|This image of Alex appeared during the Badlands promo cycle, and it was this image that he has sought to escape ever since.|
DIRTY BEACHES STATELESS PITCHFORK REVIEW (7.5)
One of the things I've learned in the last decade is not to overplay a winning hand. Put another way, don't talk past the sale. There is nothing wrong with resting on your laurels, playing out the string, and generally preserving ones reputation via inactivity or a relative absence of new activity. Ambition, for those who have already achieved some level of self sustaining success, is not a flattering characteristic and if you find yourself in the position of having achieved some kind of stable, viable success in any field that does not require additional activity, you should appreciate it, and not feel compelled to pursue further success.
When Dirty Beaches Badlands was released in April of 2011, I had already thought that it would be the high point of my involvement with Zoo Music. I knew from my familiarity with the history of independent music in the United States that repeat success was essentially reserved for repeat players, and that bedroom indies had a close to half century record in this country of shining briefly and then fading away quickly. I wasn't necessarily interested in acknowledging that fact in 2011, and I certainly didn't want to rest on Badlands, but as time passed, it became clear that Badlands was likely to be the main legacy from my involvement with Zoo Music, whether it lasted another year or another decade.
In 2013, Dirty Beaches released Drifters/Love is the Devil, an unlikely second act to Badlands, that both sold better and received more critical respect, with many removing the "out of nowhere" type language that they applied to Badlands, and obtaining a deeper understanding of Badlands within the long output of Dirty Beaches prior to Badlands. Fame and acclaim aside, neither record was the kind of financial life changer that I believe people imagine when they think about what the impact "must have been" on artist and label. Money was made, checks were cashed, royalties were paid, but nothing changed in my life. For Alex, of course, it was different, and he was forced to confront many new fans who he essentially despised. It is a common fate for serious artists who experience popular success, and by no means limited to Alex and his experience.
This new found popularity and the absence of remuneration commensurate with the toll the new fans took on his artistic identity led to the end of Dirty Beaches. Despite the disclosure of this information via a social media platform, the decision was not something made in a rush or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Prior to the announcement I had already been told that Dirty Beaches was to go on indefinite hiatus.
I knew that because of a sequence of events a few months ago where I made the decision to leave Zoo Music, and accepted the offer to start a new label with Alex. I don't think it is my place either to detail my decision to leave Zoo Music, or discuss Alex's new label. I'd rather leave the former unsaid (but add that there are no hard feelings, and that money played no part in the decision, and that the decision was mutual, and that Zoo Music will continue without me.) As for the later, it's not my place to say. I'm sure Alex will discuss it when he is ready.
But I do want to assure his fans that Alex is going to continue to make music, and my readers that despite leaving Zoo Music I will continue to be involved in distributing Alex's future projects. I am grateful for my time at Zoo Music, and for all the experiences that I had, and for my partners in the project, Brandon and Dee Dee. They retain Zoo Music, and I'm excited to see their next chapter as well.
One final thing I've learned, not just from music, but also from my personal life, is that you have to be ready to pull the plug on relationships and move on, even if it causes short term pain and emotional distress. Sticking a thing out to the bitter end may in some places be considered a positive character attribute, but from my experience, stubbornness and an unwillingness to admit that a particular thing has run its course only leads to deferred unhappiness.
This is not to say that one should be hesitant to form relationships and try new things- quite the opposite- the purpose of ending something that no longer works is not to withdraw, but to open up the space and energy to try a new thing, label, relationship, partnership, business venture, whatever. That's WHY you go through the pain and difficulty of ending something, or agreeing to end something.
If it turns out (as well might be the case) that the only lasting impact of my involvement in popular music is the Badlands/Drifters/Love is the Devil/Stateless album cycle released on Zoo Music between 2011 and 2014, so be it. Many independent labels exist for much longer periods of time then my participation in Zoo Music and never have a single record that makes as much of an impact. I feel lucky for having been given an opportunity to participate in Zoo Music by Brandon and Dee Dee, and I wish them the best of luck with their label in the future.