Posted this on the Escapist too, quoting the post here:
Right, this is a topic that's been bugging me for some time now.
Recently, I've been getting interested in A Thousand Suns, the new Linkin Park album (I know, everyone hates them, but bear with me) which has split fans and critics clean in two like some form of sonic Marmite. Listening to the full version on youtube, I love it. It actually sounds like an "Album" album, meant to be listened to as a whole, rather than just a collection of songs - a Dark Side of the Moon-type album.
One of the main criticisms I've seen towards it by the not-so-enthused club is that it contains 5 short interlude pieces, which are mostly sound clips and background textures to bridge between songs. Many are dismissing these as "filler", implying that they think they're useless and should be removed. I can sort of understand this viewpoint, in this era where all anyone cares about is how "single"-able a song is, but it annoys me.
The way I see it, these interludes are essential, worth way more than the sum of their parts. They have a very specific purpose - to hold the album together. Without them, the album's concept would not be nearly so evident, it would not flow so beautifully or be nearly as cohesive - it would be much less good, less successful at what it's trying to do.
I was also extremely irritated to see a contemporary review of Dark Side of the Moon dismiss "Speak to Me" and "On the Run" as filler, for the same reasons. This is why I dislike the idea of a track-by-track review - it only works for "pop" albums, which are just a collection of singles that are all designed to stand on their own, and yet people think they can apply it to all albums, where it stops working. Radiohead's "Fitter Happier", off of OK Computer, is another sad victim of this attitude - it's one of my favourite tracks from the album, and in fact I'd go so far as to say it defines the album, encapsulating its entire mission statement in 1:57 minutes. Yet because it can't stand on its own as a single, people dismiss it. Blarg.
Some of my favourite albums make good use of interludes. Sparklehorse's first two albums had 3 each (most of which are unavailable on youtube - such is the curse of being a little-known band), and I must say, they make quite a contribution to the atmosphere, considering that only 1 of the 6 is over a minute in length. Coldplay's latest, Mylo Xyloto, is also a good example - though I didn't like the album all that much, it's fair to say I would have liked it even less if it weren't for those 3 itty-bitty mood-setters that helped it go slightly above your usual pop album in terms of cohesion.
So what are your thoughts,
EscapistRelicNews? You like interludes? Dislike? Cheese? Post your thoughts below. Keep it clean, please.