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May 2019

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Every musician, every artist likes to hear that his new album is great, preferably that the record is the best he has ever made. If that same album is still considered his best work 40 years later, he is less happy. The inevitable conclusion is that in the decades since then it has only gone downhill artistically. He undoubtedly did his best after that, and may not have been just a mess, but still - it really shouldn't have been.

No musician escapes this frustrating phenomenon: what you gain in experience and craftsmanship, you lose in spontaneity and freshness. That sometimes balances each other, but sometimes it doesn't. The good news is that this also applies to the listener, so fortunately it is not entirely up to us. I've written it before, but the fact remains that you listen to music more spontaneously and openly at the age of 16 than at the age of 66. Your taste has become fixed, your preferences have become predictable, and a handsome boy who still changes that. To encourage myself - because of course there are fans who think that we have never been able to match the first Kayak album again, let alone surpass it, which can still create a feeling of fairly demotivating existential uselessness if you are not somewhat firm or put into perspective I sometimes do the following paradoxical thought game. Imagine that artist A had already released his last album in 1970, and his album from that year only recently. Would the reactions be just as enthusiastic about the new work? Of course it is a nonsensical reasoning, because to be able to make your last work you simply need all those predecessors.

It is no different: even as a fan and listener, you are stuck with your age - everything you gained from impressions in your teens are decisive for how you listen to music for the rest of your life. That cannot be turned or overtaken. Then as a musician / artist you can still want to be so relevant, and be convinced that your best album is yet to come: it is a hopeless fight against wear, habituation and age, that you can win at most temporarily.

Then I think, for example, of someone like Brian Wilson. A genius, absolutely. If you can write songs like 'God Only Knows', you can count yourself on that. But how long was he actually, someone wrote somewhere recently. In fact, that 'genius' period lasted no longer than two years, tops. After that he certainly made beautiful things, but it was not as earth-shattering as then. Or was that our fault? Didn't we hear what was so great? Were we used to it, or did we expect more and more? I personally find it fascinating because I also deal with it on a somewhat more modest level.

Stopping at your peak might be a good idea in some cases - but how do you know you got there? You will have to go further to find out. And for now we are going to do that first.

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