Hands up how many of you still get that excitement from a new album release? You know the feeling – that eager anticipation which begins the moment you find out a particular band is going to be releasing a new album. The eager anticipation that begins to turn into barely controlled impatience so that, on the eve of the release, you are just about chewing the furniture.
For what it’s worth, I do. Of course, the intensity of these feelings will depend on the band in question, where they fit on my own personal hierarchy and how long it has been since their last release. At its most mild, it may take the form of a pleasant ‘ooh, that’ll be interesting’. At its strongest, though, it is all-consuming. Personally, I will trawl the Internet looking for as much information about it as possible, devouring any studio reports, snippets of information or anything that may enlighten me as to the forthcoming direction of the music or what it might sound like.
If the feelings of excitement take the form of the latter, does anybody find that the excitement is very much tinged with nervousness? You can’t wait for the new material but certain questions start to creep into the back of your mind…what if I don’t like the album? What if the band decides to go in a different direction? What if the production is bad? What if, what if, what if? It’s like it’d be the end of the world if the album didn’t turn out to be the best thing in the world.
You’d think that this would all change now that I’m an amateur journalist and as such get access to a large number of albums early. But no, not a chance. The only difference now is that I will send a frantic email to my editor and ask, nay demand I am given the exclusive rights to review the album personally. I await the email reply with the same excitement and, if the answer is yes, await the promo or the mp3 files impatiently, having first done a little jig of delight in front of my laptop.
I won’t lie, it is great being able to hear an album early. The naughty mischievous side of me enjoys the good natured banter that follows when other fans find out I have stolen a march on them. It is also an honour and a privilege of which I never lose sight. In return, I am expected to give the album my full attention and offer my thoughts on it in a coherent, considered and fair manner. That, in itself, can be very challenging, but is a challenge I enjoy.
Having said that, nothing beats the feeling I get when I get the highly anticipated album in my grubby little paws. More and more these days, the album will come through the post having been ordered on-line. I tend to use a select few outlets I trust, including the fabulous Laser’s Edge in the USA for most of my prog needs – check them out, they come highly recommended.
However, there are still occasions when I can take a trip into my local town centre, safe in the knowledge that even HMV, the only record shop left in the high street, won’t have cocked up and will have the album on their shelves. Walking into the shop and locating that album on the rack is all part of the ritual and I still get a thrill from seeing it on the shelf, ready for me to pick up. Even better if there’s a limited edition because it will be mine.
Whether or not the disc has arrived through the post or been purchased in a shop, the next set of actions is always the same. On goes the disc and out comes the booklet. Forget any prior engagements; if the band has the necessary gravitas, everything stops for a first listen. Some people I speak to have amazing self-control, saying that they wait for a more opportune moment to listen, rather than off-the-cuff the minute it arrives. I can’t do that.
I will tend to follow the lyrics as the music plays, intermittently dipping into my favourite part of the booklet – the acknowledgements section. I love seeing who was involved in the album, from the artwork to the production. Were there any surprise guest musicians involved? I then trawl through the ‘thank you’ segment. To my mind, there’s nothing worse than a blanket generic ‘thanks to friends, family and fans’. Damn it, I want to know exactly who has helped as it gives me an insight into the thoughts behind the album, inspirations and a million other things. Of course, if it’s a band I have interviewed or met as a fan, I always check for my name in the list. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. It has happened on a couple of occasions – big love to the awesome Haken (‘Visions’) and the excellent Derision (‘Ancient’) (both of whom you should check out if you’ve not already) And, if I’m honest, I hope it might happen again in the future!
Then, as you’re listening for the first, the second, the third time, you run the gamut of emotions – do I like this? Am I pleased with it? Is it their best? Why have they done that? It’s awful. I don’t like it. I’m disappointed. I love it. I love this band, they’re the best…it goes on and on.
If you like the album, the fun then really begins as you try to spread the word and the love. You want everyone to know about it, even those who you know hate rock or metal and couldn’t give two hoots about the great guitar solo on track three. Therefore, social media is carpet-bombed these days but before that, it was music forums and before the Internet explosion, it was phone calls or face-to-face chats over a drink in the pub…well, not for me, because the Internet was in place before I turned 18…but you know what I mean!
And so it goes on, week after week, month after month. There you have it, the excitement of the new album release. In a nutshell, this is one of the big reasons that I love music. Is there anything else that can rival it? Sport comes close, but not close enough. For me, music is the be all and end all.