Musical Musings: Quality vs. Quantity

Toward the end of last year, Australian psych/garage rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard announced they would be releasing five full-length records in 2017.

The first two, “Flying Microtonal Banana” and “Murder of the Universe,” were both fantastic. They were some of King Gizzard’s best work to date.

However, the latest, “Sketches of Brunswick East,” a jazz-flavored collaboration with American indie band Mild High Club, left much to be desired.

Between 2012 and the end of 2016, King Gizzard had released eight albums, and they’ve all contained some of the most innovative rock music of the decade, so they’re no strangers to frequent output, but it seems five albums in one year is a bit too much for them.

This all got me thinking of the age-old discussion of quantity vs. quality. And I mean this from an artistic perspective, not one of business. Of course, quantity is more important when thinking about business – more albums means more sales and more tour dates.

When looking at music as an artistic medium, however,  quantity vs. quality becomes more of a gray area.

I like to think King Gizzard is a band of integrity. They wouldn’t put themselves through the effort to make five full-length records in a single year just to get some cash. The band explores a new concept on each record. They’re clearly in this endeavor for the music itself.

Sometimes, an artist just needs to take a break. Not necessarily a hiatus, but a period of about one-to-three years to collect their ideas and develop a cohesive product.

Fans will wait.

In a span of seven years, The Beatles put out 12 albums. The Beatles arguably have the most avid fan base of any musical group of all time, which it has retained for the last half-century. Every fan has their own favorite album, but many will stand by the fact that The Beatles don’t have a single bad one.

The Beatles had the best of both worlds – quantity and quality. But, not every band can achieve this balance.

Recently, American Football, one of the most influential indie bands of the ’90s, reunited to release their second self-titled LP after nearly 20 years. It wasn’t good.

If a band wants to continue putting out new content, that’s great – nothing should stop them. But, what’s important to me is consistency.

Bands that have built up a reputation to the extent of American Football’s or King Gizzard’s have the duty to live up to that reputation and consistently put out quality music.

I haven’t lost faith in King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. I see “Sketches of Brunswick East” as a speed bump in their discography and trust that the remaining two albums this year will meet the high standard the band has set for itself.

[Editor’s note: “Musical Musings” is a bi-weekly column by Arts & Features Editor Andrew Willoughby featuring commentary on the music industry.]

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