How Long Has This Been Going On?
That’s the musical question posed by one-hit-wonder band “Ace,” which featured serial band-jumper (Roxy Music, Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics) Paul Carrack. For me, the musical answer would come from The Beatles … “It’s been a long time …” Or Boston might have an even better answer … “It’s been such a long time …”
The non musical answer is About a Year. That’s how long I’ve been driving around listening to CDs, taking notes, comparing contrasting, thinking. The NHTSA thinks I should be paying better attention to the road. Maybe so. Here’s a picture a friend took of the result of me not paying attention to the car in front of me:
Several months ago I reached a point at which I was no longer sure which CDs I’d listened to, and which were still waiting. Sure, I keep a list, so I could double-check which ones were on it, but I did find myself getting a little overwhelmed.
Plus, it’s getting a little BORING. I love listening to the music, but the whole point of this project has been to make a list, and now it’s been a friggin year, AND I STILL HAVEN’T STARTED MY LIST!!!!! Maybe boredom isn’t the word I’m looking for. Perhaps I meant Frustration!
Maybe the best musical answer to the musical question “How Long Has This Been Going On?” might come from Gnarls Barkley: “I can die when I’m done … Maybe I’m crazy…”
But despite my frustration, to paraphrase The Stone Roses, “I’ll carry on through it all/I’m a waterfall.” And really, I am enjoying it, and I am having some musical revelations, of sorts. Here are some things I have learned:
1) It is really difficult to judge “Rock Opera” type records, like Tommy, Quadrophenia and The Wall. These albums are impressive in their scope and story-telling. As works of art they are undeniably profound. I find myself listening to them and thinking, “Holy shit. These guys are working at such a different level than all the other pop and rock acts I’m listening to!”
But then I hear a song like “Fiddle About,” or “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,” (on Tommy) or “Vera,” or “Bring the Boys Back Home” (on The Wall) and I find myself thinking, “Man, this song helps me understand the story, but it SUCKS!!!” So, do I judge the albums as contained works of art and gloss over the fact that there are a few songs that I dislike, since they help accomplish what the writer meant to accomplish? Or do I state – as with other CDs – this album has two, three, whatever, songs that I DISLIKE and adjust my rating accordingly? I’m 319 CDs into my efforts, and I still don’t know how this will shake out …
2) I don’t like records in which all the songs sound very similar.
I like diversity, different styles, bands trying to do something a little outside their comfort zone. (But just a little …) This is probably why London Calling is destined to sit pretty high on the list. And, going back to Insight #1, it’s generally speaking a positive aspect of the Rock Opera. However, there are some bands/CDs for which I’ve broken this rule. The Stone Roses is an album that many of my friends have complained about, stating all the songs sound alike. This is utter donkey dung, and there is no semblance of truth to the statement … however, if it were true, too fucking bad. That CD is awesome. My distaste for similar sounds in an entire CD is probably why hip-hop isn’t prominently featured. As I wrote several months ago, to my ears a lot of it sounds the same.
3) I need some pep. When too many songs are too slow and/or too soft, it starts to sound like this to me:
I don’t mind a slow, soft song here and there, particularly if it’s got great lyrical content. And such songs help to minimize the “all the songs sound alike” bug from Insight #2. But CDs that are mostly slow songs – whether folky or rock ballads or lowdown blues or love songs or break-up songs – these are CDs I won’t listen to very much. They’ll sink down on the list.
4) I have lots of CDs that I haven’t listened to in a while that I had completely forgotten I really like! Back in SF I had an acquaintance who worked in a record store (note to readers born after 1975: “record stores” were buildings with lights and a cash register and posters on the walls (like this)
where actual physical, (non-virtual) compilations of songs called “records” were sold; the records came in a variety of formats: vinyl (little and big (and before my time, medium);
anyway, this guy said that having any more than 100 records was a waste because there’s no way you could listen to more than that over a given span of time and fully appreciate the content of each. So this guy would cap his collection at 100, and anytime he wanted a new one, he’d get rid of one of the existing 100 – sort of like Relegation Rules in the English Premier League. I think he and I have a different understanding of what it means to appreciate music, but it is true that many of the CDs I’ve bought over the years have remained un-listened-to for years at a time. Some disks that I listened to over the past year that I had forgotten were so good include:
Steve Earle – Jerusalem
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak
Green Day – Warning
Pearl Jam – Backspacer
Foo Fighters and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – just generally better than I recall.
There were also a couple CDs that weren’t as great as I recall, including Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, by Pavement; Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd; and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s eponymous record.
5) The biggest thing I learned is this: I WANT TO START COMPILING THE LIST!!! But I need to be thorough, or I’ll feel like the whole thing was a waste of time. (Which is not to say that an argument for that point couldn’t be mounted right now …) I think I have about 2 months left before I can start. As Tom Petty sang, “The waiting/is the hardest part/every day you see one more card.”
Or in my case, I hear one more CD.