That Difficult Sophomore Album
Soul Coughing Irresistible Bliss Super Bon Bon: “Move aside and let the man go through, let the man go through.”
Radiohead The Bends Just: “You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts. You do it to yourself, just you, you and no one else.”
Rheostatics Melville Record Body Count: “Joey stepped up on a block of ice, put the rope around his neck, fell asleep before he died.”
Ok that may seem morbid so stick with me-
It’s widely known that the second album is more difficult than the first. So often a band gets known for some songs they’ve thrown together in the garage and toured and they’re in love with the music and the success. And then suddenly the pressure is on to create all new stuff just like it, and it becomes daunting, difficult, demoralizing work.
But they do the work. They craft a new voice, more musically interesting work perhaps, and it gets panned- I think simply because it isn’t the same as what’s come before.
I think the same is true of any art. Of drawing, painting, acting, writing, what have you. When it’s easy, you feel like you could do it forever. When it’s hard, every brushstroke, word, or movement is all wrong, a failure, false.
But art requires time, not merely creation and consumption. In retrospect the sophomore album is often terrific, sometimes plainly better than the primary effort (fyi: this is clearly the case for Radiohead and Rheostatics, though while still an excellent album in it’s own right, Soul Coughing’s first album Ruby Vroom is quite obviously their masterpiece.)
I selected the quotes above because they represent a circle. (It’s a stretch, but here we go) The artistic process is fraught with resistance. It gets bogged down, and left unattended, it dies. But with attention and the commitment to fight the myriad impulses that tell one to stop, it will start strong, become difficult and introspective, and through a kind of death of the compulsion to explore the particular theme, the art itself is somehow born.
Last week was my charge ahead (move aside and let the man go through) – and it was reasonably successful, at that! I wrote daily, commencing detailed character work on a new television project I’d like to one day produce, and also beginning the work of adapting one of my prolific father’s unpublished manuscripts as a film (maybe animated, for kids- maybe live action, maybe more grown up? Aha! Something to discover!).
This week represents the beginning of the second stage (you do this to yourself, you do.). This stage may last weeks, even months. It’s the beginning of the long uncharted second act. I don’t know what will happen with this work, if it will be any good, if it will resonate or be relevant, or if I’ll even complete it.
Eventually, if I can avoid the pitfalls of resistance, I’ll enter that third stage (Joey stepped up on a block of ice…) wherein the work is finally presented (…put the rope around his neck…).
I also went last night to the UBCP/ACTRA awards – my third nomination! The award went to Brian Drummond, and deservedly so. But it also marks my third defeat in the category. Now- a good time was had by all, and nobody is ever sore at these things. That’s all beside the point. The show itself, however, represents my arrival at the third stage. The work is speaking for itself. Recognition is this kind of after-the-fact thing that is hard to get a grasp on. You appreciate it. The honor is real. But it isn’t really you being lauded. It’s not the you who takes out the trash, or has to plunge a toilet, or who cries sometimes, or who gets angry without provocation, or who wants to lose weight, or who feels insecure in crowds – it’s just the you who showed up to work one day, and who acted well for a few hours, such that a hundred other people could do the jobs of turning that simple vocal track into a visual performance worth nominating. It’s a tiny fraction of the deep and complex you, and it was so many days and nights ago that it may not even be alive in you anymore (…and fell asleep before he died.)
Which leaves an arc of the circle undrawn.
Laurie Anderson Lincoln Cage & Aquarium: “Sun’s coming up like a big bald head…. I turn around, and it’s fear. I turn around again, and it’s love…. All of nature talks to me. If I could just figure out what it was trying to tell me.”
There is a new horizon every morning. There’s new art to make, new things to discover, and new difficulties, as always, to overcome. Tomorrow I have to be a flock of chickens.
So that’s new.
Continue writing daily