How long is too long?


I’m talking about albums.

My band is inches away from finishing our first full-length album, and it’s turned into a monster. 16 tracks (13 of which are actual songs; the first two are an intro and an “overture” if you will, another is a 43 second reprise of an earlier song), and as of this moment it’s 1:04:34 in total. A bit of that length comes from the last song, which clocks in around 9 minutes, but even so it seems like a lot to ask people to listen to.

Is this way too much? Is there a point where an album just becomes too damn long to listen through? At this juncture we’re talking about splitting one section of the story (yes, it’s a concept album… a little bit of Equilibrium, a little bit of Manchurian Candidate, in a nonspecific WWI-ish setting) into a second disc.

Has any artist ever successfully begun a music career with a double-disc album? Or an album that was just really long?

Your album sounds like a pretentious prog-rock trainwreck in the making. I am intrigued by it and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. :smiley:

As to your question, I think the scissors are an artist’s best friend in the studio. Cut, cut, cut. I mean, how many albums can you think of where you think, “Man, this album would be perfect if it just had two more songs!”

Nellie McKay kicked off her career with the acclaimed double-disc Get Away From Me, clocking in at 61:31. Interestingly, Wikipedia notes that all of the music could have fit on a single disc, but she was insistent on splitting it into two.

I think it sounds too long. Get together, harden your hearts, pretend it’s someone else’s album and say “What is the weakest song?” and cut it. Put it on Myspace or something as a B-side. Be a hardass. Get into arguments if you have to. It’s hard to do, but it’ll be good for you in the long run.

In addition to Nellie McKay, the first Mothers of Invention LP, Freak Out!, was a double LP, and clocked in around an hour total. It was also a concept album. But that was 41 years ago. George Harrison’s first solo record, All Thing Must Pass, is around 75+ minutes (not counting the 3rd disk of jamming wankology). But he’d already had a bit of publicity in another band. Herman’s Hermits, I think. Liz Phair’s first record was pretty long, 55 minutes or so.

Two more recent examples of very long records are both 3-disk sets: the Early Novembers [*The Mechanic and The Path and Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, which clocks in at 172 minutes, of which I love probably 165 or so.

If you were a pop band I’d strongly suggest sticking to 45 minutes – just because a CD can go to 74 minutes doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. But a prog band can count on listeners willing to sit through an hour, having been hardened by 12-minute mellotron solos and multithemed suites about robots. Good luck!

Brevity is the way to go, IMO. The optimal length for an album is around 35-40 minutes. There are lots of hourlong albums that justify every second of their running time; but they are dwarfed by the many thousands of albums that would have been strengthened by cutting everything but the strongest 35 minutes. The same is true of individual songs. For every “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” there are a lot of 5-minute songs that have said everything they have to say before the second minute is over.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I had the feeling we were going to need to take a hatchet to the album.

As far as our sound, we’re somewhere in the “hard alternative” genre, I suppose. Smash together these albums, and you’ll get an idea of our sound:

“Where You Want to Be” - Taking Back Sunday
“Make Yourself” - Incubus
“Between the Heart and the Synapse” - The Receiving End of Sirens
“12 Gracious Melodies” - Stone Temple Pilots
“Siamese Dream” - Smashing Pumpkins

The band’s going to be getting together tonight while a DJ records a demo set in our studio. We’ll probably talk about what we need to do at that point… we may end up splitting off the three songs that were on our demo CD onto a Single/EP with the first single we’ll be pushing, a couple remixes and acoustic recordings we have lying around - perhaps cheaply produce a huge stack of those to give away, in order to promote the band and get people to buy the real album.

We also may do some slicing & dicing on the remaining songs… Maybe this chorus only needs one time through the first time around, maybe we can cut this bridge in half. It hurts, but it’ll be for the best.

Do you happen to like Coheed and Cambria? :slight_smile:

Nitpick: that was his third solo album. It was his first post-Beatles solo album, as well as his first album of actual songs, after the rather insignificant instrumental LPs Wonderwall and Electronic Sound.

I loved In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 when it first came out, but I rarely listen to them any more… They did put on a hell of a show in Cleveland a few years ago, right before they came out with Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV. Vol. I.

As far as the music, some people may draw similarities between our album (entitled The Reconstruction) and some of Coheed’s work - the military themes, the storytelling, the tendency to a bit of bombast from time to time. We do our best to avoid too much prog wankery and focus more on overlapping and interlocking vocals and hooks (I share guitar and vocal duties with a guy who’s a better musician, better looking, and 3 inches taller than me. Damn him!) which musically gets us more comparisons Taking Back Sunday.

I gotta say that, just by going on the words alone, the name and title here

do nothing to lead me to believe you are not like Coheed and Cambria :slight_smile:

No, seriously, if this is a theme album, the decision can be a lot more difficult than others may have implied: you can’t just ditch bad songs if they tell the story better. And I agree with those who say that proggy fans are more forgiving than pop fans.

Which doesn’t mean that you shouldnt drop stuff if it’s bad, but I’m of the opinion that bands should drop bad songs even from short albums.

Love those guys, love the album. The album comes across like a concept album, but I can’t quite figure out what the concept is… something about prison breaks and burning evidence. Their sound is like a more atmospheric Taking Back Sunday.

The thing is, many the songs out of context have a lot of mainstream appeal - in spite of the conceptual and musical threads, they’re hook-heavy and radio-ready. Taking honest stock of the album, I think we have about 5 potential singles… and our old demo has already gotten a decent among of college radio play, so that bodes well.

The 3 songs I’m leaning towards cutting are very radio-friendly, but they predate the concept of the album and were somewhat shoehorned in, because we knew our fans wanted a new recording of them. If we give that to them, along with some other nice goodies, perhaps that will satisfy that need.

That’s actually titled Purple, even though the only place it appears on the packaging is as the Chinese character on the front.

Ahhhh, I see. I would have preferred if “Teenagers” from The Black Parade by MCR were put on one of their preceding or subsequent albums because, while good, it doesn’t have a lot to do with the theme, and it seems like they had an extra song hanging around that was too good to pass up.

So in that case, if I had to decide between dropping a bad song and dropping a good song that didn’t fit with the theme, I’d drop the good song as long as I planned to release it soon (or maybe like you mentioned as a bonus CD.)

And to answer the last question in the OP, Say Anything almost counts. The first album by them I am aware of was rereleased as a double after the first disk achieved some success: Say Anything…is a Real Boy, and Say Anything…was a real boy. They had previous stuff before they were real famous, but their Wiki says they are disowning it. (Then again, that probably means I’d like it, as when an artist isn’t satisfied with their early work it usually means it has a vitality and immediateness that will make me appreciate it, see for instance 10,000 Maniacs’ first three albums [up to and including The Wishing Chair])

I do think 64 minutes is a lot - I think a lot of bands think that because CDs allow them to give their fans so much content, that they are obliged to provide it. [Metallica, you of the unwritten “every album has to be 75minutes,” I’m looking in your direction. :p]

I think 45 or 50 minutes is really enough in most cases. Some of my favorite albums are longer than that, or even double albums, but unless you’re positive your album is strong enough and varied enough to keep people going for that long, pare it down.

every single one of Sufjan Stevens’ albums is 70+ minutes long, including his debut one.
I don’t have any advice for you, but I wanted to throw out that tidbit.

You know, this thread is the first place I’ve ever seen anyone complain about a cd being too long. Usually people bitch about them being too short…

I’m beginning to think shorter is better in general.

In any case, there’s a quote from Lennon about ‘giving them their money’s worth,’ referring to a staggering 33 minutes, albeit 14 songs. So go ahead, give them their money’s worth!

Just don’t split it up, ok? I hate double albums, everyone does. No one knows how to package them, and everyone hates switching CDs. You’ve only got 64 minutes. That’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’s first disc. It’ll fit on one, so put it on one. And cut any song with more than 3 choruses.

Well nitpicked – forgot about those 2. Not exactly pop records.

I thought of another long debut record: Ween’s GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, 26 songs and 71 minutes. Their earlier releases were on cassette or very limited-edition vinyl.

And every single one of them is padded out and should have been cut to 45 minutes. And I like Sufjan, but he needs an editor.

I’d feel cheated by something this short.