Monday, February 5, 2007

promises me I'm safe as houses as long as I remember who's wearing the trousers

i am picky. very picky. and i am very rarely neutral. i usually love something or i hate it, and sentiments of 'okay' are few and far between.

looking over my list, and knowing what i know about myself, my tastes, and my general dissapproval of everything melodic, i find myself amazed at how many albums were contenders to take seat on my top twenty five.

i thought long and hard. there certainly had to be guidelines. so what, i asked myself, makes a favorite record? and as best as i can relay, here are the neccessary steps to a record being a cornerstone of my listening personality.

PHASE 1: shock and awe. this is amazing. i cannot stop listening to it. at any point of the day i catch myself whistling the melodies and harmonies of some or all of the tracks on the record, when i'm not catching myself singing along.

PHASE 2: anger. why didnt i think of that hook? why couldnt i capture that drum sound? why is that vocal so fucking perfectly nestled in the mix between those sweeping synths and that rockin kick? i feel the need to study. to dissect. to decide if this is the real deal or if my ears are messing with me.

PHASE 3: bliss. i know every word. i know every note in the solo. i know the way the feedback sounds. my foot knows when the kick drum does that "up-one-two" that one time in the bridge. i anticipate the harmony on the last chorus. i know on which channel the shaker resides, and to which side the claps are panned. and i can perfectly emulate exactly where the drums kick in on my steering wheel. for every song.

i never question the track order, because i know without track two coming before track four, the album wouldnt have that bump in the arc. there is no such thing as shuffle, no skipping tracks, and no repeat track one on a favorite record, because there are no stand out tracks. each is as important and perfectly placed as the letters in the alphabet. sure, there are exceptions to some of this, but if i only like a record for the first four tracks, doesnt that mean it's a cd which contains some of my favorite songs rather than a favorite album? a cohesive album is a conceptual artform that is quickly diminishing with iTunes and iPod shuffles. consumers no longer think about the care taken to put a record together, so artists stop putting in the work. maybe this is why only a handful of albums on my list were completed in the last 5 years.

fuck you apple. fuck you steve jobs.


it was called the Concert For The Masses. an additional date added to this bands 1988 international tour coming to climax in pasadena, ca. and seeing it, hearing it, for the first time--albeit on dvd--was an amazing experience.

there are few bands with the staying power as the artists behind my number 5 pick. and of those artists, even fewer consistently put out critically and commercially successful records in a genre that swims against the currents of mainstream tastes.

the year was 1987. according to my birth certificate i was 6 years old. according to billboard, the highest selling album of the year was george harrsions's "cloud nine." i am not completely certain as to what i was listening to in late 1986/early 1987, but i have an inkling that it was either my "cabbage patch kids christmas" audio cassette or something by the King.

whatever the case may be, i am so glad my six year old ears hadn't heard this band yet, for surely i wouldnt have understood. or maybe it would have made me the coolest, saddest, six year old on the block. there's no way to know.

we live in a world of brand recognition. consumers are so quick to spend a buck, but need the comfort of that familiar logo on the box. fortune 500 companies spend more money on making sure you recognize THEIR logo than the competitions than they do on the actual merchandise they are cramming down your throat. in this regard, major record labels make it very hard for up and coming bands to surface in a mainstream market. everyone loves music. music gets us through tough times in life. it gets us sanely into work. it gets us from fredericksburg to chicago, on no sleep, safely. but people are so hesitant to discover new music because they dont know it exists. the wont go check out their potential favorite new band playing down the street, because they have never heard their name. because of this, agents and publicists, smaller record labels and even young bands themselves are so quick to associate their name with a larger one; 'we sound like ________ and ____________' or 'recommended if you like ____________' are common phrases and comparisons you will find on websites, cd cases, and newspaper articles. hell, for myspace music profiles, they even have a special section devoted to this. you fill it out when you sign up for your account.

i was in a small band that had local press, a publicist, a website and a myspace page. needless to say, whether we wanted them or not, comparisons were inevitable. maybe it was my deep voice, or maybe it was the electronic over- and under-tones, but of all of the comparisons we received, one would not stop popping up. and the reality of it was...i had never heard of them.

finally, one day, i decided i was going to listen to the band we were constantly being told we were 'paying modern day homage' to. looking over their immense back catalog, i wasnt quite sure where to start. so i started at the beginning.

i wont lie, i recognized songs. but i was hesitant to like them. why should i? i didnt recognize the name. but, one week apart, for 5 weeks i digested their work. one by one, snatching up work after work until i got to week six/album six. i rested there. it was a new plateau. one could easily see how tailored the members roles had become, and how well they wore those hats. the arranger and engineer, obviously influenced by the like of phillip glass, made the works build and destruct, rise and fall; he made the songs breathe. the one using that breath was the handsome singer, somehow putting voice to the words of these songs. and he hadnt written note one. the songwriters shoes were occupied by yet another member. i was amazed that a group could work in this way for so long. i was amazed at what i was hearing. after proceeding through all of the necessary phases of acceptance, i realized i had clearly found their peak; i had found their "mercury."

and i think back to how worried my parents would have been had i, as a six year old, realized the profound meaning i have come to know in the words and music of this record. the places it takes me ("i'm taking a ride with my best friend / i hope he never lets me down again").

"Sitting target
Sitting waiting

i'd have been the coolest, saddest, six year old on the block.


DEPECHE MODE-music for the masses

RELEASE DATE: January 1, 1987
LABEL: mute /reprise / wea

music for the masses, remastered and in 5.1 surround


Big Cougar said...

I have honestly never listened to this record. I will make it a point to do so now.

Papa Shoegaze said...

#4, you hit the lock button on the explorer doors and dont let anyone in or out until the album is completed. parties, dates, and gift openings may be put on hold. windows are always down with smoke rising and those not prepared are freezing their asses off. but, those speakers and that audience realize this may be the last chance to hear it bc 'rad' cd may soon end up under the accelerator pedal or bw seat cushions with burrito rappers and syrupy coke.

listening to pet sounds 'sessions' while smashing the explorer into neighborhood trash cans during the holidays was/is still my favorite way to engage any record.