Wednesday 29 May 2013

Oh, The Irony

Previously entilted 'Hoarding and Purging, but changed because:
(a) it was written in a hurry, and
(b) I think the above is a much better title

My name is Rigid Digit, and I am a hoarder.
Now, I don't profess to be a hoarder like those portrayed on Channel 4's 'The Hoarder Next Door', or BBC's 'Britains Biggest Hoarders', but my perdiliction for amassing Vinyl has perhaps got a bit out of hand.

Surely, you can never have too much Vinyl?  A statement I would ordinarily agree with apart from the fact that most of the Vinyl I've acquired in recent years has been 'job lot' purchases from people trying to clear space in their own houses.  I'm also banned from going to Charity Shops and Car Boot Sales on my own for fear that I will return with "armfuls of crap" (not my words).
And because of this, opening of the door and climbing into the seat in front of the computer has become somewhat challenging.
A quick review of the Vinyl Collection reveals 5 copies of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (I'll keep them, there might be a sudden surge of interest if Michael Jackson ever dies), a plethora of James Last and Richard Clayderman albums, and a selection of Easy Listening albums including Johnny Mathis, Barbara Dickson, Perry Como and Kiri Te Kanawa - I'll be honest, I'm probably not going to listen to any of those.
I've also got several duplicate copies of albums which have been upgraded/replaced by CD versions.

A lot of what I've got is relatively worthless, so it'll be the Charity Shop for them.  But there are a couple of items which are worthy of e-baying.

So far, I have sold a Minidisc Player, a Cassette Player a metal shed and a garden rotavotor on e-bay, and will be placing a few choice items of the vinyl collection on there in the coming weeks.
Who knows? I may soon uncover the carpet for the first time in a few years.

And what will I do with the funds gained?

Probaly buy another pile of vinyl off e-bay.  Therefore the net effect will be zero, but at least I tried.

And this is the ironic bit (and yes, it is ironic, unlike the Alannis Morrissette song which should be called "That's Bloody Unfortunate") - one of the first "re-cycled e-bay funds" purchases was a Weird Al Yankovic CD contianing this very song:

Second thoughts, I might just keep everything

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Second Album Syndrome

Is it real, or a media/record company invention to excuse potentially lower sales and lesser public reaction than the debut album?

First off, lets go through the obvious:

Sex Pistols - 'Never Mind The Bollocks' is a must-own record.  Ignore the Punk tag, this is one of the greatest Rock albums ever committed to plastic.  Whilst the second album ('The Great Rock n Roll Swindle') does contain some new material (for what its worth), it was released after the band ceased to properly function, and therefore discounted from my ruminations.

The Jam - It would take something special to top 'In The City', especially given there was only 6 months between the debut and 'This Is The Modern World'.  Sadly, 'Modern World' wasn't that special.  Discounted because, although popular opinion says 'This Is The Modern World' wasn't very good, it really isn't that bad.  It just sounds laboured especially when compared to 'All Mod Cons' which followed it

The Stone Roses - The debut album is held in the highest esteem, regularly appearing in Top10 or Top20 Albums Of All Time Listings.  Personally, I prefer 'Second Coming'  - so their not going on the list either

And now my selection of Follow-Up Failures:
Arctic Monkeys -  'Favourite Worst Nightmare' could never live up to the hype it was given after 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'.  And it didn't.  "Flourescent Adolescent" excepted, to these ears the rest sounded like out-takes, re-writes or simply re-treads of the debut album

Stereophonics - 'Word Gets Around' was a corking album, 'Performance & Cocktails' continues in the same vein but runs out of steam about half way through

Guns n Roses - 'Appetite For Destruction' is rightly regarded as a Classic.  It's got energy, passion, danger (and several other clich├ęd descriptions).  'Use Your Illusion' is best described as "the second album".  If it had been a single album, a lot of the vanity and padding would be gone, and you could (almost) forgive the overblown nature of "November Rain".  As it is, a two album release means: too much self-indulgence, not enough substance.

Damned - 'Damned Damned Damned' is one of the holy trinity of punk albums.  A rip-snorting rollercoaster of adrenaline, power and sheer fun.  'Music For Pleasure' is none of these things.  By comparison it is lame, disappointing and a bit of a mess.  However, consider this: if it wasn't for 'Music For Pleasure' we may never have got 'Machine Gun Etiquette'

New York Dolls - the eponymous debut album is perhaps the missing link between Iggy Pop and The Sex Pistols on the Punk Road Map.  Forget about the fake Rolling Stones impersonations, or Bob Harris's "mock rock" put down, this is an album full of attitude, arrogance, sleaze and New York hedonism coupled with raucous, rough-edged, raggedy-arse rock n roll.  The second album has the portentious title 'Too Much Too Soon' and that is probably a fair summary of the content.

Quireboys - Having released their first single ("Mayfair") in 1987 it was to be a three year wait for the debut album.  When the album ('A Bit Of What You Fancy') did arrive the sound was cleaner, but forgiveably so - all the original elements of fun, good time bar room rock n roll were all present and correct.
Releasing a Live album as your second album doesn't really cout, so we move swiftly to 'Bitter Sweet & Twisted'  which (in my opinion) needed more work, and the production was aimed squarely at the American market, losing a lot of UK fans in the process.

Thunder - like the Quireboys above, Thunder can be classified in the little known late 80s/early 90s genre New Wave Of British Heavy Metal Bands Who Sound A Bit Like The Faces Or Bad Company (NWOBHMBWSABLTFOBC) (it is quite a long title, which is probably why Kerrang rarely (ie never) referred to it).
'Back Street Symphony' was a Bluesy-Rock album containing a plethora of corking tunes, raspy vocals, twin guitars and an energetic live act (on the three occassions I swaw them, you really did get the feeling they were putting everything they had into the show). The second album 'Laughing On Judgement Day' is adequate, but to these ears not in the same league as the first.  Add to that the emergence of Nirvana and the whole grunge business, and bands like Thunder found large swathes of their audience gone, and record company support dwindling.
'Laughing On Judgement Day' does however contain vocalists Danny Bowes closest approximation of Paul Rodgers on the track "Low Life In High Places"

The Thrills - songs like "Santa Cruz", "Big Sur" and "One Horse Town" remain superb tracks and make the debut album ('So Much For The City') worthwhile.  However, even nicking the theme tune to Mork and Mindy for the middle eight of "Whatever Happened To Corey Haim" can't redeem the same-iness of 'Lets Borttle Bohemia'

Ordinary Boys - perhaps the biggest fall from grace I can think of.  Their first album 'Over The Counter Culture' was, and is, a superb piece of work.  Since it's release, I never tire of listening to it.  The follow-up 'Brassbound' sounded laboured and un-original.  And then Preston went and showed what a prize prat he was by appearing on Big Brother, marrying a gold digging non-entity, walking of the set of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and then disappearing up his own backside.
Whatever, the debut album is still a stonking wodge of Mod meets Ska meets Paul Weller meets The Smiths.

Ordinary Boys - Over The Counter Culture

Thunder - Low Life In High Places

Monday 6 May 2013

From Start To Finish

That is how an album should be consumed, not just cherry picked for the best bits.
Although it seems that the un-packaging (is that a word?) of albums is becoming more and more commonplace.  That activity halps explain (at least to me) the following couple of news stories that have appeared in the past fornight.
  1. Calvin Harris (who I have nerver knowiungly heard) is now the holder of the record for the most Top 10 Singles released from a single album, with the 8th release going into the Top10 a couple of weeks ago (will the album now be re-promoted as 'Greatest Hits'?)
  2. Compilation Albums now account for for 1/5th (20%) of all album sales
Despite my archaic belief that an album should be consumed as a complete entity, it seems the great British public is more than happy with a world of 'Now Thats What I Call Music?'*, 'Stuff You've Heard On The Radio', 'Look At The Hits On That' and other compilation titles some of which aren't actually real.

* Question Mark added on purpose, and purely in a futile attempt to raise a smile from the readers of this tosh

A couple of years ago there was the battle between Pink Floyd and iTunes over the attempt to split up and sell individual tracks from 'Dark Side Of The Moon'.
Roger Waters vehemently fought against this, claiming that these tracks should be heard in context and as sequenced as originally intended.
A stance that I can understand, and wholeheartedly agree with.

Whilst on the surface an album is just a collection of tracks, probably recorded in the space of a couple of months and probably just randomly thrown together to create a 40/50 minute product, the tracks need to be sequenced to provide some sort of "journey" and to ensure that the listener remains engaged.  It's no good just lobbing your 3 best songs at the front of the album, and then padding ouit the remainder with any old rubbish, or sticking all the fast songs together on Side 1 (how old am I?), and filling side two with ballads and instrumentals.
No, all the tracks should be strategically placed in order to provide the listener with troughs and peaks of emotion, energy and (sometimes) enjoyment.  There also comes the point when the sequencing is so perfect that the listener would be unable to imagine any other track following another.
So people like Roger Waters or Pete Townsend will spend time sequencing the tracks to produce a cohesive explanation of their original vision of the concept/story, and then we come along with iTunes or Amazon and download only Tracks 3 and 7.

OK, I admit that everyone does pull single tracks off albums for inclusion on their own compilations, or to show a friend how good a particular band, or their album is.
I also freely admit to plundering an album and posting YouTube links to specific tracks on a website forum that I frequent (The Afterword, to be specific - come on over, have a look, the waters lovely etc etc)).
BUT ...
This is all done with the knowledge of the entire album.  The inbuilt hard-wiring that xxx follows yyy, the background understanding that Track 4 is stronger than the last single, and Track 8 is a bit of a duffer.
So my request to you all is listen to albums all the way through as the artist intended.  Let's not lose the art of the album, it's sequencing from barnstorming opening track to epic finishing track, interspersed with the signles, possibly a ballad, an instrumental track (unless you're listening to The Shadows, when it may well be an unexpected vocal track) and maybe a surprising choice of a cover version.
Otherwise, we'll end up drowning in a sea of Greatest Hits, Very Best Ofs, Essential Collections and generic SimonCowellisthdevilBritainsGotNoXFactorTalent blandness.

When it's good, it is a fantastic way to spend 40 minutes or so.
When it isn't that good, at least you've spent 40 minutes annoying the wife* (or is that just me?)

* common phrases heard in my house:
  • "what's this rubbish then?"
  • "do we have to listen to this?"
  • "does it have to be so loud?"
  • or when stuff turns up in the post, or when I return from a shopping trip "more crap!"

To return to a previous statement regarding the importance of sequencing and how taking tracks out of context may effect the overall experience of the album, I am now going to completely contradict myself (and probably annoy Roger Waters into the bargain):
Behold, the final two tracks from 'Dark Side Of The Moon' ("Brain Damage" & "Eclipse")

If you've never heard the above and like it enough to want to purchase it, please, please, PLEASE get the whole album, play it from start to finish and enjoy the experience.

If, however, you just want the individual track(s) - go ahead, but I still don't agree with the un-packaging of albums into single tracks.

It's just WRONG!

And relax ...