Back in the ’70s, ’80s and maybe into the early ’90s, the EP (“extended play”) record was a key component of any good collection. These were collections of songs that were just a bit too long to be singles (even 12-inch ones), but just a bit too short to be LP (“long play”) albums, and the 10-inch vinyl record was a particularly iconic representation of the format.

Some of my favorite songs and records from that era were originally issued as EPs, including, but obviously not limited to:

Brown Reason To Live and Cream Corn From The Socket of Davis by Butthole Surfers

Autumn Equinox: Amethyst Deceivers, Winter Solstice: North, Spring Equinox: Moon’s Milk or Under an Unquiet Skull and Summer Solstice: Bee Stings by COIL

Slates by The Fall

Poguetry in Motion by The Pogues

Chronic Town by R.E.M.

The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited by Metallica

Four Tracks From Steely Dan by Steely Dan (the only place you could get the rare and weirdly anomalous early “Dallas” b/w “Sail The Waterway” single)

An Ideal for Living by Joy Division

The Power of Lard by Lard

The Witch Trials by The Witch Trials

Nervous Breakdown and Jealous Again by Black Flag

Paranoid Time and Buzz or Howl Under Influence of Heat by The Minutemen

Fugazi and Margin Walker by Fugazi

Duck Stab! and Babyfingers by The Residents

Signals, Calls and Marches by Mission of Burma

Datapanik In The Year Zero by Pere Ubu

Beware by The Misfits

1981-1982 by New Order

Gravest Hits and Smell of Female by The Cramps

The idiom seemed to mostly croak around the time when CDs became the dominant format, and routine, regular bloat ensued. Artists seemed more inclined to issue 70-80 minutes worth of music at a pop from that point forward, just because the format easily allowed for it. Of course, albums didn’t get 50% better for having 50% more music on them, and the opposite was actually quite often the case.

I’m noticing a trend in recent years to reverse this unfortunate predilection for musical bloatiness, and two of my favorite new records in 2019 are small collections that clearly would have been issued as EPs back in the day. The first of these is Wisdom Teeth by Jealous of the Birds, a concise and perfect five-song gem that actually follows on this heels of another EP, 2018’s tremendous The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me In My Sleep. My favorite song on the album is “Marrow,” which also features a stellar video:

Jealous of the Birds’ guiding light, Naomi Hamilton, is a relative newcomer to my record collection, but my other favorite 2019 EP (so far) comes from a singer-songwriter who has been a deep personal favorite of mine since the mid-’80s: Andy Prieboy. His latest record, Every Night Of My Life, also features five songs, everyone of them a winner, played by a core trio of Prieboy, the late Tony Kinman (The Dils, Rank and File, etc.) and David Kendrick (Devo). Song styles vary widely, but Prieboy’s extremely astute and engaging lyrics, amazing arrangements and his always lovely baritone voice give them great continuity, and they are all fine additions to his canon. The sample song provide below features Kinman and Prieboy in a vocal duet, and it’s a delight:

I would certainly love it if artists followed these fine recent examples, issuing short, sharp collections every so often, regularly, rather than working for years to drop an 80-minute marathon on my listening machines. There’s no reason for them not to, in this our streaming season (though I still resist that development), and there’s so much quality control and discipline to be gained in purposefully issuing music in tiny packages.

Get on it, musos. Less is more!

COIL’s four equinox/solstice EPs were as beautiful to look at as they were to hear.

One thought on “EP Me

  1. Pingback: What’s Up in the Neighborhood, March 23 2019 – Chuck The Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s