Back to the Basics and Pushing Boundaries with Rock’s Biggest Bands

In reading some recent articles about big albums due for release in 2011, you may have noticed that veteran artists tend to lean one of two ways when it comes to describing their upcoming work: They're going back to basics or they're pushing boundaries.

Foo Fighters main man Dave Grohl told the BBC that the process of making the band's new album was "simple," and done "without any computers." Conversely, Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard pointed to Brian Eno's classic art rock album Another Green World as a reference point for his band's upcoming effort, and noted that "we're not adding guitars because people will be expecting them." Bassist Tommy Blankenship revealed that My Morning Jacket's next release finds the jammy rockers "going back to a similar vibe that we had on the first three records." Things tilted in the opposite direction for Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, who said that the long-running L.A. icons' have been experimenting with afro-pop sounds as they work on their forthcoming long-player.

You get the idea, it's either getting down to the real nitty gritty or forward into experimentation.

It's interesting that these seem to be the only two stories rock 'n' rollers tell about their albums. Why is that so? My guess is that the alternatives just aren't sexy enough. Back to basics sure sounds a lot better than "No big ideas this time around. We just went into the studio and banged out some songs." And arty experimentation is certainly a more fascinating run-up story to tell than, "We were bored with our normal way of working so we messed around musically." Even if those two ways of thinking are close to the truth, it's seen as more compelling - for journalists, fans, artists - to transform those relatively mundane motivations into higher callings like "getting in touch with roots" and "progressing." That's what we expect from our rock stars, so that's what they tell us they've been doing. It'll be interesting to see if the music bears these stories out.

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