Monday, October 17th, 2005
Perfect Sound Forever
I found the timing of this Glorious Noise article to be quite interesting, since I am moving in pretty much the exact opposite direction from Jake (author of said piece and GloNoHoncho). While he is abandoning his vinyl in favour of an almost strictly-digital music diet, I have gone from dipping a toe in the analog realm to stepping in up to both my ankles, and liking what I feel.
Unlike him, I don’t have a musical history steeped in vinyl – my folks had a record player (which some of you may remember I unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate earlier this year) and we had some records, but most of my collection consisted of Sesame Street LPs (Bob Sings!) and those Disney storybook/record sets (“When Tinkerbell waves her wand, turn the page!”). There was a smattering of pop music, courtesy of my brother (Abba!), but other than that, my vinyl story begins… this past June, really.
For me, it goes beyond the old argument that vinyl simply sounds better, though it does. It’s somehow more alive than CDs, though that in itself doesn’t override the pragmatic and fiscal realities that will keep CDs my main music medium for the forseeable future. No, I think for me, vinyl offers a sort of bulwark against the increasing intangibility and disposability of music. I download and am sent many MP3s on a daily basis, and I’ll be damned if I ever get around to listening to even half of them – the same probably goes for many of the gigs of MP3s I’ve got on my computer. Similarly, I’ve got over fairly large CD collection which you’d think would make finding something to listen to an easy task. Oft times, it’s the opposite – I’m overwhelmed by the options and can’t pick a damn thing. But with my modest vinyl collection of maybe a dozen pieces? Easy. Plus since I’ve been fairly selective of what I buy on LP, I’m reasonably sure it’s something I’ll enjoy. And if you want me to review something, a sure way to get it listened to is send it on vinyl. I’m just saying.
I like the interactivity of vinyl. Since you can’t get more than 22 minutes or so into whatever you’re doing without having to get up and change records or flip sides (I still believe strongly in the side A/side B album structure), you’re always engaged. If you’re spinning 7″s, that’s all you’re doing. There’s no 100-disc changer or 60GB hard drive that lets you play whatever uninterrupted for days on end, relegating your playlist to background music, to be filtered out and ignored. It’s just you and the music. Handle the sleeves, read the liner notes, examine the art, whatever. In a way, it takes me back to a day when I didn’t have 1200+ albums, and I knew each CD in my collection in-depth and intimitely. Records are truly the ultimate musical fetish object. Even the things that are generally regarded as drawbacks, the careful handling of the record, the cleaning, the maintenance of the turntable – these are all a sort of ritual to me. Communing with the music. Of course I say that now – wait till I have to drop a couple hundred bucks on a new cartridge…
Some days, like this past Saturday, I’ll go vinyl rooting. Take an afternoon and just hit the record shops digging through old vinyl. I don’t usually buy much, if anything. Again, I just like the process of it. Occasionally I’ll find something cool that I inevitably already own on CD, but will buy it anyway if the price is right. I have to stop doing that. I’m actually still trying to figure out how to avoid the whole “buying the same album in multiple formats” thing. I don’t mind rebuying something I already own on CD if the price is right and it’s something I really love, but some restraint is in order. How do you – you being people who similarly juggle formats in purchasing – figure out what to buy and how?
Vinyl-only releases make it easy, I guess. Like The Mountain Goats’ Come, Come To The Sunset Tree, a limited-edition vinyl-only of The Sunset Tree consisting of home-recorded versions of the album. Of course, this issue was so limited (1000 pieces) that I’m not going to find a copy at anything resembling a reasonable price, so that’s moot. But in the future. And while I’m on topic, Sixeyes has a Q&A with John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats are in town at Lee’s Palace tonight. If you don’t have anything else to do on a Monday, go. End aside.
There are also releases that I will decide in advance to get on vinyl. For example, Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy Appendix mini-album, out November 22. I want that in LP form if for no other reason than to have this artwork in full-size form. Jagjaguwar has an made an mp3 of one of the Appendix tracks available – thanks to Dreams Of Horses for the pointer.
And finally, I got my copy of Ride’s Going Blank Again on LP in the mail the other day and, well, let’s just say that it’s well-loved. I may take it in to a shop to get properly vacuum cleaned – the crackle on a couple of the sides is pretty harsh. But in general, any suggestions on cleaning vinyl? Are all the commercial cleaning fluids the same, or should I seek out one brand over another? I’ve got the carbon brush thing, but it can only do so much.
But you know, at the same time as I take another step to becoming Steve Buscemi in Ghost World, I’m also thinking that iPods are getting cheap enough that I could see myself getting one in the next year or two, if just to have easy access to music for trips and work. Just watch – before long, I’ll be all vinyl and MP3s, but have no use for CDs.
np – Ride / Smile