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Self Indulgent Music - What's so bad about it?

maccampbells

Member
Messages
1,270
In the last short while I have seen the term "self indulgent" thrown around to describe a piece of music, or maybe an artist. Of course, the term was meant in a negative way.

Isn't self indulgent what you want in music? Isn't that was brought Hendrix to the front, and would Brad Paisley have made "play" if he/it wasn't self indulgent? Pink Floyd anyone? Am I missing the point here? I think I am liking self indulgence stuff. I want an artist to be out there by themselves, doing only what they think needs to be done, no one else. Is that what self indulgent means?

Give me an example of an artist who is and one who isn't self indulgent.
 
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dantedayjob

Member
Messages
1,866
I think Bob Mould (of Husker Du) addressed this issue better than anyone, he said (I'm paraphrasing here); "If you feel like playing a thousand notes do it, if you don't, don't... If you feel it and don't play it because you think doing it is 'self indulgent' then you aren't being true to yourself, and being true to yourself is what punk music is about"... I think that can be spread across all 'rock', not just punk...
 

robyogi

Ampaholic
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
669
It seems like one of those words that critics use to make their own personal opinions and preferences seem more objective than they actually are. The same people who will call a 70s prog rock band "self-indulgent" will, in the same breath call Radiohead or the Mars Volta "genius." Don't they see some similarities there? Or, right after lambasting someone for a self-indulgent guitar solo, they will praise a long sax solo. The word is used to put down music or artists that they don't personally like, or who are currently out of vogue. I don't think it should be taken as a serious critique.

(I have nothing against Radiohead or the Mars Volta, BTW, and like them a lot, it's just an example of how the word self-indulgent is used to provide cover for personal opinions.)
 

Lance

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
10,874
Now this is good stuff. I tend to appreciate more...dense, busy, notey self indulgent music too. I find these insights to be quite spot on. I can't wait to get home, and see the wording of thee other side of the fence, as they chime in to defend the merits of simplicity. I do appreciate both, but tend to lean more towards things that many consider overly self indulgent. Like Charlie Parker, whaling away tri-tones at a million notes/second. It does seem like great old jazz sax dudes get a bigger break than the rest of us.
 

The Captain

Member
Messages
12,703
It's like this.
You can't actually win with the critics.
Because if you please yourself , you are self-indulgent.
If you please anyone else you are a sell-out.


I hate critics.
 

edgewound

Member
Messages
5,712
Ricky Nelson wrote "Garden Party" due to his self-indulgence with The Stone Canyon band.

He was different than what public wanted from him at that point.

Joaquin Phoenix...self-indulgent...or mentally ill?
 

Mandoboy

Member
Messages
1,768
Anything can be labeled "self indulgent" by someone with an agenda- especially if they can't play themselves.


**** the begrudgers!
 

dancehall

Member
Messages
1,897
It depends on who the "self" is. For a lot of people here, making self-indulgent music would probably consist of playing the solo to "Comfortably Numb" again and again using different fuzzes.
 

buddyboy

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,168
In the last short while I have seen the term "self indulgent" thrown around to describe a piece of music, or maybe an artist. Of course, the term was meant in a negative way.

Isn't self indulgent what you want in music? Isn't that was brought Hendrix to the front, and would Brad Paisley have made "play" if he/it wasn't self indulgent? Pink Floyd anyone? Am I missing the point here? I think I am liking self indulgence stuff. I want an artist to be out there by themselves, doing only what they think needs to be done, no one else. Is that what self indulgent means?

Give me an example of an artist who is and one who isn't self indulgent.

not everyone is hendrix. sure, you take a risk as an artist "to be out there." if you miss the mark, however, you're liable to known as self-indulgent. i understand the term, and agree with it. some players (through the ages) should play less.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
33,292
So, you are in a cover band, here comes the solo and it's....
-just like the record
-or your artistic, self-indulgent, meandering attempt at artistic outsidedness:hide

(-there may be a middle ground there but this is the internet and polarization makes a better thread)
 

mtmartin71

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,012
I'll take a crack at this...

Let me illustrate with two bands mentioned earlier...Mars Volta and Radiohead. Mars Volta's first release with Rick Rubin, Deloused..., was awesome. It was focused, accessible, and yet it had an outside feel to it. Frances the Mute, on the other hand, was not so accessible. A lot more random noise, incoherent singing, and songs that had no structure and didn't go anywhere. The last two of theirs were similar to Frances although the most recent came back a little. With Radiohead, their pinnacle came with The Bends and OK Computer and I think they really nailed it with In Rainbows. Inbetween OK Computer and In Rainbows, you had a lot of art/noise/experiment stuff that went nowhere structurally...if they were trying to say something musically, it wasn't resonating as much with me. Anyhow, I'd tend to call that self-indulgent based on my tastes and what I want to hear. So, "self-indulgence" is personal for the listener as well.
 

SyKrash

Member
Messages
877
For me the difference is when the band or musician stops SHARING his art and is only playing to himself. 10,000 notes in odd time signatures over a 10 minute song can easily avoid self-indulgence if the band is actually presenting it to an audience instead of using it as a platform for self-satisfaction

That's like a painter staring at his own paintings instead of hanging it up somewhere where someone else can see it.
 

cjcayea

cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce
Messages
4,032
In the last short while I have seen the term "self indulgent" thrown around to describe a piece of music, or maybe an artist. Of course, the term was meant in a negative way.

Isn't self indulgent what you want in music? Isn't that was brought Hendrix to the front, and would Brad Paisley have made "play" if he/it wasn't self indulgent? Pink Floyd anyone? Am I missing the point here? I think I am liking self indulgence stuff. I want an artist to be out there by themselves, doing only what they think needs to be done, no one else. Is that what self indulgent means?

Give me an example of an artist who is and one who isn't self indulgent.
hendrix was a servant of the music, not himself.

steve vai is a servant of his own mechanical math, not the music.

i think thats the correct context of the phrase.

of course, there will be those who disagree, but they will be the ones who dont truly know the difference. . .
 

StompBoxBlues

Member
Messages
19,951
It used to mean (I thought) someone who hadn't put in the time, or had the chops, playing "as if" they did.

I think really in practice, it is a judgement call. If you LIKE what they are doing they aren't self-indulgent (examples: Allman bros guitarists...long solos..but to me totally worth the time and the ride) if you don't and they "take your time up" they are only "indulging" themselves, which kinda of also implies they couldn't care less what you think of it, and you feel expected to "care" about what they are playing.

I can't really come up offhand with any major group that I'd call self-indulgent...usually pros that make their living at it, learn to play things that are (by some segment of people) entertaining and worth listening to.

I have heard an awful lot of local bands be self-indulgent, not because they were not famous, but because they just noodled around, guitarist meandering, etc. and it never "went" anywhere...
 

greeny

Member
Messages
1,613
In art, the artist should only really be thinking about pleaseing themselves, which by definition is self indulgence, this is the only way that any new ground will be broken.

If an artist is trying to appeal to an Audience then all we are going to get is X factor, simple as that really.

Of course Just becasue an Artist may be breaking new ground it does nto mean it's any good. But of all the artists that do some will be good.
 

mikem

Senior Member
Messages
2,573
It's like this.
You can't actually win with the critics.
Because if you please yourself , you are self-indulgent.
If you please anyone else you are a sell-out.


I hate critics.
This is similar to what I think about the subject. What was it Zappa said about rock critics? I think that an artist must first satisfy his creative desires before he can create something that resonates with others. This is not to say that there is no art in creating something that pleases someone else. I like what Zappa said (I'm lousy with quotes- good memory, but it's short)- talking/writing about music is like dancing about architecture. You experience music with your mind, body and soul. To try to qualify the experience with something as limiting as language can be is futile. This doesn't stop anyone from trying.

Mike
 




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