Friday, 17 August 2018

Album Review/Column: MXPX by MXPX (by Dan Peters)

Here is my totally unbiased review of the new self-titled MXPX album in fifty words or less. It’s the single greatest piece of musical art to come into my life in the last 6 years and I loved it without reservation and will do till the end of time.

Phew now that I’ve got that out the way, what I’d like to talk about is the fact that one of the biggest bands of my childhood decided to Kickstart this album for funding and what that says about the music industry. MXPX are far from the first band to have kickstarted an album but, in my narrow view of musical genres, they are certainly the biggest and, bless them, they have been incredibly candid throughout the process when people have asked questions. They therefore make an excellent case study on the trend of crowdfunding music.

MXPX were a band in their twilight circa 2012. Their previous full length album, Plans Within Plans, is noticeably darker in tone than anything that came before it with songs like Screw Loose, Cast Down My Heart and Nothings Gonna Change casting a bit of a shadow over a group whose positive lookout on life had always been such a strong part of their personality. The band has had numerous issues with record labels over the years and have been open about not being well compensated for record sales. After years of hopping from label to label it seemed like Plans Within Plans would be the last official release of the band. MXPX alumni Tom and Yuri stopped touring and MXPX All Stars became a thing instead of a true blue touring MXPX.

Cut to around 2013 and Mike Herrera started an acoustic solo project, and in doing so fully embraced social media to get his music out there. MXPX stayed alive through sheer force of will on Mike's behalf and he can be found in numerous acoustic appearances on any number of social media outlets and YouTube channels. This experimentation with how to distribute their music led to an official MXPX acoustic album and also an official from the ground up re-recording of Life In General on Bandcamp. For me it was a dream, having such easily accessible music from my favourite band and I’m sure a lot of other people felt the same.

Then the Kickstarter happened. The band explained that they were all together again, that they loved what they did again and that they weren’t having anything more to do with labels and the stresses that come with being tied down. They had already recorded the music and set a modest $48,000 dollar target to help market and distribute the album. Having your favourite band explain they’re back in full force and that for a small amount you can help their dream come true was an easy sell for their huge and passionate fanbase. They absolutely smashed the target, coming in well over $200,000 at the close of the campaign. Finally, blessedly we got the MXPX album we’ve been waiting for and it was everything I could’ve hoped for and more.

The lyrics are full of joy and hope and there’s a lot of mention of that “weekend” feeling, symbolic to me because in order to get to the weekend you have to slog through the week to appreciate it and this is a band who went through that slog and is clearly now in an excellent place. The full line-up is in check, the energy, excitement pure unadulterated joy (in songs like All Of It) can be clearly felt. So what changed? Certainly having some time away from something can make you miss it more, but I think it’s the freedom that came with unshackling themselves from the main things tying them down. Let’s Ride, an album standout track, is about the freedom to go and travel wherever you like and when you’re attached to a label you’re beholden to them and don’t have that freedom. Having to only please fans that love you enough already to support you in your career is a far better way to live (although no less daunting due to expectations). There have been a spate of “surprise” albums over the last 18 months, where artists have put out their newest creations without pomp and ceremony and, for me personally, MXPX are the biggest of the bunch. Anything that takes away from the music industry and places the power back with the artists is a great thing in my mind and I hope many more bands are encouraged to follow suit as a result.

So, in conclusion, this was a very differently created album and is a richer happier more fulfilling experience to listen to as a result. There will be no prizes for guessing what will be at the top of my end of year lists and I can’t recommend you listen to it enough.

Like MXPX here:

This review/column was written by Dan Peters.

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