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 Churchill, which, 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.