I am maybe a little preoccupied with the idea of artistic longevity. It’s gratifying to watch people who push through many stages as artists– visually, musically, or otherwise– but it can also be painful to watch a favorite go through awkward transitions. I was a devoted Cocteau Twins fan in high school. When I was in college, Elizabeth Fraser started commanding her angelic and passionate secret language into a sort of canned therapy session (“Are you the right man for me? Are you safe? Are you my friend? Or are you toxic for me? Will you betray my confidence?” ugh), and the music followed suit. I lost interest. After that, the only thing I remember hearing and liking was a guest spot with Massive Attack (the instrumental part of which opens House M.D., if you swing that way). So when, a couple days ago, I heard the above song, Moses, on the radio, I thought, “This is really great, but that singer is a total Elizabeth Fraser rip-off.” Later (hooray for KEXP playlists online!) I checked, and it was the lady herself!
Any artist who works over decades of time seems to be required to have awkward stages, and often publicly. If they don’t take big embarrassing risks, they tend to go soft and mediocre. But you and I can probably think of many artists who have walked out of either spot to make more fresh and engaging work after a period of turning over the soil (or letting the ground lie fallow).