“Some Albums Like Jim James’ Uniform Distortion Take a While to Come out… Por Que?”

Now, in the case of Sub Pop and that Wolf Parade thing last year during the wait time of which America had about three deadly hurricanes (but nothing changed THAT much), I don’t even have to ask, since I’ve seen the movie Hype! which states that “They don’t hype their bands… they hype their LABEL.” It’s like, ok, Sub Pop. That’s just what you do. You’re just professional swindlers (who now happen in my opinion to have all of one good band on their roster, Beach House, beholden shortly to the confidently titled 7).
But now we are a couple weeks into a 10-week on-look period for Jim James’ (My Morning Jacket) Uniform Distortion, the vendor this time being Dave Matthews’ ATO Records, New York City. 10 weeks beats that three-month amistad we incurred for the Wolf Parade but it’s still far from being a New York minute.
I google’d “ATO Director of Marketing” to try to figure out why it would take so long, if they have to press a lot of vinyls (I imagine those require more work than CD’s which can be digitally replicated with ease at infinitum.. well CD’s in the ’90s would take a long time come out too). I mean, digital music comprises a vast majority of listening these days, and some rockers like Ted Leo seem to crank these albums out quicker than you can say “this sucks” (which granted his last album did). Is the hype time purely a gimmick as to create an artificial appeal? The album is already finished with production, apparently, according to Consequence of Sound, which presumably means the mixing is done too (I’m not really an expert on these terms, I just know Pearl Jam Binaural was “produced” by Tchad Blake and “mixed” by erstwhile producer Brendan O’Brien).
Well, what I got was a heap of corporate doubletalk gobbledygook so cheap and lame I’d be surprised if Ashley Judd didn’t write it. Their page on Linkedin, which is a website for squares which I’d never even think about using, gives us about the nadir of corporate advertising sycophancy: “ATO Records… is a record label committed to artists and building their careers.” Well, golly gee! It’s nice to get away from all those other evil labels that just want to make money, and enter this veritable moral haven, right in the middle of New York City!
On my indie rock tracks list I excluded from qualification, on purpose, songs from albums that came out 0n imprints that had corporate distribution: to me that undermines the integrity of the whole operation. Regardless, ATO Records is billed on Wikipedia as an “American independent record label based in New York City,” despite toting Caroline Distribution [1] as their allocative vehicle. And isn’t that cute, to think of our little folksy good ol’ boy Jim James as veering toward the line of virtue (ATO has put out everything by MMJ as well as far as I’m aware), but again, it’s far from being a case some cultural revolutionary in a sense that say SST was in the ’80s, with Black Flag, the Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and the Minutemen, among others. I mean it was founded by Dave Matthews [2], for Christ’s sake… they probably give you a coupon for an organic latte with every record.
On Z, My Morning Jacket really came through with a potent musical loquaciousness — I love for instance the key change on “It Beats 4 U” and in general just the incredible stylistic variety on that album, coming to a head with the eerily goofy and unforgettably weird ol’-lonesome ballad “Into the Woods.” Really, at that point I think MMJ established themselves as their own brand, particularly since Jim James was already in on the production like Jimmy Page was for Zep’s first work, and when the riffage dwindled down to cheesy campfire singalongs on later albums, it was something that was derivative of their own initial firepower, not of any zeitgeist involving their employer, the label that pays them. This, I suppose, is a feather in the cap of both ATO and James’ old band.
Still, this two-month-plus wait time for the release is troubling and somewhat regardant of a certain big-shot mentality, especially problematic since (a.) these albums that are built up for a while can often disappoint (or maybe it’s just everything Sub Pop shamelessly plugs loses its fins really quickly), and (b.) when Z came out it was the exact opposite: it sprang from an essentially untapped well of creativity and took the world by storm with its consonance of stylistic creativity and variety and radio playability.
So do I dare venture into what I’ve illustrated already as this neverending capitalistic maze, always looking for the honest man who will pull the cup only to repeatedly find another cup inside it? Something tells me it might be hard to get the CEO of Vivendi on the phone (I just totally pictured him as the French dude Tom Waits is singing about it “Cemetery Polka”). One thing is for sure, the “album” will come from some great godlike hand in the sky and we will all scramble for the hippest WAYS to listen to it, and, if we’re especially adroit at cognition, actually process the music, opine and let it touch us in some way. At the Caroline website you get so much untruth (the claim that they’re independent) and subterfuge (a website which doesn’t even point to the album you searched for but gives you new hip-hop and a bunch of shifting images) that it’s discouraging to even try, and I can just imagine the dismissive tone of these industry people I’d get if I tried to call, like the guy at Sub Pop who was both unable and unwilling to denote to me which vinyl records were the most frequently purchased on their website. Hey, at least he had a cool Seattle accent… all the better for faceless, distant superiority.
[1] …Which is a part of the Capitol Music Group… which is a part of the Universal Group… which is a part of the French conglomerate Vivendi, in case you were wondering who “the man” actually is.
[2] In all seriousness, Dave Matthews has definitely reeled off some interesting and expansive music in his day, like “Dancing Nancies”; “Jimi Thing” and really most of Under the Table and Dreaming, though I think both those songs I named are troublingly absent from the best-of.

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