If you listen to the whole album, a simple story unfolds. Mike Skinner, or the protagonist, loses a thousand pounds, falls in love, gets high (“Blinded by the lights”, goes on holiday (singing about a hot girl who is “fit but she knows it”), has a break up (to the beautiful refrain “Dry your eyes mate” ).

It’s genius stuff and I can’t wait to get my aural mitts on his latest album Everything is borrowed.  The tracks I’ve heard are deep, emotional,  philosophical and poetic and filled with a kind of emotional truth and power you don’t expect to find in much modern music. Maybe Skinner is the modern Keats or Shelley?

Another intriguing new concept album on my radar is Who killed Amanda Palmer? the solo outing by Dresden Dolls’ singer Amanda. She’s a wonderfully dramatic singer (and pianist) and tracks include the provocative “Oasis’ about a rape and a abortion and getting a photo of the Gallagher brothers in the mail.

6 thoughts on “The return of the concept album

  1. Mo-mo 8 October 2008 / 1:44 pm

    You know, I had never really got to grips with what was meant by “concept album” but now I think I’ve got my head around it. Cheers!

    I really liked “a grand don’t come for free” and I never knew it was a concept album. Yes, Mike Skinner, under all the geezer bravado, is a sensitive wee soul isn’t he?

  2. Michael A 14 October 2008 / 11:54 am

    If you want to broaden your horizons, go back to 1955 with Sinatra “In the wee small hours”, often cited as the first “concept” album in that it had songs specifically written for the album and carried through a theme (of misery mostly). Also a fantastic album and the one I recommend to anyone wanting to really come to grips with Sinatra’s appeal. Not an album to seduce with (c.f. Songs for Swingin’ Lovers from the following year) but one to dwell on nonetheless.

  3. Donna 15 October 2008 / 8:30 am

    Thanks Michael, I love Sinatra, will have to get it out of the library. There’s even a track called “Dancing on the ceiling” (no relation to the Lionel Richie one I assume!)

  4. Michael A 16 October 2008 / 1:40 pm

    …and then move on to “Only the lonely” which should have anyone in tears.

  5. Michael A 16 October 2008 / 1:49 pm

    Dancin’ on the ceiling (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers)- definitely not Lionel Ritchie’s version..

    The world is lyrical
    Because a miracle
    Has brought my lover to me

    Though she’s some other place
    Her face I see

    At night I creep in bed
    And never sleep in bed
    But look above in the air

    And to my greatest joy my girl is there

    It her prints and walks
    Into my dreams and talks

    She dances overhead
    On the ceiling near my bed
    In my sight
    Through the night

    I tried to hide in vain
    Underneath my counterpane
    There’s my love up above

    I whisper “go away my lover it’s not fair”
    But I’m so grateful to discover she’s still there

    I love my ceiling more since it is a dancing floor
    Just for my love

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