November's been a fabulous month to be a PJ fan. After what seems like a long winter's nap, the guys were out and about again: the Catalyst show, where some brand new songs were debuted for the first time, followed by their stint opening for the Rolling Stones in Oakland. We got some interviews with the guys talking about Pearl Jam (as opposed to comments probably taken out of context during a Brad interview), we got the release dates for the album and single more or less confirmed. Australian and NZ fans have a tour to look forward to, and there's some comfort in the fact that we know of at least one U.S. show in 98. More is definitely going to follow at this point, and it's just all so exciting to us.
Call me old fashioned, but I just love the anticipation behind all of this. There's a natural evolution behind the release of a new album; first, you hear one or two new songs debuted at shows; you get to hear the development of them, hear the kinks being ironed out live. In my car is a tape of rare stuff from two years ago; there are like 5 different live versions of "Lukin" and "I Got Shit (ID)" from the Asian tour and they are all different. At the time this tape was a big deal to have; now it's just amusing to listen to, to compare the songs to their finished album versions and to their live presentations.
But the point is, there's this gentle, natural curve upwards. New songs live; new songs get better live; single gets released; album gets released -- and all of these things happening in their own time. The album gets released when the band is done with it -- when they're personally satisfied with how it sounds and what it looks like. They put a lot of time, we think, into preparing the whole "package" and presentation. I mean, have you ever really taken the time to think about how much incredible time, effort and energy went into the packaging for No Code? Or for Vitalogy? We may kiddingly bitch about how the artwork holds up the releases, but in the end it's all part of it. I've loved the "reward" in the packaging for every album they've done, and it just gets better every single time. No Code was a design and packaging masterpiece; it even won several traditional design awards this year. We are very lucky that PJ cares so much about this aspect of their music and that they personally take charge of this. It's part of the whole process.
So, just like it ruins the surprise when you go hunting around the house a few weeks before Christmas and find your unwrapped present in the back of the closet, to us, for us, what's going on with the single/album leak to radio, and how the internet community is behaving around it and in parallel, is putting a bad taste in our mouths.
We've gotten some pretty nasty and demanding mail from people berating Five Horizons for not having "Given To Fly" available for download immediately while seemingly tons of hastily-thrown-together web sites have extremely poor quality sound files sitting on very slow servers which aren't configured properly (so you couldn't download the file even if you wanted to). As we've already mentioned, we personally have no interest in participating in the new album guessing game, and there's no way we would host these sound files even if we had them. "You're just jealous" we can hear you saying. Well, no, I'm sorry, but we're not. We don't want to hear it yet. We like the natural evolution, we like unwrapping our presents, we like taking our time to digest and think and take things in bit by bit, as the band chooses to dole it out. Radio jumping the gun is predictable but the hysteria they're fanning is just out of control.
For the sake of clarity, and to offer another (probably very unpopular) point of view, we'd like to explain exactly why Five Horizons will not be discussing any songs from the new album, or hosting any songs from the new album:
Anyway, we don't get this whole hysteria, we're not going to participate in it, we're not going to contribute to it by publicizing half-truths, rumors, and bad quality sound files. We personally do not care what the album is called, what it sounds like, what it looks like, or what's on it until the second that the money leaves our hands and we walk out of the record store with the new album and get to go home and listen to it for the first time the way it should be: in our homes, on our stereos, dancing around the room, annoying the neighbors. =)
- Sony has lots of lawyers: while we're not losing sleep over it, it could very well happen tomorrow morning that we, or our service provider, could get a charming note from Sony legal affairs pointing at the sound files we have and asking us to take them down. We've discussed this a lot and it doesn't worry us, but we do avoid putting up commercially released files for that reason. (That's another reason that we're not putting the commercially-released "Black Red Yellow" MP3 back online.) 5H could very well continue to exist and be healthy without the files, which is the reason we don't lose sleep over it. But I don't know why anyone would want to call Sony's attention to all the PJ sites that do exist with lots of sound files on it; putting the "Yield" tracks on there is just like waving a neon sign in their face. Thanks much.
- It's greedy: Putting up full sound files of commercially available materal is not like trading live tapes. It's not a 30 second snippet, it's a full damn file, and in our humble opinions it's just wrong. You could transfer it to a tape (well, you could if the sound files were of decent quality -- and people give *us* shit for encoding at a marginally lower sample rate?!) and then you wouldn't need to buy it. You could argue, of course, that most of the people who are going to spend the time searching and downloading are such huge PJ fans that they will be buying everything that comes out. But there are enough people on the net these days who are students, or just don't have lots of extra cash lying around, and if they can get the song without buying it, why on earth would they rush out and do so? Makes sense to me. (But then again, we're obsessed, ya know, gotta have that single in our hands!)
- We enjoy and respect the process: We know the album is definitely coming out soon. It's not like it's delayed or embargoed or something is preventing PJ from releasing the album. We have a date to count down to, even. =) If Pearl Jam wanted the album out RIGHT NOW, trust me, Sony would have moved heaven and earth to release it -- they'd have the perfect cash cow for the Christmas season. Obviously, there's a reason the band don't want the album out until February, and we choose to respect that. (And if you're gonna say we're sucking up, one, how the hell do they know who we are and what do they care what we think anyway, and two, we give them enough shit when we think they are wrong about something. We don't think they're wrong about this.)
- We don't understand the hysteria: Jean and I were online chatting about this this afternoon (while trading URL's of cool hotels in Maui :) ). I mean, it pleases us to think that we are pretty serious PJ fans. But neither of us will die if we don't hear the new single tomorrow. Why is it so crucial to your existence that you hear it RIGHT THIS SECOND? Why can't you wait until the end of December? There's been an awful lot of nastiness in the online community, people getting really viciously abused, and there's just no point to it. None.
You don't agree with us? That is your right, and if you care about it so much make your own web page about it. However, we do not have to buy into your insanity, and we're just not going to. We're going to stick to concentrating on what we do well, and if you don't like it, tough.
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