What Is An EP?

Well obviously EP stands for “extended play”, thus distinguishing it from an LP (“long play”) record or “album”. An EP is longer than a 7″ single and usually features between 4 and 6 songs. Some define an EP in terms of overall length in time – if it’s shorter than 10 minutes, it’s a single; between 10 and 35 minutes it’s an EP. While the notion of an EP has become less important in the CD era, you still see a whole lot of bands putting out “mini-albums” that are basically EPs. For me, the high point of the EP era was probably the late eighties, early-nineties, when you could still purchase vinyl relatively easily. While for many bands the EP functioned as a kind of filler between album projects, in a postmodern sense these EPs have now taken on a language all their own. To put it another way: they have been “reterritorialised”, and have taken an altogether different line of flight from the norm. As I’ve been trying to expound in these posts, for quite a number of bands in the early 1990s, EPs were what signposted different phases of their careers. Early EPs, due to the fact that so few copies would be pressed each time, quickly became more valuable than the music perhaps warranted. An entire generation of indie bands revolutionised the EP, notably USA-slackers Pavement and Sebadoh and UK indie darlings Ride and Swervedriver. In recent times the EP has given way in popularity to the “Tour EP”, released whenever a band finds itself on foreign shores. Such discs often feature alternate takes of “hits”, live renditions and other b-side type trax. It’s interesting to think of single releases that actually function as EPs too. Using the definition above, and bearing in mind how much more one can fit on a compact disc these days than was possible with, say 12″ singles and remixes, most single releases would qualify as EPs today, being usually over 10 minutes in total tarck length. What’s hilarious is when a band releases a “single” on CD along with a “b-side” and even go so far as to dress the CD cover up as if it were vinyl. I know The Strokes did that with their early releases (“The Modern Age” and “Hard To Explain” were strictly singles). The fact that they have yet to release a real EP suggests that The Strokes are a band going nowhere. Or else, it’s me that’s out of touch. You decide.

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