i wish that I was born a thousand years ago

I bought my first record from Itunes – is an MP3 col­lec­tion a record? Bug­ger it, I’m a stick in the mud old fel­la, and although I was cor­rect­ed by my daugh­ter, a record it still is to me, and always will be with­out apology. 

Now that NZ has its very own store I thought I should at least try it so that I have some sort of an idea of what the expe­ri­ence and the store is like. I’m in no way a down­load novice. Quite the oppo­site, and, amongst oth­er sites, I like both Beat­port and Emu­sic a lot. They pro­vide good music at a rea­son­able price (as does Apple). But they are also some­thing that iTunes is not, after a few days expe­ri­ence, and that’s easy to use and attractive. 

Both look and feel far less ama­teur­ish than iTunes and that’s say­ing some­thing as this is Apple for god’s sake. Apple is not sup­posed to be face­less­ly cor­po­rate but iTunes is. I guess they for­got to ask Jonathan Ives whether the Itunes Store looked any good. It’s both ugly and a bitch to get around and find music on.

I like the way Emu­sic shows me a path for­ward. It’s a music addict’s site, a place that seems to offer me secret bits and pieces, hid­den gems, if I just keep click­ing, in the same way that the best record shops entice me just to flick through one more bin. Beat­port is the same. Itunes on the oth­er hand, feels utter­ly cor­po­rate and it’s clut­tered and con­fused, hard to find any­thing, dom­i­nat­ed by great­est hits col­lec­tions (so much for the long tail), and when you do find some­thing there are no smart ways for­ward offered. It feels like a Wal-Mart. Still, like Wal-Mart, they have the market.

I bought Lou Reed’s Rock’n’Roll Ani­mal live album from the ear­ly sev­en­ties. It was pure nos­tal­gia I admit but I have a place in my heart for this album. Not only did I see him live, with bleached hair and atti­tude, about the time it was released but this album with its wall of sculp­tured gui­tar noise was the sound­track to so many par­ties in the pre-punk years, and it’s tat­tooed into my mind. Lou Reed is, any inter­view with the man indi­cates, an obnox­ious wanker. 

I like him a lot. He’s been every­thing a rock’n’roll artist should be: unpre­dictable, offen­sive and, in between, capa­ble of pro­duc­ing many moments of sheer genius. That he is one of the most influ­en­tial song­writ­ers of the past fifty years is with­out ques­tion but I also like the un-lis­ten­able dou­ble album Met­al Machine Music, not for what it sound­ed like but the fuck you to RCA it stood for. And it makes me won­der why record­ing artists are so damned nice these days. It feels like, and sounds like, the back­bone has been excised from pop­u­lar music. It’s all too Brooke Fras­er for me. Artists are meant to be dif­fi­cult. Its no won­der music is not selling.

So it was Lou for me. My vinyl copy of Rock’n’Roll Ani­mal on vinyl has been with me for close to thir­ty years, maybe more, and it’s a shit­ty old thin Pye press­ing, the kind you can bend right around, from the old Paeroa fac­to­ry. In a nos­tal­gia-free world, I would’ve tossed it years ago, espe­cial­ly since BMG re-issued the album, nice­ly remas­tered about six years back. But Real Groovy for some rea­son saw fit to mar­ket a mid price import at close to six­ty dol­lars. So they lost the sale.

Itunes on the oth­er hand, have it at $17, which is a snip, and now I have a lis­ten­able copy of Lou’s great cock rock, only a tiny bit bloat­ed, mas­ter­piece, on my hard dri­ve. And I can close my eyes and drift back to 1974 again and writhe with plea­sure as it drops into Sweet Jane about three and a half min­utes into the intro.

As an aside Peter Mac over at Dub dot dash has a bunch of New Zealand best-ofs up, includ­ing mine, which was a bit of a cop out I guess as I tout­ed an album to five to twen­ty-five year old NZ indie tracks as the best NZ release of 2006. That’s more a case of not hav­ing heard half the tracks oth­ers are talk­ing about, than any­thing else. But I can’t help but feel­ing that the lack of focus amongst all of we quo­tees indi­cates that, whilst the odd good record is being made at a grass roots lev­el things are floun­der­ing quite sub­stan­tial­ly at any lev­el beyond that. Over the past decades, there has, year in year out, been some act or artist of inter­est or worth with obvi­ous sub­stan­tial for­ward momen­tum at any giv­en time. That there isn’t right now is no indi­ca­tion that noth­ing is wor­thy hap­pen­ing it’s just an odd sense of ennui that I’ve nev­er seen before in the indus­try. And it is a wor­ry. I hope I’m wrong.

The NZ record that is get­ting a major buzz in the UK right now is the new Greg Churchillwhich, as he so right­ly points out, like all his ear­li­er records (includ­ing a UK pop chart entry) has had zero NZ on Air sup­port (still that’s what hap­pens when you let peo­ple who have no idea about music, NZ radio pro­gram­mers, near the selec­tion process). After sev­er­al plays on Pete Tong’s incred­i­bly influ­en­tial Radio One show, it’s at num­ber fif­teen on the impor­tant DMC Buzz Chart. Makes yer proud.…

Oh, and The Oth­ers album I men­tioned and which I’ve been asked about by more than a few is called Some­thing Error Hap­pens and their MySpace is here.

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