Oct 14

MR OIZO – “Flat Beat”

Popular80 comments • 5,862 views

#820, 3rd April 1999

flateric Just what we needed, another corporate puppet at Number One. To be fair to Flat Eric, he was in fact an indie puppet – if you hired French house act Mr.Oizo, the yellow flannel sidekick came as mandatory. The Eric we see in the Levis Sta-Prest ad that birthed “Flat Beat” was reworked by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and he has that irresistible Muppety limberness. But none of Kermit’s pals were this aloof: Eric – and his pal Angel – drive around a suburb, Eric flexing and banging his head to techno. When the police pull them over they switch the music to a country crooner, and Angel complies with the cop’s request, flipping open the trunk to show immaculately folded shirts and pants. He lets them go. They put Mr Oizo back on, and the policeman glumly considers his own crumpled, suddenly uncool clothes.

It’s inscrutable, a snapshot of a world that makes sense only on its own terms. Even the obligatory product shot – those perfectly folded shirts – is framed surreally. But it’s not a world that invites you to fill in any gaps – to make sense of Flat Eric would be to invite the same sleepy-eyed condescension Angel gives the police officer. This is a flat world, deriving its cool precisely from its lack of dimensionality. Why is any of this happening? Why not?

You could say the same about “Flat Beat”’s two weeks at Number One: it’s a very enjoyable record, but its laconic, bone-dry style is a world away from the year’s main trends in chart dance – big-room pop trance, and the filigree sweetness of UK Garage. Those musics, in very different ways, feel like music for crowds, but the Levis ad gets “Flat Beat” right: this low-key electro sound is a more hermetic, solo experience, better in my mind for driving or strolling. The track has the regularity of a self-righting spinning top – those fat squobs of bass causing it to topple over and each time just about rebalance itself. Its gyroscopic rhythm is fun to listen to, but works best in forward motion, when its wonky motor can become yours.

The fact that the year’s most sonically unforgiving Number One is also its biggest sell-out – the end of the decade’s long parade of Levi’s soundtracks – raises a similar gallic shrug to the ad. Levis, Sta-Prest cool notwithstanding, had begun a slide that was to last through most of the 00s – if the ads had ever been effective beyond just tweaking sales, they were so no longer. But as much as any actual 90s artist, Levi’s had developed. They began the decade as an agent of conservatism, making still lives of cool using soul, soft rock and punk – reminding me why these were legacies that needed to be wriggled free of. Over time, though, the brand got more interested in promoting current music – albeit in ersatz (Stiltskin) or family-friendly (Shaggy) versions. It had tried techno before – a 1994 ad used Biosphere’s “Novelty Waves” – but the tie-in single release tanked. Now, with “Flat Eric”, it had finally become an effective vector from bohemia to the charts.

And the ad acknowledged it. The music Eric scrambles onto his car’s cassette deck is utterly obscure – Don Gibson’s B-Side “What’s Happened To Me” – and as such unlikely to have itself appeared in an old school Levi’s ad. But it has the style right, a marketable patina of old-timey yearning : you can imagine some brand, in the late 80s, picking this up and trying to make a thing of it. Ten years later, in this commercial, it’s a symbol of the uncool, the crumpled. The golden age of golden oldie advertising is dead: Flat Eric nods compulsively over its grave.



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  1. 31
    Own Goal on 7 Oct 2014 #

    I was just introduced this track about a year ago and had no idea that it had reached number 1 until reading this. At the time, a friend with more knowledge of electronic music than I introduced it to me with the question, “wouldn’t this work really well in a modern electro set?” Interesting how different people have different ideas of what “should” work in a club, no?

    Anyway, this is an easy 10 for me. And might I had: banger!

  2. 32
    Mark M on 7 Oct 2014 #

    I remembered the phenomenon very clearly, but not the track. It’s OK, as in I like the noises, but I could do with a bit more… something. I’m afraid that I often feel that way about hyper-minimal music – it would make a good sample, or it’s a sketch for something. It’s a bit like how I feel about Neu!

  3. 33
    AMZ1981 on 8 Oct 2014 #

    I don’t get to be the clever clogs to point out that this was the first purely instrumental one since 1973 as #1 was straight off the mark but it was one of two instrumental number ones from the 90s (a faint vocal line disqualifies Doop as a pure instrumental). Both interestingly were one hit wonders; both despite high scores from Tom are unlistenable drivel in my ears. It will be a while before we encounter another instrumental – probably the longest gap in intervening chart toppers although not in years.

    The presence of Flat Eric made this pretty much a novelty record and novelty is key to the number two watch. For the first week it beat Witch Doctor by the Cartoons; a harmless enough record that showed up the state of the charts at that time by getting to number two. On Mr Oizo’s second week the charts got hit by a comet.

    Except that at the time My Name Is by Eminem felt like a novelty record. While one could laugh guiltily at the sick humour and enjoy the wordplay Eminem still had one hit wonder written all over him. At the risk of bunnying we will meet him and we’ll discover that My Name Is was the first of a long string of hits that continues to this day and would reshape the cultural landshape. But that’s another story.

  4. 34
    swanstep on 8 Oct 2014 #

    ‘Flat Beat’ might work as (part of) a backing track for Kanye or Peaches, someone with personality and something to say, but taken by itself I find it boring and pointless.

    I’m reminded of an objection I used to raise to students about Fight Club (1999), that its twist didn’t work because if all the fights we originally see are in fact self-fights then the clubs that catch on would have to be self-fighting clubs, which is (a) not what we see either originally or in debrief and (b) absurd because self-fighting as opposed to fighting is perverse or has very limited appeal and so couldn’t catch on. My students objected that, no, self-fighting *could* catch on, among themselves for instance; that they themselves had enjoyed hanging out and punching themselves as hard as possible in the face when in high school. Complaining about ‘Flat Beat’ (or its getting to #1 or its being given crazily high scores) strikes me now as a little like my attempt to insist that self-fighting clubs couldn’t be a thing. So… knock yourselves out:
    3 (mainly for the vid.)

  5. 35
    Billy Hicks on 8 Oct 2014 #

    The week this got to number 1 – w/e 03/04/1999 – is my favourite top 40 of all time, containing my favourite song as a child at #2 – the aforementioned ‘Witch Doctor’ which became something of a primary school Year 5 anthem – and my favourite song today, System F’s ‘Out of the Blue’ ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qgx_V0So0qk ) which must have sounded absolutely astonishing at the time as one of the hardest trance records to ever chart anywhere near the top 20. Plus New Radicals, ‘Windowlicker’ and all the other classics of the first half of ’99.

    In my Funfax diary I describe Flat Beat as simply ‘Rubbish’, listing tracks including Steps’s Better Best Forgotten, Witch Doctor and (er) Chocolate Salty Balls as ones I prefer. But then something as weird and unmelodic as this was never going to appeal to me at that age even if the advert (which, whenever I saw it, always seemed to be the surreal shortened version featuring just Flat Eric’s headbang in the car and nothing else) was oddly hypnotic. I think in general I was just pissed off it beat Witch Doctor to #1. Today I enjoy it a lot more and I’ll give it a 6 or 7.

  6. 36
    Mark G on 8 Oct 2014 #

    Oh god yeah, the Cartoons! Nearly forgot to add my tale..

    Basically, I was in the big Virgin Megastore at Tottenham Court Road, surveying the racks of that weeks singles, some of which were piled up in quantity on their own circular display rack (remember how things used to be folks?).

    Then, the whole of the Cartoons group appeared behind me, cheering and pointing to their own single on their own rack.

    One of them then looked over and said “ah, there’s the Flat Eric single, look!” At which point they all sighed and went “yeah..” and sloped off.

    I did wonder “what kind of super-heroes are these then? Couldn’t you lot have even tried to go “Grr” and wave fists at them?”

    (none of the details of this story have been exaggerated or enlarged, this is exactly as it happened)

  7. 37
    Rory on 8 Oct 2014 #

    New to me, and my initial reaction was on the wrong side of 5, not because of an Iconoclast-ic aversion to electronica, but because it didn’t stand out as a particularly noteworthy example of it. In the early 2000s I was listening to bucketloads of this sort of stuff, at album length, so I don’t instinctively dislike it, but it does strike me as completely orthogonal to the charts. A very odd number one indeed.

    But the thread prompted me to have a listen to Analog Worms Attack, which isn’t hard to find (ytcough), and at album length I quite like what Mr Oizo was doing; each individual track is fairly one-note, but over sixteen tracks he has… sixteen notes… and okay, it’s not the greatest electronic album I’ve ever heard, but it wasn’t bad as late-night background listening. “Flat Beat” comes at the end of the album, and sounds more engaging in the context of the other tracks that came before it.

    In that context, I’d probably give it a 5; it’s fine, but will I really return to Mr. Oizo when there are other preferable instrumental Misters, such as Scruff, Hermano, and even Clean? In this context, I’m tempted to go higher just for its being a totally unexpected chart topper; but then there’s the Levi’s effect to consider against it…

    But I like the puppet and his hotdog cigars. Oh all right, 6.

  8. 38
    thefatgit on 8 Oct 2014 #

    @21, 24 etc…Buddy & Cathy Rich, which could be the maximalist opposite to Flat Beat, could it not?

  9. 39
    23 Daves on 8 Oct 2014 #

    This single divided opinion sharply at the time too, I think – I distinctly remember pub arguments starting with the line “Just goes to show you can stick anything on an advert and it will get to number one these days!” Patently untrue, irrespective of the brand any track is being used to promote. I think The Lilys “Nanny In Manhattan” (another Levis choice) only managed a modest top twenty placing the year before this, though the Biosphere track Tom mentions is a better comparison.

    Anyway, I loved “Flat Beat” then and love it now. There’s something so beautifully clean and simple about it, and yet – and YET – each little minor, slight variation in the track draws attention to itself just by its very appearance. Elements which would be subtle changes or progressions in any ordinary track, things you wouldn’t notice until perhaps the third or fourth listen, are utterly exposed here and seem gigantic, hugely significant when they appear. It feels as if the nuts and bolts of the music are utterly exposed (Shall I make a reference to the Pompidou centre? No, let’s not).

    I wouldn’t know about it being great to drive to, but I do know that its made its way on to my training/ running playlist on my iPod many times over the last five years (since I’ve started to make an effort to stay fit). It’s utterly perfect for me at least – there’s a certain shoving propulsion about it which urges you on, as well as having the right volume of minimalism to not distract you from the task in hand. That’s possibly not the way it was meant to be appreciated, I realise, and it’s not the only time I listen to it, but I have found it to be really useful from that point of view. An 8 from me.

  10. 40
    Paulito on 8 Oct 2014 #

    I fully respect anyone’s right to like, love or even adore this track. However, I find it somewhat disconcerting to note the several “10”s casually tossed out, each accompanied by a terse line or two that conveys absolutely no sense of why the track warrants this supposedly rare and wonderful accolade. These entries therefore smack variously of wanting to make an impression, of knee-jerk auto-voting born of a heady rush of nostalgia (“God yeah, I remember this one, bangin’ tune wasn’t it?”) and of the intense but fleeting enthusiasms of a 10-year old kid.

    Come on, chaps. Don’t just tell us it’s a 10 – at least try and tell us why.

  11. 41
    Ed on 9 Oct 2014 #

    Ha! You have got me. I have to admit I was one of the knee-jerk 10s above, partly piqued by Iconoclast’s dissing of conceptual art, which is an argument for another day.

    I was actually listening to Flat Beat again this afternoon, and thinking “you know, this is more like a 7 or an 8, really,” but I wasn’t going to come on here and correct myself until you called my bluff.

    Part of the reason, I think, is that a record as uncompromising as this forces you to take sides. No vocals, no guitars or other “real” instruments, very little melody: it’s a minimalist statement that is daring you to come down off the fence. These ideas have been commonplace in “art” music for decades, and even in rock since the 1960s, but they have never made it to number one in such an extreme form, either before or since.

    And actually, Iconoclast’s analogy with conceptual art is exactly right. I think it’s fantastic that music and art like this is reaching a mass market, whatever the quality of individual pieces might be. Hence my instinctive reaction to give this a 10, even if on more sober reflection I realise I don’t really mean it.

    On Twitter the other day I noticed a sneering reference to a “Prime-time R1 DJ talking about Xenakis” (a reference to this piece: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/oct/04/classical-music-joins-youth-underground). Flat Beat is not exactly Xenakis – as Tom and others have noticed, it bears a discernable likeness to other features of the 90s dance landscape – but it is different, and challenging, and exciting for that reason.

    Also, Flat Eric was irresistibly cute. Not liking the record I can understand, but how can you deny the puppet?

  12. 42
    Kinitawowi on 9 Oct 2014 #

    So I was wrong about To You I Belong; turns out it wasn’t close to the last CD single I bought. There were another four – two relatively random, one other epic bunny, and this.

    Which means I obviously loved it at first listen, but the single purchase didn’t stick in the memory long enough. Obviously as soon as I restart it it all comes flooding back – “Oh, yeah, I used to know Quentin, he’s a real, he’s a real jerk” etc. Which at the time, knowing far more of the oeuvre of Quentin Cook than of Quentin Dupieux, I took as a shot at Fatboy Slim.

    Nah, this is good fun. Almost insulting in its simplicity, but that’s worked for more than enough other media; the advert was fun, the video moreso, the puppet reminded me of a coked up Gordon The Gopher.

    Stupid, ridiculous, still funny. 7.

  13. 43
    Izzy on 9 Oct 2014 #

    I like this well enough for what it is, but it’s close to being ungradeable. I couldn’t distinguish much between this and a thousand other minimal dance numbers. I tend towards the more maximal stuff from the era – had Cassius or Etienne de Crecy scored a no.1 I’d feel more comfortable knowing what I liked about it and why, and why their contemporaries did better or worse. To some extent, this just is.

    It did get me wondering what makes a good instrumental hit though. The things I would add to it – a skittering lead line (vocal ideally, but I’d accept alternatives for these purposes), delayed synth washes, ultraclipped disco guitar – would make this more featureful, but less unusual. Whereas this does work as it stands, but I’m not sure it succeeds like it does on a basis beyond the sheer strangeness of a-track-like-this-at-a-number-like-this.

    That said, I showed the ad to the kids and they were glued to it. The little one danced; the older one liked the puppet but was puzzled by the storyline. Either way it works as a masterpiece of economy.

    PS it’s Don Gibson, not Don Simpson.

  14. 44
    Tom on 9 Oct 2014 #

    #43 Ha, good spot! Perhaps the cokey-ness Kinitawowi identified in the ad influenced that slip…

  15. 45
    iconoclast on 9 Oct 2014 #

    @41: Thanks for validating my off-the-top-of-the-head analogy!

    But: you say: “I think it’s fantastic that music and art like this is reaching a mass market, whatever the quality of individual pieces might be.”

    You have to be careful that this doesn’t turn into giving Bad Art a free pass solely because it’s the Right Kind of Art. I would contend that if you have to explain your Art to someone before they can appreciate it in the way you want them to, you’re probably doing it wrong. Others will disagree, of course.

  16. 46
    Tom on 9 Oct 2014 #

    This was Ian MacDonald’s point about “Revolution 9”, wasn’t it – of all the events and artefacts of the 60s avant-garde art scene, this track was the one that was genuinely put into the hands of a mass audience, WITHOUT explanation, for them to use (or ignore) as they liked.

    (There wasn’t really any explanation offered for how to enjoy Flat Beat – so Iconoclast’s suggestion that people needed one to enjoy it doesn’t really apply here. It’s also slightly unclear in this analogy who the highbrow elitists pushing extremist art on the masses would be – Levi’s? Sonic extremism really isn’t their job. My point in the review is that they’d FINALLY worked out how to get some level of genuine subcultural cool transferred into an ad after a decade of getting it mildly wrong – of course having achieved this they basically quit doing it.)

    Incidentally, we have a track that is genuinely more baffling to me – in a “why on earth did anyone buy this?” way – within the next 10 or so songs! Whereas, honestly, this seemed no more inexplicable (if a little cooler) than any other dance track hitting the top. It’s no “Poing” by Rotterdam Termination Source.

  17. 47
    Steve Mannion on 9 Oct 2014 #

    Without the delightful headbanging puppet and the advert itself being probably Levi’s funniest to date* I do think this track would’ve been much less of a hit. ‘Doom’s Night’ is a better track for me (likewise ‘Da Funk’) with a bit more going on. I recognise the appeal of the more hardcore minimalist drive here but I don’t think this in itself would’ve got ‘Flat Beat’ to #1. A shame Mr. Scruff didn’t do a bit better with ‘Get A Move On’ as the cutesy video sells it so well. Then again ‘Doop’ didn’t need any sort of mascot or discernible identity beyond retro attachment…and there’s another rodent-based novelty near-miss to consider at the year’s close.

    Cannot over-stress how much I enjoy instrumentals doing this well though and long for those days to return. I see there’s one from last year but I’m not familiar (and from the name I would not expect to like it). Other charting monotonous bangers of note from 99: Pete Heller’s ‘Big Love’, Cassius ‘La Mouche’ (the DJ Falcon remix), Underworld’s ‘King Of Snake’ (Dave Clarke mix), System F’s ‘Out Of The Blue’. A particularly amazing time to be in Paris though where I doubt the World Cup hangover had worn off.

    *Nice Adam & Joe spoof too in which the copper inspects the car boot only to find Buxton’s BaaadDad held captive inside.

  18. 48
    Ed on 9 Oct 2014 #

    @45 I am glad we agree on the analogy, although we come down on opposite sides of the dividing line that it draws.

    For me, “giving Bad Art a free pass solely because it’s the Right Kind of Art” is exactly what I do want to do. Much better to try to do something new and different, and fail in the attempt, than to rehearse something you have heard countless others do before you, and probably better than you, too.

    @46 I appreciate the outflanking move of “You call that extreme techno? That’s not extreme techno. This is extreme techno!”

    But I think for someone like Iconoclast, who I imagine believes – and shoot me down in flames if I am wrong here – that pop music reached its all-time unsurpassed peak with Rubber Soul and Motown Chartbusters Volume 3, Flat Beat is still quite extreme enough.

  19. 49
    punctum on 9 Oct 2014 #

    #46: I do recall that earlier in the nineties Levi’s used Biosphere’s “Novelty Waves” for an ad, without much commercial success. At the time I was in my “good Lord somebody else has heard of Artist X” mood.

  20. 50
    mapman132 on 9 Oct 2014 #

    #46 I can guess which bunny you’re referring to: a single that manages to be less musical than even this.

    I was probably a bit harsh in my initial comment on FB – it’s really not that bad, certainly there’s been far worse discussed on this board. But still, I think James at #27 makes an excellent point. It seems like the type of track that people would say they like just for the sake of hardcore/hipster cred. Maybe people really do think this is a 10, but it’s far too repetitive for my tastes. I mean if I can describe/recreate a number one record by making a sound effect with my mouth for 20 seconds, and then saying it goes like that for 3 minutes, that doesn’t seem like a good thing, does it? I think that in 2014, FB would be a one or two week Youtube meme and that’s about it.

  21. 51
    Tom on 9 Oct 2014 #

    I think assuming someone is only saying they like something for [x reason] is basically never an excellent point, sorry.

  22. 52
    glue_factory on 9 Oct 2014 #

    For me the parallels with earlier Levi’s adverts (Stiltskin and Babylon Zoo) are clear; it worked well in the context of the advert, was utterly thrilling, in fact, there, but played to its full length and without the visuals I found less to keep my interest. And like others that’s not for want of liking hard or minimal electronic music; oh to be discussing something like Aphex Twin’s Quoth or something by Ancient Methods.

    And like those earlier number ones, it stuck around for longer than a week, presumably giving the lie to the idea that people were instantly disappointed on hearing it as a single and not a soundtrack.


  23. 53
    glue_factory on 9 Oct 2014 #

    ” I mean if I can describe/recreate a number one record by making a sound effect with my mouth for 20 seconds, and then saying it goes like that for 3 minutes, that doesn’t seem like a good thing, does it?”

    It depends. If you can do it, and have a single, glorious, chord change halfway through, like the Punctum mentioned French Kiss, then that’s a FANTASTIC thing.

    (The groaning and the slowing down were always the least interesting bits of that record for me)

  24. 54
    iconoclast on 9 Oct 2014 #

    @48: “Rubber soul?” Plastic soul, more like; they’d long since sold theirs to commerciality. Captain Pepper’s where it’s really at, man.

    Tom’s mention of “Revolution 9”, a piece of which I have a high opinion, has made me think long and hard about my reaction to FB. If it’s fair to make the comparison, and assuming both are indeed “avant-garde” pieces of music, then the difference for me lies in my perception that in R9 – which *develops* quite substantially over its length – the Artist is sincerely trying to take the Listener on an emotional or mental journey, whereas in FB – which just sits there more or less unchanged – I mostly hear the Artist and his select audience sniggering behind the Listener’s back and thinking “let’s see what the belpers make of *that*!” In short, in R9 the Artist assumes the Listener is an intelligent human being, whereas FB takes the Listener for a fool.

    Others will, of course, have exactly the reverse perception; de gustibus non disputandum est.

  25. 55
    Tom on 9 Oct 2014 #

    To be fair Iconoclast I am arguing that it ISN’T a piece of avant-garde art, it’s just an electro house banger – I think Ed might be right in that the framing/presentation of it as a hit single from a cool advert is a little bit Duchampian, though, which adds a layer onto it. R9 is a bit different – in a way its asking people to find a use for it, interpret it, find a way it fits into their lives and expectations. I really don’t think the use of “Flat Beat” is terribly obscure! It’s a dance record. You either want to move to it or you don’t.

    The hidden issue here is that utilitarian dance records are very hard to WRITE about in the same lit-crit/art-crit/pop-sociology derived terms that a lot of pop is. This has always been a huge problem! (I find dance records tough to write about too – if you look at Popular it’s almost always on dance stuff that I fall back on expressive metaphor as a critical tool, yer sonic cathedrals of sound) But being hard to fit into the literary frame of “a piece of art you appreciate as an individual listener” is really not an inherent fault of a recording’s.

    This is what “rockism” was about, by the way, much more than “liking rock” or not. Rock (especially the arty end of it) succeeded as a critical object because it could be written about very easily. (This point borrowed from DUBDOBDEE I should say!) Attempts to apply the same styles to other music often led to incomprehension or bad assumptions about them becoming common currency. Frankly it led to that for a lot of rock as well, PARTICULARLY the stuff that – as Fivelongdays would point out – actually rocked.

  26. 56
    Ed on 9 Oct 2014 #

    That is a good point.

    Classical music is an absolute bugger to write about, it seems, which is why everyone loves Alex Ross of the New Yorker so much: he is one of the very few who can do it well.

    Paul Morley is making a decent go of it at Sinfini, too: http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/series/paul-morley

  27. 57
    flahr on 9 Oct 2014 #

    “Ptolemy” really is rather wonderful, isn’t it?

  28. 58
    Wheedly on 9 Oct 2014 #

    There’s some really great and perceptive comments here. And some that leave me groaning. Believing that you understand another listener’s response to a piece of music better than they themselves do is an unsustainable, not to mention pretty arrogant, position to take. Assuming that you know what the artist was thinking at the moment of creation is even more presumptuous.
    To talk about any art outside your own tastes and experiences meaningfully, you have to engage with it first, experience it with as many of your own preconceptions, prejudices and opinions stripped away as you can possibly manage.
    Imagine hearing Flat Beat with someone’s ears other than your own. What does it sound like? Think beyond notes, chords and rhythm. Think in terms of frequency, harmonic content, dynamics. What does it feel like to listen to? What do you see when you hear it? What does it make your body do? Do you enjoy the physical sensations it provokes? How about the mental ones?
    Done all that? Now you’re engaging with the music itself. Which in most pop music criticism may only be half the story, but it becomes a bigger part when surface meaning through lyrics and easy signifiers like big, swelling arrangements are stripped away.
    So having called others out, I guess I have to be brave enough to offer my own opinion. I liked it at the time, I like it now. If anything, even more so. The reason FB became such a big hit, I think, is because it’s playful. That juxtaposition of the beep-beeps against the huge, near-steady state bass is a dead giveaway here. As Tom keeps insisting, it’s not avant-garde, it’s a banger, albeit a very minimalist one, made by a guy with a peculiar but entirely audible sense of humour.

  29. 59
    Ed on 9 Oct 2014 #

    You might think it’s pretty arrogant to tell people how they ought to listen to music :)

    More seriously, asking people to listen without their own “preconceptions, prejudices and opinions” is a hopeless exercise, surely?

    “How would I feel about this record if I wasn’t me?” I am pretty sure I don’t have the necessary philosophical detachment to answer that question.

  30. 60
    Wheedly on 9 Oct 2014 #

    OK, point taken. :) Put it another way, then. If you’re going to discuss music with others, it’s more rewarding if you’ve tried to take the music on its own terms. Since someone’s already mentioned Ian McDonald upthread, let’s wheel him out again: Pet Sounds is an abject flop considered as a heavy metal album.

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