Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Story of an Attention-Deficit, Nostalgic, Solipsistic Music Nerd

I spend far too much time on the internet. As someone who is something of a luddite, and would much rather be sitting outdoors with a beer and book, I'm pretty useless with most technology.
I spend 10+ hours of my work day sat in front of a screen, punching my desk with frustration as technology fails time and time again to complete the simple tasks I set for it. So when it all gets too much for me, I decide to waste my employer's time by taking solace in the endless spring of information and inspiration that is the internet.

The internet is perfectly suited to my severely scrambled, zero-attention-span thought process. Something pops into my head, and with a few jabs of my fingers, I have access to just about all the information I can dream of for any particular subject.

I can waste ten minutes of my life looking at pictures of Joseph Stalin's moustache.

An hour lusting over nerdy shit like metal band patches I wish I owned.

Or lose an afternoon watching fondly remembered childhood cartoons.

Every obscure little avenue of thought my brain can come up with can be explored, discussed, and complained about. Pretty much everything is available, all the time.
However, one aspect of this mentality I am strangely uncomfortable with is how it applies to music.

I got into music in 2000.
I won't detail how, or what I started listening to, because it's hideously embarassing. Safe to say, it was the golden age of the twin musical eras of Nu Metal and Pop-Punk, music so utterly bereft of any sort of real heart, soul, feeling, lyrical depth, innovation of any kind. Endless American or wished-they-were-American whining self-obsessed overgrown teenagers in baggy jeans and spikey hair. Basically the absolute nadir of musical expression.

It was around this time that the music industry was on the cusp of changing forever.

I remember the thrill of CD shopping in HMV, browsing through their extremely limited 'alternative' section. Getting a train into the city just to purchase a new album by whatever terrible band I was worshipping at the time. The rush of finding something that none of my tiny circle of friends owned already, being the first person to get into a band.
I was a 12 year old hipster.

I also remember a lot of the supposedly 'cooler' kids deriding me for still spending what very little money I had back then on music. I was a pretty straight-laced kid, I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't do much of anything, really, except buy music.
So when my eager discussions of my latest album discovery were met with "pfft, I got their single off of Napster for free. No way I'd ever pay for it, they're shite!", I was confused.
"Napster? What's that?" was yet again met with a sneer and a snort, yet another admonishment and reminder of just how behind the times I was. So, having just gotten the internet around that time too, I rushed home after school to Ask Jeeves why I wasn't cool enough to know what Napster was.

What I found blew my tiny mind.
I sat there, reading up on it, and was instantly sold on the idea. Music, by anyone I could ever care to name, all for free? Fuck yeah, count me in! I downloaded the program, terrified that I'd fuck it up somehow and end up with a computer riddled with viruses, and that my parents would ban me from ever using my amazing discovery again. It terrified me more than them discovering that I'd also been using our brand new amazing Information Super Highway to google things like 'girls with no clothes on'. Like I said, I was a naive kid.

So with Napster at my fingertips, I was like a kid in a candy store. I immediately set about typing in names of bands I'd been unable to afford to purchase albums by. I think the first song I ever downloaded was by Sepultura. I won't dive too deeply into the reasons for that. They totally didn't involve a girl a year or two older than me with cheaply dyed blue-black hair and badly-applied eyeshadow, who had the Sepultura 'S' drawn on her backpack. Nuh uh.

For about 2 hours I downloaded as many files as I could find from other users who were online at the time, and ended up with probably about eight assorted songs from across the bands discography.

image stolen from

I sat there at my computer and played the songs, excited to finally 'catch up' with the rest of my generation and be able to enjoy music for free. But it did come at a cost. The sound emerging from my tinny computer speakers was a barely-audible cacophony, and no, that's not an insult to Sepultura.
I didn't understand, why didn't it sound like the other music I had been listening to? It sounded awful, and none of the songs were alike. I didn't know if the titles were correct, what albums each song was from, what the artwork looked like, all the stuff I spent countless hours geeking out over with my other albums. I didn't have a CD-burner at the time, so I couldn't even listen to them on my battered Sony Discman on the walk to school the next day.
I was, to put it in over the top, grandiose terms, absolutely gutted.

I know, I'm starting to sound like a broken record (HA!), and this is coming across as anti-downloading propaganda, using tired old arguments like sound-quality that are still trotted out to this very day. I think such issues are largely bullshit in 2011, but in 2000 they were genuine concerns.

The issue I had was that acquiring new music this way felt cheap to me. And not just because it was free.

So I didn't download music for at least another 7 years after that. I stuck with my tried-and-tested method of saving up my money for a couple of weeks just to be able to buy an over-priced album, to go through my little ritual of train journey, rack browsing, triumphant discovery, cash exchanging, rushing home, examining the packaging in far-too-much-detail, anticipating that first spin of the disc.
I still do that to this day. Very little in life makes me happier than that pre-album anticipation.

So, to finally cut short this extended nostalgia trip, my original point is that despite the easy availability of almost every note of music ever recorded out there in the vast interwebs, I mostly choose not to partake in the prevailing torrent/mediafire/rapidshare blog culture.

I have nothing against album/song streams as a means of discovering new music or checking out the latest release by a band you love, it's just the 21st century version of hearing a very good, very selective, personally-tailored radio show after all.
However, I ALWAYS make a point of following up any such positive discoveries by checking out what releases a band has for sale, spending countless hours trawling online distros, hunting down bigcartels, clicking through endless redundant myspace pages in the hopes of finding a link to purchase something I can hold in my hands and call mine.

I never believe I've truly been sold something unless I can drop it and it makes a sound.

So, that brings me to this latest exercise in solipsism.
I'm starting this blog with no agenda other than to have somewhere to type out my over-enthusiastic reactions, whether positive or negative, to the physical releases I've seen fit to spend my hard-earned money on.
I have no qualification in either writing or music.
I won't be partaking of any cold, clinical, overly analytical review-style writing.
There will be no reductionary marks out of ten, nor out-of-five-stars.
Just my honest opinions of the ridiculous amount of music I listen to on a daily basis.

So if you get bored on the internet, here's yet another avenue for you to waste your time exploring, and hopefully to live out your own record nerdiness vicariously.

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