Sunday, April 24, 2011

Weekend reading #2

"Exploitation, isolation and death: revisiting the Beatles’ Revolver"

It's not a very convincing piece - the argument is that Revolver suffers from its thematic darkness - but I always appreciate unpopular views in the general discourse on The Beatles.

There is no doubt that Revolver is a classic, which fully deserves the five-star ratings heaped on it by one reviewer after another. But it has never resonated with me to the same extent as Sgt Pepper, The Beatles (the White Album), Abbey Road or even (dare I say it) Let It Be, all of which I regard as preferred listening. Among the critics, the one sceptic is Sean Egan, who in his The Mammoth Book of the Beatles (2009) hits the nail on the head when he calls Revolver “something to admire, not to love”. Egan even adds that to him “large parts of it will always sound like The Beatles as approximated by a computer”. While this last remark goes, I think, a step too far, Revolver is not even one of my 100 favourite albums and I don’t particularly warm to it, despite the fact that I hugely admire many of the individual songs on it. So I sat down and listened again, over a dozen times through, to the recently remastered CDs of Revolver, in both its mono and stereo configurations, and tried to figure out why I feel as I do about this celebrated album. Is there something I have been overlooking about Revolver all these years?

My revisitation of Revolver reaffirms my earlier view that it is a brilliant album. But the problem is that it is also a cold and dark one, whose main themes are exploitation, isolation and death. These are hardly joyous or engaging topics – and they have been dealt with more profoundly by John Lennon on his 1970 album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and in a more riveting and compelling manner by Pink Floyd on all of the albums they released between 1973 (Dark Side of the Moon) and 1983 (The Final Cut).

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