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!
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