Thursday, May 24, 2007

Is there still a use for albums? 

Mitch writes about record stores.
I used to love the feeling you�d get when you�d talk the totally-wasted stoner behind the counter into playing some sample on the house stereo; sliding the record out, dropping the needle, the anticipation as the record rolled toward the start�
I don't even remember the name of the place in Manchester, NH, where I did this, but the manager of the place, who also became the first lead guitarist I played with in a band (first song on stage: "Just What I Needed" by The Cars; God his solo rift was perfect!), probably was the single most responsible person for broadening my horizons of music. Just in the C's besides the Cars I got to listen to the first Elvis Costello album and Chick Corea (why he wasn't sorted into jazz is beyond me), and the Clash.

And it avoided the one-hit wonders; we didn't even make it through the third song of "Get the Knack." Am I better off now for being able to buy My Sharona and nothing else? Well, that's a bad analogy because that song had a half-life about as long as the Vikings' Super Bowl hopes, but I think some bands need time to grow from one song to an album, and if they can sell a song or two on iTunes or promote band dates on MySpace, it may give them the time and finances to see if there's really a band there.

Not that I dislike record stores or albums. The concept album has died, but some albums just seem to flow from song to song, perhaps why I still prefer prog-rock later in my evenings. In economics dissertations the preference is now that everybody writes a set of essays, which become three separate journal articles sometimes even before the dissertation is completed. I think something is lost when a scholar does not connect the chapters of a dissertation into a single thesis, and I think disjointed songs on an album suffer the same fate.

And that is very hard to do. Thus the democratization of recording music -- which is the upshot of the digitization Mitch discusses -- means more and more people producing single songs that work but do not create a line of thought from song to song.

I'm quite devoted still to the Fetus, not least of which for the guy who's worked there forever who seems to talk any genre I'm interested that day. Is it as good as the cut-out and used bins at the Rhino Records in Claremont back in my grad school (and KSPC) days? No, not quite, but close, and that's still very good. And yes, they play samples.

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