As you may have read elsewhere on this site, Oberhofer’s debut album came out this week, and it’s pretty terrific. (You can listen to it on Spotify.) Put in a real studio with Glassnote Records (Phoenix, Mumford and Sons) bucks behind him, Brad cleans up real good and doesn’t allow producer Steve Lillywhite to be all “That’s not how U2 would’ve done it.” It’s a big pop record that still sounds like Oberhofer. No small feat.
Yet I can’t help but be mildly disappointed. Six of the 10 songs on Time Capsules II are from the seven-song, home-recorded o0O0o0O0o EP Oberhofer released two years ago. A lot of people downloaded it (he put it up there for free) and came to love songs like “Away FRM U,” “Gold,” and “I Could Go.” Songs a lot of people have played to death. Now I realize that when you go into a studio for your Debut Album with Steve Fucking Lillywhite (look at this guy’s resume), you want the best possible songs on the record, and that just because a bunch of bloggers (and the folks who read them) have heard the songs a zillion times doesn’t mean the general public has. And it’s not like this is the first time this has happened in the record biz. Or the second, or the third or the hundredth.
My fear is that the four new songs on Time Capsules II, as good as they are (and they are!), are the only ones Oberhofer has written in the two years since that initial flurry of creativity. I remember buying Elastica’s debut album and seeing two-year-old B-sides and worrying the same thing. (In that case, it was pretty much all they had.) It’s partially the internet’s fault. A band can write and song and record it and have it on their Bandcamp or whatever the same day. Fifteen years ago, Oberhofer might have just played those songs live for two years, maybe selling demo cassettes at shows, and when they finally when they made their first album everyone would be happy to have all those songs on a CD. But these are different times. I’m sure it’s weird for Oberhofer too.
It’s also my problem. I just want all bands to be The Smiths, who would release an album and then follow it with an amazing non-LP single (and amazing B-sides) the next month. Those are standards no band should be held against (though Belle and Sebastian have come close at times) but I’m always happy when bands try. Ty Segall and The Fresh and Onlys crank out albums, EPs and seven inches at an alarming rate with a shockingly high hit-to-miss ratio. And I’m pretty sure Robert Pollard has already released seven or eight albums this year. None of them have the mainstream potential that Oberhofer has, mind you. They also live in Not New York where the cost of being a band is much lower and you can spend all day coming up with killer riffs and not worry as much about the rent check. But if Oberhofer want to put out an all-new EP in, say, October, that’d be okay. If the songs aren’t quite as catchy as “Away FRM U,” that be okay too. We’ve heard that one plenty.