The impossibility of recreating perfection

I’ve come across two albums in the past few weeks that have me thinking the same thing.

What happened to all of the bands I used to enjoy?

Both albums – the newest by both Alkaline Trio and Cursive – gave me pause. One was suddenly slick, as if they were fighting to go on tour with Fall Out Boy. The other was boring. It had lost its angular feeling, its sense of originality. I don’t know what to think about them because they aren’t what I expected.

But what did I expect? A rehash of the band I fell in love with 10 years ago?

I, as many people probably do, hold new albums up to the scrutiny of those we’ve loved the most. How does it compare to the one you first fell in love with. Is Mama, I’m Swollen any answer to Domestica. Does Agony & Irony fit in the canon with Alkaline Trio’s first three albums?

And no matter what, I come to the same conclusion.

There’s no way to recapture the magic of a beloved album. There’s no way to hear something amazing for the first time. And there’s no way that any new music will be accepted until I look past what I think an album should sound like and instead consider the album for what it is.

For me, no Modest Mouse album will match up to The Moon and Antarctica. No Metallica album will break through the nostalgia of And Justice for All. There will never be another Perfect From Now On. OK Computer. Born to Run.

For bands I’ve loved, each new album is given an unfair challenge: to displace the album I first latched on to. Create something perfect.

And they can’t – it’s impossible. No one can replicate the magic because no one can rerecord the same thing, in the same atmosphere, with the same emotional entanglements. No album can go to the past and be released at the exact time I needed it. It’s a gauntlet that no album can seem to break.

We all run into this at some point or another. By deifying our favorite albums, we’re ensuring that nothing like them can ever happen again. Too close, and you’re simply going back to the well – with disastrous results. Too different, and we wonder why our favorite band has suddenly changed its sound.

What frightens me is that the best albums of my favorite bands are probably all behind them. They’re all relics. They will never be at their peak again, or so I fear.

Then again, how could they reach those heights again? I’ve taken my favorite albums and I’ve lofted them so high in the air that it would take a miracle to reach them.

This was lovingly handwritten on April 6th, 2009