Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Some New Additions to My Music Collection

Yesterday when I went to BestBuy to pick up the new Morrissey album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, I paused to wander through the store and see if there was anything else I should buy. I found a display of "Greatest Hits" album, all for a mere $7.99, and couldn't resist buying a few.

The first one to catch my eye was of course Morrissey's greatest hits, but I already had it, and paid a hell of a lot more than $7.99 for it.... Oh well. I guess it's been worth something to listen to it for all these years.

There were, of course, plenty of "best of" collections in the display I had no desire to own, but four seemed worth forking over the better part of ten bucks for, so I grabbed them and headed to the cashier. And then I came home with five new albums: Morrissey, plus The B-52's Time Capsule, James Taylor's Greatest Hits, The Best of INXS, and, uh, The Very Best of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Some commentary:

Morrissey: I'm not going to say anything about Moz's new disk, aside from observing that it looks REALLY cool, all black-plastic vinyl-y appearing. I hope Saviour Onassis and I will review it on Genius to Spare after we've both had a chance to absorb it.

B-52's: I was in high school when the B-52's released their first album in 1979, but I was too busy listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie et al to give a shit about some weird boppy pop band who sang about lobsters. Of course I eventually came to appreciate their genius, but they turned up so often on the radio that I never felt the need to actually pay money for the privilege of listening to them...until now.

James Taylor: I owned Sweet Baby James on vinyl as an undergrad, and liked it a lot. JT has the perfect voice to be sad to. But then I got rid of my vinyl at some point, and never replaced JT...until now.

INXS: Like pretty much everyone with ears and a sense of rhythm, in the mid 1980s I went absolutely NUTS over "What You Need," the first song on Listen Like Thieves. I bought LTT as a casette....what crap casettes were. I loved the album, but when the tape died, I never bothered to get more INXS, partly because they never released another album I liked as well as LLT. I wasn't sure I did the right thing in buying this greatest hits collection instead of just buying LLT again, until I put the album on, and then I couldn't believe I'd lived without it. This band fuckin' rocks, and I'm mourning Michael Hutchins all over again!

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: See, I'm just not a huge fan of punk. The whole punk aesthetic was that rock and roll should kind of suck: actually knowing how to play your instruments or understanding anything about music but the most basic chord progressions was seen as a bad thing. Careful engineering was one of the things punks REALLY hated; instead of cool effects like the ones you find on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, where sound travels from speaker to speaker, a listener should just be hit by a consistent wall of loud, fast noise. And the only instruments allowed were drums, electric bass and electric guitar--no pianos, keyboards, or saxophones, or violins or harps, or anything else--certainly not weird electronic shit or ambient sounds or bells or whistles! Nope, just things you plug in and strum, and things you bang, and yelling, and feedback. And OK, I like loud guitar and I love drums (I wish I'd played the drums in band instead of the clarinet) but I also like keyboards, and saxophones, and stringed instruments besides electric guitar and electric bass.

One of the bands punks hated most was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with all its electronic keyboard stuff and elaborate producing. I never owned any of their albums (though I owned plenty of Alan Parsons Project, another band loathed by punks, and I still love and will always love Pink Floyd, the uber-evil in punk-lore) but I did like a few of their songs, like "From the Beginning" and "Still...You Turn Me On" and their cover of Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." So I figured, what the hell, I'll pay eight bucks to revisit this part of my adolescence and shoot punk the finger....

and I still like the three songs I liked before, but Jesus, that other ELP shit is annoying! I would start a musical movement in opposition to that nonsense too.

9 Comments:

Blogger spike said...

Hey BD -- Congratulations on your new purchases! One of my favorite things is to go to big box stores to see what compilations from punk labels they have. Some labels sell CDs as loss leaders, as a way to let you know about various bands that record for them. Some of the best have been put out by Fat Wreck Chords, Hellcat, and Lookout! I've discovered many bands I care for a lot through these compilations.

I'm less fond of "greatest hits" compilations because I often find that the songs I like best on my old records are not the ones chosen by BMG or whoever. Plus, on the really good records the songs have almost a narrative relationship to each other and not just to themselves -- would you buy, for example, Jane Austen's "Greatest Hits" if it just included an editor's favorite chapters from some of her books?

Sorry, the snarkiness comes out ... provoked by ELP. In many regards, I have become less dogmatic in my dotage. But I have to disagree a bit with your characterization of the punk aesthetic and, at the same time, defend the rejection of alienated music.

First, punk was not closed to other instrumentation. Lora Logic played sax for X-Ray Specs (Oh Bondage! Up Yours!). Synthesizers were outrageously expensive and not portable in the 1970s, unlike stolen electric guitars and basses -- hence the preference for traditional rock instrumentation. Second, while talent was not a barrier to entry, most bands worked hard to play well. Consider the career of The Slits, who began as absolute beginners but developed a dub reggae and punk hybrid that was truly special. Third, access to studios was also conditioned by the times and those hardworking bands often did evolve sensibilities that allowed them to make use of the studio as another instrument -- Public Image, Ltd.'s first two LPs were masterpieces of engineering.

So to get that raw, simple rock and roll sound to match the social or cultural or (in the best cases) political aggressiveness did take work and the assault by the wall of sound took a lot of experimentation. And we would not have had Joy Division or Bauhaus (and thus, no INXS) if not for the Buzzcocks or the Gang of Four or the Sex Pistols. It was definitely not about the sucking...

What sucked was remote and arrogant effete music that announced to you that it was better than you could ever be and that you would never understand it so sit down and suck that bong and leave your brain to us. Okay, harsh, kinda. And I did have some Gong in my record collection back in the day (another favorite target of the punks), as well as King Crimson. But I could never abide ELP. Why? They were boring! You could not dance to their records!

Which is not to say that you should take the ELP back to the store and get your money back. As I said, dotage. There is something ineffable and irreducibly subjective about the aesthetic experience and I'm always glad when someone finds a bit of beauty or pleasure in the world. And my fingers are now safely connected to my keyboard so I'm giving you all ten, with the deepest respect. But punk, okay, is just some much more connected to mind, body and even spirit that wankers like ELP -- you are so much better off with the James Taylor, really.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix said...

Hi Spike--

Yeah, I agree with you that when it comes to bands and artists you really love, "greatest hits" don't cut it. You need the studio albums; you need the whole thing journey. Bowie, for instance--I have almost all his studio albums, as well as three different "best of" collections. But then there are other bands, that you only sort of like, that you only sort of need a taste of. I have the Thompson Twins' Greatest Hits, and that's really all I need.

And while Jane Austen's novels aren't particularly good for excerpting, there are writers whose work is. The Shakespeare's sister bit from Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own is reprinted all the time. And I regularly use poetry anthologies that include only a few poems by each poet included--no problem with that.

But I could never abide ELP. Why? They were boring! You could not dance to their records!

Maybe you couldn't dance to it...but some of it was really great makeout music. And there's something to be said for that.

And I'm not at all convinced that we wouldn't have had INXS without punk. Seems like you can draw a pretty straight line from, say, Zeppelin and the Stones to INXS. As for Joy Division, there's some of their stuff I find boring and annoying--what I really like is their stuff from the very end, the highly orchestral stuff like "Love Will Tear Us Apart Again"--the stuff that hinted at what would happen with New Order.

Anyway, I realize I was being snarky about punk. I don't resent it or wish it didn't exist...I just don't find it as interesting as the stuff it was reacting to. I'm perfectly happy to hear a song by the Ramones or the Sex Pistols on the radio--I just don't need to own their albums myself, even for $7.99.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Christopher Bigelow said...

I own a few Greatest Hits albums but don't always like them because I expect them to contain only the very best, and they always leave some things out and put in some filler I don't like. For example, even though my Police greatest hits CD has some great stuff, I always flinch when I put it in because they have a really crappy, ballad-ized version of "Don't Stand So Close" instead of the real thing. But I love my Queen, Styx, 4-disk Beatles, and many other greatest hits CDs...

Anyway, the album is dying. For me, it's all about the whole-library shuffle now. I'd much rather feel a little sense of anticipation at the end of a song, wondering what little gem from my own collection is going to pop up next, than feel the little sense of inevitability that comes when you know what's coming next on an album. There are still times when I'm in the mood to listen to an album, but 90% of my listening to my own collection is purely random now. In fact, I'm divesting myself of CDs now and just keeping MP3s of everything, ripped onto three computers...

The B52s are one of my favorite bands EVER, probably in the top five as far as how much I've enjoyed and listened to them over the years. Whammy was the soundtrack for my first real love affair in the summer of '84. As far as Morrisey, have you seen the documentary "New York Doll"? He's got over 15 minutes of screen time in that. Definitely one for your Netflix list, if you haven't seen it yet. It's really quite a refreshing movie. I saw in in a theater in Greenwich Village last November and was quite surprised by it.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix said...

Hey Chris--New York Doll is at about 20 in my Netflix queue. I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Saviour Onassis said...

Like you predicted, Holly, I was upset and pissed by this post and I needed some time to absorb those emotions before I could comment. In the meantime, you've gotten some pretty good comments here by others. I especially agree with Spike (whose NAME is sort of punk).

I can't really get into detailed comments without getting upset. But I will say that we most definately would NOT have had bands like INXS without being preceded by the punk movement. Not to mention the entire NEW WAVE!

As a musician, I have an intimate understanding of what goes into creating music and I can tell you that it is a reactionary art, informed by all the music you have heard before. Sometimes influences are obvious, but more often than not, you just can't tell. Punk happened and the world will never be the same. My own music is inspired by a desire not to sound like ELP, in that regard, I am totally punk rock.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix said...

SO wrote:

But I will say that we most definately would NOT have had bands like INXS without being preceded by the punk movement. Not to mention the entire NEW WAVE!

I'm not convinced, aside from the fact that many subsequent things are the results of prior things. As much as I hate to admit it, as I listen to INXS, I think they might owe more to disco (which I really dislike) than to punk (which I just find kind of boring in large doses). The same goes for a lot of new wave--I think quite a bit of it owes more to disco. Punk may indeed be more responsible, but in order for me to believe that, I need documentation and better evidence, especially since INXS sounds, as I said, closer to the Stones than to the Ramones or the Sex Pistols or any band like that.

In the meantime, you've gotten some pretty good comments here by others. I especially agree with Spike (whose NAME is sort of punk).

Um, no one but me, Spike and Chris has commented....

5:08 PM  
Blogger Saviour Onassis said...

That's harsh.

"New Wave is a term that has been used to describe many developments in music, but is most commonly associated with a movement in American, Australian, British, Canadian and European popular music, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The genre was fashionable during the 1980s, but became somewhat popular again during the 2000s.
The term itself is a source of much confusion. Originally, Seymour Stein, the head of Sire Records, needed a term by which he could market his newly signed bands, who had frequently played the club CBGB. Because radio consultants in the US had advised their clients that punk rock was a fad (and because many stations that had embraced disco had been hurt by the backlash), Stein settled on the term "new wave." He felt that the music was the aural equivalent of the French New Wave film movement of the 1960s. Like those film makers, his new artists (most notably Talking Heads) were anti-corporate, experimental, and a generation that had grown up as critical consumers of the art they now practiced. Thus, the term "new wave" was initially interchangeable with "punk rock".
Very soon, listeners themselves began to see these musicians as different from their compatriots. Music that followed the anarchic garage band ethos of The Ramones (such as the Sex Pistols) was distinguished as "punk", while music that tended toward experimentation, lyrical complexity, or more polished production, such as Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith, Devo, and Tubeway Army, among others, were called "New Wave". However, those artists were all originally classified as punk.
Tom Petty has (probably in jest) taken credit for "inventing" New Wave. In the book Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo (Omnibus, 2005) he says journalists struggled to define the band, recognising they were not punk rock, but still wanting to identify them with Elvis Costello and the Sex Pistols. He also suggests — again, probably half joking — that the song When the Time Comes from the You're Gonna Get It! album (1978) "might have started New Wave. Maybe that was the one."
Eventually, the term was applied indiscriminately to any punk band that did not embrace the loud-fast playing style, whether that meant that their sound was reggae, ska, or experimental. Thus, The (English) Beat, R.E.M., and The Police were equally New Wave, even though these bands would have as little in common with each other as they would with nominally punk bands such as The Clash.
Later still, New Wave came to imply a less noisy, poppier sound, and to include acts manufactured by record labels, while the term post-punk was coined to describe the darker, less pop-influenced groups. Although distinct, punk, New Wave, and post-punk all shared common ground: an energetic reaction to the supposedly overproduced, uninspired popular music of the 1970s. Many groups fit easily into two or all three of the categories over their lifespan.
When MTV started broadcasting in 1981, New Wave got a boost as many music videos were of this genre. New Wave artists had been innovators in the use of using videos to promote themselves in the years prior to birth of MTV by showing them primarily in clubs. Subsequently, New Wave became strongly associated with the decade, often being seen as the quintessential 1980s music.
New Wave is sometimes considered to have died by about 1986, although it still influenced pop music production up to about 1992. But in the first decade of the 21st Century, however, many indie rock bands once again popularized the New Wave genre with varying success, most importantly Interpol and The Killers. Many bands can be described according to muliple genres. Franz Ferdinand for example is considered to be New Wave and/or Post-punk revival depending on who you ask."
-From Wikipedia

I'm not an idiot.

Read: Please Kill Me by by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, We Got the Nuetron Bomb by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen

8:46 PM  
Blogger Bored Dominatrix said...

Thanks for the information, Wayne. I don't think you're an idiot.

But I'm not an idiot either, and my statement that "The whole punk aesthetic was that rock and roll should kind of suck" was based both on things I've read in magazines on popular music, and on the fact that the primary meaning of the word punk as an adjective is "of poor quality, worthless." Given that that word with that meaning was embraced as a descriptor of the movement by those in it, I think it's still legitimate to say that part of the punk aesthetic was that things should be "of poor quality, worthless," and that that was still better than the alternative of, as Spike put it, "remote and arrogant effete music that announced to you that it was better than you could ever be."

10:01 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I miss my INXS tapes. I keep meaning to rebuy them as CDs, but I think the reason I keep avoiding it is because 1) I don't have a tape player anymore and I'd miss the whirring, and 2) I'm really bummed about the reality show.

9:51 AM  

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