Van Morrison's Astral Weeks: I Don't Like It As Much As I'm Supposed To

I Don't Like Them As Much As I'm Supposed To, Music News

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van_morrison.jpgYou know how there are some cultural artifacts – books, films, albums and whatnot – which you feel quite guilty about never having experienced? I actually have a long-standing dread about the fact that I will almost certainly die not having read all the books I want to. That’s nice, isn’t it?
Anyway, one of the albums I’ve always meant to listen to, but never really, truly wanted to, is Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. It’s one of those classics that always pops up in dull polls of serious rock critics.
Yesterday Sean O’Hagan in The Observer wrote an article about the album that just made me think: that’s IT. ENOUGH with the not listening to Astral Weeks, already. GET IT DONE.


Why? Well let’s see what Observerman had to say about the album:
… an album was created that has since come to be regarded as perhaps the greatest work of art to emerge out of the pop tradition. Released in November 1968, Astral Weeks is a work of such singular beauty, such sustained emotional intensity, that nothing recorded before or since sounds even remotely similar – or, indeed, comparable.
The article goes on to quote all manner of grown-ups who voice admiration for the album’s “emotional atmosphere”, “integrity and conviction”, and various other beard-strokey characteristics.
Well, I just finished listening to it for the first time. Now, this was a first listen. And many of the tracks are pretty long. And it’s probably not the ideal album to listen to in an office. And my horoscope says-
ENOUGH. It’s rubbish, OK? For a kick-off it has only eight tracks, and four of those are over seven minutes long. Now, I’m not against long tracks if they’re any good – you know, a good “progressive” dance tune, or a proggy number with some well-placed widdliness can hit the spot nicely if done proper.
But when it’s some drunk-sounding chap who seems to repeat the same bits of the song over and over, to a tune of negligible tunefulness, my teeth are always likely to end up gritted.
“Madame George” is fifteen seconds shy of being ten mintes long, and you know what? IT FEELS EVEN LONGER.
So I suppose this means I need to listen to the album a few more times. I am to presume it’s “a grower”. Which is fair enough I suppose – it was recorded in an age when your every second of attention wasn’t commandeered by Facebook and Starbucks and DVD boxsets of My So-Called Life.
But that’s the world we’re living in now, readers – and if I have the choice of devoting forty-five minutes to a straw-haired Irishman mewling over an acoustic guitar, or hopping onto The Hype Machine to see what fabnooshit I can encounter, well, at the risk of sounding like an ignorant A.D.D-er, I’m afraid it’s the latter that will win my minutes.
Perhaps the answer is to start up some kind of Music Boot Camp, where Clarkson-dressed dads lock you in a cell and blast your ears with “classics” from “the canon” until you appreciate them accordingly. To be honest, it’s hard to see how some more “challenging” recordings are going to stand the test of time otherwise. People like to refer to “the MTV generation” as one with a non-existent attention span, but try getting the iTunes generation to give things a fair go.

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  1. Only just listened to Astral Weeks for the first time?!
    *deletes Stuart off Facebook friends list*
    That’s one of my favourite albums! Wot, did your dad not subject you to hours of listening to it as a whippersnapper?!

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