Nowadays, like most of my friends and acquaintances, I almost exclusively play music on my computer. I do play old records from time to time but mostly music I haven’t been able to find in a digital format; most of these records are obscure punk albums. Limited issues that somehow, very often totally undeserved, were forgotten and never reissued on CD.
I never cared for CD’s. First of all most new albums on CD are too long to survive my attention span. I rarely have enough patience to sit and listen to the same artist for over an hour. As soon as I hear a song on an album that isn’t just as good or better than the ones I heard earlier, the CD gets ejected. Maybe it’s because I grew up with records that contained no more than 20 to 25 minutes of music on either side. I still wonder if musicians are pleased with the extra play time CD’s provide. I think not, judging the endless row of bad or redundant songs that appear on albums today. To me it’s just another sign the marketing departments of record companies have gained too much power over producers and artists. More music for your buck instead of more quality. That’s definitely a good example of how bad marketing is ruining the music industry. Long length CD’s are OK for compilation albums or ‘best of albums’ of artists who had a career with a live span of over three decades. As far as I’m concerned 45 minutes will absolutely do for any new album.
Another thing that was so nice with vinyl was the two sides of the record. I tended to play one side for the first couple of weeks/months before I started to devour the second side. It was an absolute pleasure to start to digest 3 to 6 more songs of a really good album.
Typically a real good record didn’t catch on instantly. Records that digested easily were also the ones first discarded. (Been there, done that, heard it, had enough.) It’s the records that needed a lot of chewing, before the flavour caught on, that ultimately survived. And I don’t compare listening to music with eating for no reason.
Not surprisingly the records I still play today took a long time to catch on, but after they did they stayed with me forever. Butthole Surfers, first three albums (especially ‘psychic, powerless; another man’s sack’) , The first two The Birthday party albums, ‘In the flat fields’ by Bauhaus, Damaged by Black Flag, Dead Kennedys first three albums, ( including ‘In God We Trust’, which was an EP but still counts as an album to me), Rock for light by Bad Brains (regardless of the shitty production by Ric Occasek) and Base Culture by UK reggae artist Linton Kwesi Johnson, just to name a few.
LP’s kept their flavor a very long time. Of course that comes with the territory when you’re young and more easily impressed, but I still play a lot of those records regularly. I never play CD’s anymore… Like most people who grew up with LP’s I hate the small artwork of CD’s, jewel cases and CD booklets. CD’s being indestructible soon proved a marketing myth. CD’s were the ritual suicide of the record industry.
Digital music was a sad business until programs like I-tunes made listening to music on the computer like listening to an extended radio show with a DJ that doesn’t chat and exclusively plays good songs. Off course one needs to hook up the computer to the old stereo so one can enjoy listening through a good set of speakers since most speakers for computers just won’t do, but that’s obvious.
Now I don’t care about the lesser songs on CD’s; I delete them. Now I don’t care about the length of CD’s since I only play music on random mode, so I hear albums song by song. When I want to hear new music I choose the recently added section of my I-tunes.
I tag songs that catch my attention with one star and tag my favourite songs with two to five stars. It’s silly, but I love doing that.
In case you’re wondering; I don’t buy CD’s; I rent them at the music library or I download them. That keeps my house tidy and clearly arranged.
But now I finally get to my point: recently it started to occur to me that my computer has a strange tendency to choose songs that go with my mood almost perfectly. Note that my I-tunes library has almost all genres of music from classical music to jazz and soul to new wave, punk rock and extreme death/black metal.
At first it seemed the computer choose music depending on the song I chose to start with. But that’s not the case since it tends to choose songs I definitely would not have chosen because of certain moods I’m in. I’m talking about moods I don’t want to emphasize at a particular moments. I need to work and not get distracted by my mood too much. I know times when I’m just too much in love to hear certain love songs, but the computer plays them one after the other. Resulting in a mushy me. Crying over, you know; the little things. It doesn’t matter if I choose Slayer as the starting song; the next one the computer chooses will be a crooner. It really seems the computer is teasing me with my mood and makes me experience the emotions I tend to put aside.
Only yesterday I started with ‘I fought the law and I won’ by Dead Kennedys; next choice by the computer: ‘Je taime moi non plus’ by Gainsbourg. That was too much to handle so I changed it into Dayglo Abortions with ‘Aargh fuck kill’. But the next song that came on was by Einsturzende Neubauten: Jet’m; a song with a melody that strangely resembles the Gainsbourg song I just discarded, it holds almost the same keyboard line. Aaargh.
So I switched to a another play mode. The computer could choose punk rock only. So it started playing a lot of Buzzcocks, Descendents and more punk love songs. Songs that are rare in the genre but it choose them all. It’s a bit scary and it’s probably an illusion, but still…