Published on June 24th, 2012 | by Tom6
Every good album is a concept album
I’ve started working on my third album, which I’m giving the working title of ‘Three Rows of Teeth’.
I’ve got most of the songs demoed and written. There are tweaks to be made, and lyrics to be sorted out, and knowing me – two or three songs that are yet to be written that will find themselves on the album.
However, I can listen to a rough (sometimes very rough) version of every song on the album. Now I’m at the pre-production stage. I need to make a decision: what is the concept for this album?
Every album is a concept album.
Concept albums got a bad press for a good few years, mostly because of the excesses of certain bands in the ’70s. This led to a lot of musicians not wanting to admit that every good album is a concept album.
I don’t mean that every album should have a storyline, that the lyrics should be about the same thing or that musical themes should be repeated and reprised throughout.
Instead I mean that there should be an idea that ties the thing together, that stops it from being just a random collection of songs that happen to have been recorded together.
Exactly what that through line should be varies – it could be simply the tone of the album, either musically or lyrically. It could be something more pretentious like a story or programme.
It could be a reaction to somethng that happened previously – for example Kid A could be seen as a reaction against Radiohead’s previous albums, a way of saying ‘we’re done with being a guitar based band for a while, here are some new sounds’.
Similarly ‘Vitalogy’ by Pearl Jam is most definitely a reaction against the commercial success of their previous albums that threw them into a spotlight they wanted to escape.
Whatever the concept, a good album needs one and I want ‘Three Rows of Teeth’ to be a good album.
As you might know, I usually write narrative songs, so there is a bit of a connection in that most of the songs I’ve written are about characters. It won’t have a plot, but the cast of disparate characters almost make it a series of musical portraits.
What I really need to decide on now is the structure and tracklist, and the sonic tone of the album. Spinning the Compass was elaborate, acoustic rock with lots of distorted twiddly/crunchy bits. IronBark was a bit more polished, acoustic based and with several manic prog-rock flourishes. Three Rows of Teeth will be… I’m not sure yet.
Perhaps I should take inspiration from my favourite ‘concept’ albums. How about the glorious Indie-Prog of Mansun?
- No Song is an Island – How to put your album or live set together
- Spinning the Compass – A Steampunk Album
- My New Album – IronBark
- How not to complete February Album Writing Month