I find myself less than impressed with “masterpieces” and “classics” these days. They leave me kind of cold. I’m finding more pleasure in the simple “really good record”. Which is an album that may be limited in some way, but that provides substantial pleasure, nonetheless.
Like that friend of yours who'll never win a MacArthur Fellowship, but is nonetheless pretty sharp, and fun, too.
So while I may look at my spreadsheet and see any number of albums that have gotten a lot of mentions from various Best of the Year/Decade polls, I also see genres that I’m either tired of, or that can only provide a limited amount of pleasure to the geezer I am now.
Or records that I suspect will impress me with their skill but leave me uninspired or a little down. Which is not to say I don’t like being depressed, just do it well. Mean to do it instead of just ending up doing it because I find you kind of, well, depressing.
So that’s why this record is such a pleasure:
That Petrol Emotion: Babble (1987)
So how did I come across these guys? Well, they were lurking in that spreadsheet but with not as many mentions as some other records I’ll not name (or buy).
I had heard about them back in the eighties. That is a cool name, after all. But since I’d never gotten to hear an actual song I relegated them to the “bands with a clever name and not much else” category.
It turns out that they have an actual history. They rose from the ashes of the punk band the Undertones (another band I’ll have to check out now). TPE, though, evolved their sound into mostly mid to fast-tempo rock and roll, with lots of chunky guitars and a voice that shouldn’t work, but does. And there’s more melody than one would typically find in such a mix. The formula is pretty consistent throughout. And why not? It works.
They’re an Irish band that’s darker and rockier than U2. Thank god.
And while no one song completely bowls me over, every single one makes me smile.
At the risk of damning it with faint praise, I'll say that, overall, this a very, very good record.
So the lesson here is to forget about those “masterpieces” and just try to track down those “really good records”.
And who knows? After a few years, what will I think of it? Will it stay the same in my estimation, or will my affection for these songs continue to grow? In other words, will I say:
Oh, yeah, that’s a really good record?
Wow, that’s a masterpiece?
After all, that friend who actually does win the MacArthur Fellowship is a little too full of himself anyway.