2:28 p.m. - October 19, 2005
Well, I’m a total freak in general, but a music freak in particular.
I used to be the guy who hung out at the local independent CD store, talking about obscure bands with the clerks while perusing stacks of alternative CDs by bands only nine people have heard of, but got great reviews in Spin.
Some of our conversations were like this:
“Oh, this was totally inspired by both “Pet Sounds”, the Stones, and the Velvet Underground!”
Babble like that isn’t far from the truth, people.
I had a huge CD jones to fill. Maybe a $100 to $200 a month habit, sometimes more.
So I had a huge CD collection, which I have whittled down thanks to iTunes, and I’m still whittling it down. (I have another box of 40 to 50 ready to send off).
And I was obsessed (of course) with getting the entire oeuvre (now, isn’t that a rock critic word?) of certain artists. Even if their first records were total crap, I had to have it, for completeness you know.
I also had to get some records that were hailed as “revolutionary” or “influential” by publications like Rolling Stone or the Trouser Press. So I bought stuff by Suicide, Einsturzende Neubuaten, and the various incarnations of Foetus. Let’s just say those records are…ahem…*interesting*. (Especially those wacky Germans in EN, who on their early singles “played” power tools and other industrial equipment, all the while howling angst-filled sentences in German. It could be their grocery list, for all I know.)
But with marriage, a mortgage and other priorities, and the evolution of music (where I became a cranky oldster and ‘didn’t understand what the kids were listening to anymore’) I cut back a bit on my music purchases.
A bit means down to $50 a month, tops.
And I became less obsessed with completing collections for certain artists. After I finished collecting every Zappa CD, I decided to look at each release by someone on its own merit.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve totally stopped buying stuff. Oh, no.
For one, there are some artists that I follow and will still buy almost everything they put out, if the reviews are ¾ decent.
Second, I still am allured by some new music. I think it’s getting better, and there are some interesting new(ish) bands out there. But I still watch out for the hype (the hype has sucked me into buying a lot of mediocre crap in the past – so now I don’t believe the hype, sucka!) and make sure it’s really good.
Third, I still have holes in my collection. I need to get some of my vinyl in the iPod, and there are some inexplicable gaps in my collection. (Well, inexplicable to me – Liz can’t quite understand why I NEED to go find that Nils Lofgren song I heard twice on MTV 20 years ago – but I NEED to go find it (and I did!))
Recently, I went through and did a major purge of my iTunes song library. (I have every song backed up on a portable hard drive, so if I erase it from my computer I still have it – but frankly a lot of the stuff I deleted I either never listened to or were second or third or fourth iterations of the same song – I mean, who needs three BBC recordings of “All Around The World” by the Jam. Two will do! But I have two studio versions of “Problem Child” by AC/DC that differ only by five seconds, but that’s such a kick ass song you gotta have it…a lot of it.)
I put on some stuff that for whatever reason I didn’t put on the computer before – like Frank Sinatra, Louis Jordan, the Vince Guaraldi Trio (they did the theme song for Peanuts, called “Linus and Lucy” by the way), and an AC/DC record I missed and had enough room to put some recently purchased tunes on the ol’ iPod and could then scour the store for various and sundry bits.
So what did I get? Well, I’m a-gonna tell ya now. Be prepared to be dazzled by my witty eclecticism. Or something…
The Old 97’s - Alive and Wired. – I’m an alt-country fan, and these guys are pretty good. This is a two-record live set covering their entire catalog, which usually signals that they’re close to breaking up. Rhett Miller is doing a lot of solo stuff, and the others have their own band. Anywho, it’s a great live record, loose and spirited and fun, and recommended for those who like them, but I don’t know if it will win any converts. Check out “Too Far to Care” or “Wreck Your Life” for an initiation.
Big Star - In Space – Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, needs to own “#1 Record” and “Radio City” (conveniently on one CD). This is a band that for some stupid reason people ignored back in the day (1972) but they need their due. The trouble is that Alex Chilton’s solo records have been…well…random to say the least. He has a problem focusing. Well, the Posies teamed with Alex and the drummer to reform a decade ago, and now they’ve released a new record, finally. It has some shimmering power-pop songs, which are all written by the Posies or Jody Stephens, but Chilton’s stuff is still unfocused, which is a shame because if you ever have heard “September Gurls” or “The Ballad of El Goodoo” you know how good he can be.
Neil Young - Prairie Wind – Yeah, he’s been through a lot lately. Yeah, I’ve got most of his records. I still give him the benefit of the doubt. But this is Neil being reflective, quiet and a bit morose. And while there are some decent tunes here, I prefer Neil kickin’ ass and taking names. Neil, I think you’re turning to rust. (But it’s a hell of a lot better than anything he’s put out in 10 years. And I don’t think that’s the compliment it sounds like it is…)
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals- Jacksonville City Nights – Mr. Prolific is at it again, and this second record of 2005 (kids, gather round, this used to be the RULE, not the exception. CCR released seven records in four years, and all of them were great) is a great slice of moody alt-country. The only drawback is that he’s starting to look like a damn hobo. I recommend this highly – actually – I’ve never heard a Ryan Adams / Whiskeytown release I didn’t like.
New Pornographers - Twin Cinema. At first, I didn’t like this record that much, but it’s grown on me. They’re using Neko Case more and more, and instead of a secret weapon she’s out there all the time. These are bizarre little pop tunes that do take some time to digest, but once you do they’re delicious.
Those are the full length records I’ve recently bought, but now here’s the fun part, the various other stuff I’ve bought on iTunes. Yee-hah!
Joe Jackson - I never bought the “Beat Crazy” record but I found four songs off of it online. “Biology” is one hella-tune, as is “One To One”. His Live 1980-86 album is on iTunes and next month I’m going to download it. (I have it on vinyl – alas).
? and the Mysterians - I would have paid $100 for a digital recording of the original “96 Tears”. But I only paid 99 cents. Finally, FINALLY, the record company gets off their duff and allows people to buy it. For those who have never heard that song, it’s THE classic garage rock song, with a cheesy organ riff that EVERYONE can play and a creepy, great vibe all throughout.
The McCoys - Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on. Who doesn’t know that one? Why didn’t I have it? Why? Silly Smed…
The Shangri-La’s - Neko Case covered “Train from Kansas City” on her last record and I had no idea who did the original, until I looked it up on Allmusic. These tough dames from Brooklyn did back in 1965, as a B-side. Remembered for “Leader of the Pack” – they’re tough and smart and fun. And you don’t wanna mess with ‘em.
Michael Franks - I bought the “Skin Dive” album on vinyl when I worked at the local radio station in the 80’s and the song “You’re Secret’s Safe With Me” was a hit on adult contemporary radio. He’s listed in the ‘jazz’ category, but really it’s slick adult pop. I think he’s listed in the jazz area because he uses words like ‘iconoclastic’ properly in his songs.
Magic Numbers - Oh, pop goodness! Seek ye now the song “Forever Lost”. You’ll be glad you did!
Death Cab for Cutie - Now, bands that adored by certain geeky elements that have clever names usually spell “danger, overhype ahead” – so I had my reservations. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the two songs I downloaded delivered the goods. I sampled some others and am still a bit wary, but maybe my inner geek needs to just let go.
Franz Ferdinand - I did not buy the whole album because I had fears of the dreaded ‘second album’ curse – I didn’t know if they could sustain their momentum or not. Well, the new stuff doesn’t break any new ground but it’s not just a re-hash of the last album either. It satisfies their fan base and that’s fine. Hopefully the next record will be a bit more of a leap forward but that’s just me sayin’ that, mainly because I haven’t drunk my entire vial of Franz Ferdinand kool-aid yet.
Anita Baker - How many of you all had forgotten about her? “Sweet Love” is definitely a song to use when yer gettin’ yer schwerve on. Any time any of my fraternity brothers heard Anita Baker or Sade on my stereo, they knew better than to knock. Yow-za!
(Random note – you know the Sinatra song “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”? Check out some of the lines. It’s old school baby in a rat pack way, calling the skirts dames and all. (Heh!) And don’t go wanderin’ ‘round the room blowin’ on some other guys dice…bada bing!)
So there ya have it – this is what’s new, Magoo. I still have massive holes to fill (one day I’ll get all my vinyl Dylan on the iPod (my birthday is coming up and gift certificates would be nice – it’s a big one, too!)) so there’s always going to be new tunes (or new old tunes, or old new tunes…) in my ears. And if you play your cards right, I could share them with you…and you…and you….(but not you).