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QOTSA: headwreck but can't figure out why
Last Post 05 Dec 2006 05:46 AM by Binokular. 8 Replies.
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bortUser is Offline
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Bort

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24 Nov 2006 06:30 AM
    Don't know if this topic has already been mentioned on Cluas, but I could never figure out why I couldn't seem to tolerate listening to "Songs for the Deaf" by Queens of the Stonge Age all the way through. And before you say it, it's not just because it's crap.

    Normally anything I'd buy I'd give a good few listens to before making a judgement on, as I've found time and again stuff I'm not taken with intially eventually becomes a favorite.

    The link to this (long) article explains why Songs along with other recentish releases is such a head wrecker. Worth reading all the way through if you've time. If you've really got time check out the comments, although after a while it just begins gets confusing as more people plough in with opinions.

    http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/weekly_article/imperfect-sound-forever.htm

    It also looks like where Jim Carroll got his opinion piece in the Ticket a few weeks ago.

    http://www.ireland.com/theticket/articles/2006/1020/1160606784753.html

    Compare and contrast......

    The Ticket article is what initially got my thinking about Songs for the Deaf, a quick Google later turned up the first article.

    Has anyone else found this? An album you bought, but hardly find yourself listening to and not simply because you don't ike it. There's something more nebulous about it that you can't put your finger on.

    Bort
    markyedisonUser is Offline
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    markyedison

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    25 Nov 2006 07:30 PM
    cheers for the link, bort.

    i think i felt a weight off my shoulders as i read it.

    it's something that's been bugging me for ages but i wasn't able to put my finger on it. i was beginning to think it was just me.
    PeejayUser is Offline
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    Peter Teehan

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    27 Nov 2006 11:58 AM
    That Stylus article is very long winded, he should have compressed it a bit.

    Anyway, bad jokes aside! I've been buying CD's since the mid-90's, long after the CD golden age, as he calls it. Compression and dynamic shift are things I don't really notice, album to album. Songs For The Deaf is indeed a bloody loud album and maybe the dynamics are much poorer compared to old bloody loud vinyl albums like Black Sabbath or the Stooges, but it doesn't stop me from liking it. Compression might kill some of the subtleties, but they're still the subtlist metal band out there and thats one of the best albums of the past few years imo.

    I do worry a bit about mp3's. I listen to them an awful lot and as the months go by I noticed more and more dust gathering on my pile of old CD's (I still buy them, but they go straight on the player). If you were to sit me down and play Pet Sounds or Idlewild using a high encryption rate and ask me whether I was listening to the CD or an mp3, I probably couldn't tell you, but I'm a little worried that after years of listening to mp3's my hearing won't be as sharp as if I'd listened to the real thing. Ah, I won't lose any sleep over it. It only takes one Mogwai concert to torture your ear drums into submission anyway.
    PeejayUser is Offline
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    Peter Teehan

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    27 Nov 2006 12:04 PM
    Hey, I just remembered something about Songs for the Deaf. At the end of one song - I think its the title track - it features a few seconds of (I think) Mark Lanegan whispering in the background. Its barely audible but if you listen carefully you can hear it. Its spooky too, it sounds like somebody in the next room.

    Lack of subtelty my arse.
    bortUser is Offline
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    Bort

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    29 Nov 2006 05:59 AM
    Normally, I don't get too obsessed about the sound of CDs and other audiophile topics. I tend to think that on the average stereo setup I have, I'm not going to notice such fine distinctions. But overcompression is something you notice at an unconscious level even if you don't know, as I didn't, what to call it. You find that you just don't want to listen to certain CDs after a while. And that can't be a good thing ultimately for anyone involved in music, be they musicians or record companies.

    I used QOTSA as an example because it's the first CD where I've noticed that. It's like I want to give Songs for the Deaf a fair hearing but I just can't bring myself to listen to it. The more I think about it, I'm sure QOTSA compressed the hell out of Songs deliberately to make it sound like something you were already hearing on the radio, even when you're playing it on your CD or mp3 player. It fits with the "theme" of the album, the radio sound bites etc.

    The last Sleater Kinney album, The Woods, is another album I've noticed this on. It's so loud it distorts at some points, which I thought sounded pretty cool at the time, but although I love the first song, there is something relentless about the album that puts me off listening to it all the way through. It's like your brain and ears get tired. And again, I don't think it's for as simple a reason as I don't like the songs on it as much as their other work.

    I'm not accusing QOTSA of a lack of subtlety, or SK for that matter, it's just that when music is overcompressed it doesn't have as much of an emotional impact when it "swells" to a peak of some sort, it's already about as loud as it can get so can't get any louder.

    One example springs to mind: On Grant Lee Buffalo's Fuzzy album, showing my age here ;-), when the guitar solo comes in on the title track, it lifts the place out of it. I remember listening to this on headphones and being blown away, it seems to come out of nowhere and is so loud you can hardly believe it.

    We may not be able to quantify the "emotional impact" of listening to a great piece of music and may not be able to identify when the loss of dynamics due to overcompression takes some of that from it, but you know that something is not right and it's not as simple as the fact that you don't like the latest album by a band as much as you did their previous one.

    I don't know enough to comment on mp3s. It's hard to argue with their convenience though. I think you're never going to hear as much as you would if you listened to a CD in the privacy of your own home as generally when you listen to an mp3 player, it's competing with all the environmental noise around you. In a general sense though, if you listen to music for all your waking hours, you're probably going to get a bit desensitized to it, or reach a saturation point at least. Too much of a good thing....... The Stylus article's author makes that point in another article on that site.
    http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/weekly_article/soulseeking.htm

    Follow up to his initial article
    http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/soulseeking/imperfect-sound-forever-revisited.htm

    MarkOUser is Offline
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    MarkO

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    04 Dec 2006 10:29 PM
    When QOTSA played Sasquatch, they were my cue to go for food, beer & a visit to the gents. They are a terrible band.
    bortUser is Offline
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    Bort

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    05 Dec 2006 01:51 AM
    Well, I guess this is a bit off topic, but while I wouldn't say QOTSA are a terrible band, I don't think they're a patch on Kyuss, Josh Homme's previous band before QOTSA. He didn't sing in this one and I'd kinda describe the music as really heavy funk, a kind of cross between metal and funk, but very 60s influenced. Actually I guess I'm trying to describe stoner rock but it's so much better than most of what passes for stoner rock. Nick Oliveri played bass on some of the Kyuss albums but it's when Scott Reader joined that they really found their groove.

    Kyuss were a band i.e. the songs tended to evolve from jamming and have more of a band feel to them. To me QOTSA albums are a bit disjointed and I think that's because it's more of a studio project with a revolving cast. I think the songs are more thrown together in the studio. Or maybe it's because it's more Josh Homme's vehicle than Kyuss was.

    You can pick up the Kyuss albums cheap nowadays. Welcome to Sky Valley is a good place to start. It's heavy as hell but not head wrecking and I guess that's down to it not being mastered as hot as more current stuff.
    stephenUser is Offline
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    Stephen McNulty

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    05 Dec 2006 04:07 AM
    A fascinating article.

    It reminded me of Bob Dylan's opinion earlier in the year that records just didn't sound any good any more. He told Rolling Stone - "I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past twenty years, really,".

    People downloading music for free didn't bother him as "ain't worth nothing anyway."
    BinokularUser is Offline
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    Binokular

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    05 Dec 2006 05:46 AM
    Posted By stephen on 05 Dec 2006 5:07 AM


    People downloading music for free didn't bother him as "ain't worth nothing anyway."




    Yeah, and then he went and did an iPod ad, cheeky git.

    Environmental Noise? Has this guy ever heard of noise canceling headphones? Yeah, they're expensive, but it it really bothers you enough.... Personally I think environmental noise is OK in some cases. Some albums are clearly sit down in a quite room with headphones, but for some reason, Sonic Youth sounds better on a first floor apartment with the window open mingling with the faint sound of a city street, dunno why.

    Some modern CDs are overcompressed, but overall CDs are definitely better mastered than 10-15 years ago. Listen to some early CDs, they're awful because they were mastered by folks used to vinyl.

    Digital Music (not MP3s, but a theoretical but possible format in the not too distant future) and advanced MP3 player electronics could actually do away with "mastering" in the traditional sense. Imagine a cross between digital audio and midi. The file would contain the unmodified audio from the master recordings, but also midi-like instructions that tell your player how to compress, mix, distort, etc. that audio on the fly, basically the file is "mastered" as it's played back (this would require massive processing power by the standards of modern MP3 players) If you didn't like how the producer made it sound, you could just modify the midi instructions to your taste.








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