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Expected vs. Actual Enjoyment

April 15, 2021

[Albums 885 – 893 / 1001]

Of the 9 (!) albums to be discussed in this 9-for-the-price-of-1* review, my actual statistical enjoyment level was about the same with each.

However, my overall impressions were likely quite different.

And I believe that is based on my expectations going in.

Which led to 1 of 3 scenarios, as shown graphically!

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Scenario 1: As Expected
The Stranglers, Rattus Norvegicus (1977), Buzzcocks, Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1978), and The Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)

I often talk to my students about the importance of under-promising & over-delivering.

For example, if I say that I’ll have the tests marked by Thursday and I end up having them finished by Wednesday, prepare the ‘World’s Greatest Teacher’ coffee mug!

However, if I say that I’ll have the tests marked by Wednesday and it takes me until Thursday?

That would make me the ‘goat’ – and not in a G.O.A.T./Greatest-of-All-Time kind of way.

But what if I promise Thursday and I keep my promise?

Expectations are managed & met.

And kudos to The Stranglers / Buzzcocks / Damned for doing just that with their albums on the 1001 list.

Punk &/or Rock from the late 70s?

I knew I was going to like it.

And I did!

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Scenario 2: Mismanaged Expectations
The Cure, Pornography (1982), Happy Mondays, Bummed (1988), and My Bloody Valentine, Isn’t Anything (1988)

I adore The Cure.

Or at least, I live for just about every note of music released by Robert Smith & co. between 1985-2000.

But The Cure pre-’85/post-’00?

I keep expecting that it’s going to be at the same ridiculously elevated level…and it never quite is.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s completely without merit.

In fact, when compared to the rest of music that I’ve ever heard in my lifetime, it’s probably as strong or stronger than the vast majority.

However, knowing what their ceiling is…

For some reason, I never learn and I keep expecting to hear something different.

It’s like re-watching a vintage sports game, hoping for a different ending – this time they’ll call that Gretzky high-stick for sure!

And though I haven’t been listening to Happy Mondays / My Bloody Valentine for nearly as long, there’s a similar issue of expecting perfection and getting most of the way there.

Again, I’m totally responsible for my own mismanaged expectations; there Isn’t Anything quite like feeling Bummed when you don’t love a record that you like! 

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Scenario 3: Pleasant Surprises
John Martyn, Solid Air (1973), Gary Numan, Pleasure Principle (1979), and The Triffids, Calenture (1987)

Finally, with some albums, you don’t expect the world.

And the world ends up delivering a pleasant surprise.

Back in the day, out of principle, I wouldn’t have derived an ounce of pleasure from Gary Numan’s synthesizers. But this year, it turned out that it was up my alley.

I thought John Martyn may have benefitted from some felicitous timing when I explored One World (in the pre-pandemic days, driving to Toronto to visit friends); but as it turns out, even when such Toronto-drives are not possible, he proved to be similarly, if not even more, effective on Solid Air.

Finally, when I first heard the name ‘The Triffids,’ I initially thought of the line ‘a trifle unnecessary’ from Wayne’s World 2, and wondered if this album would be somewhat inconsequential as well. 

I’ve since learned that ‘Calenture’ is a type of heat stroke or fever, a ‘Triffid’ is a fictional carnivorous plant species, and most importantly, I was pleased to discover that Calenture by The Triffids is far from unnecessary!

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Verbalize the Positive

A tip of the hat to my friend, Deke, for his positive spin with these multi-review posts: it’s not that I’m trying to get through the book quickly, it’s about providing good 9-for-the-price-of-1 value!

From → 1970s, 1980s

24 Comments
  1. I kind of wish they broke the no compilations rule and used the Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady. I like Calenture and John Martyn a lot.

    • At the beginning of the project, I think I would have been a firm believer in the no comps rule.
      Though lately I’ve started to appreciate a well-compiled compilation. Perhaps there will be a 1001 artists brand extension at some point, taking a greatest hits from each!

      • There are a few acts that are served really well – especially in the 1950s where albums weren’t an established art form for rock and roll. People like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry are best known for compilations.

      • It does seem somewhat ridiculous that an artist as influential as Chuck Berry doesn’t appear on the 1001 list!

      • Yup, I think they could have broken the rule for that.

  2. Nice. I would mark this as pleasantly surprised as you know its going to be good, but it is always better than good because we got not 1, but 3 graphs and 9 albums. Sweet!!

  3. jprobichaud permalink

    I could absolutely empathize with your mismanaged expectations section. I love those three bands but those particular albums weren’t slam dunks for me, though I admit that I am warming to Pornography…

    • It’s funny how with so many groups, the default expression would be “their older stuff is better” – but with the cure, I swear by their middle stuff!

      • jprobichaud permalink

        Haha. I kind of feel like the same can be said of R.E.M. I love their early stuff too but can anyone argue the greatness of their middle period?

      • 100% – middle period REM is one of my favourite windows by any artist!

  4. Zack permalink

    I recently listened to the Pleasure Principle and have to agree with you. Much better than I expected!

  5. Reasonable and scientific – with charts! We come for the commentary, we stay for the statistical analysis and the Positive being Verbalized!

    I could have told you that Stranglers/Buzzcocks/Damned were gonna be stellar, but that’s my bias. And same for Cure/Happy Mondays/My Bloody Valentine, but in the opposite. Perhaps your bias undid the Cure, expectation crushed by actuality. I’ll leave the Cure all to you, sir! And I will swear up and down that MBL isn’t worth it (though for some dumb reason I keep trying). As for the pleasant surprises, you’re not the first one to recommend John Martyn, in this Community, and the more I hear the more I like.

    9-for-1 is fine by me, especially when it’s handled with such aplomb. Give ‘er!

    • Much appreciated, Aaron – I’ve always wanted to do something with aplomb!
      I believe it is Einstein that’s credited with the expression, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – and I’m with you, there’s certain artists/albums I keep trying and the results don’t seem to change.
      Perhaps it’s the effort that counts!

      • For the record (pun intended), Geoff, you run your whole site and life with aplomb. No pressure lol!

        einstein was right, so maybe we just labour under mass thinking. Like myself, I have never gotten into MBV’s Loveless. I try every five years or so and it just has never spoken to me. Rather than try to match my taste to the the taste-makers’, I should just admit I don’t like that album and move on.

      • And it works the other way too – the taste-makers don’t seem to think that ’80s Bryan Adams is worth hearing, but I’m happy to politely disagree!

      • I’ve never heard anyone ever say that about 80s Bryan Adams. I don’t know where you found those tastemakers but you should put them back! 😉

  6. Thanks for the shout out Sir! A 9 for 1 deal in one post! This has to be a WordPress record in the category of music. lol
    Since I’m an old man Gary Numan was massive with Cars and that is the sign of a great track as it has to be alt least 40 years old and in 2021 it’s still talked about!

    • Thanks for the positive spin on multi-review posts, Deke!
      Absolutely, Cars is far from a complicated song, but perhaps that’s part of its enduring appeal. It’s 2 chords & it works!

  7. I certainly wasn’t expecting you to look at 9 albums. Is this a record? I haven’t heard all of these, but I can confirm that Pornography and Happy Monday’s fell short of my expectations. As did Solid Air, to be fair. On initial listen, anyway. I expected a lot from Numan… and he delivers on there.

    • I believe 9 is the most-per-review so far, J – I don’t anticipate it’s a record I’ll break anytime soon!

  8. I like a bargain, so 9 for the price of 1 sits well with me! Sarah picked up that Gary Newman album from somewhere I was actual enjoyment was higher than expected.

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