A Story of Sound and Fury. . .
Tonight I want to zero in on a current trend and a new band and the differences between the two. The trend I am talking about is vinyl records and the act is one I came across at Arlene’s Grocery last Monday (October 15, 2015). One I just do not get, and the other was simply refreshing to see and hear.
Vinyl records. They are all the rage again and I am asking myself why. I am afraid that many that are infected with this desire for vinyl just did not experience the phenomena the first time around. Those who in fact have had the pleasure of vinyl records must have selective memories. Don’t we all I suppose.
All kidding aside, one might look back at the amazing music of the sixties, seventies, and eighties, when vinyl was king. One might lament that music like that is not made anymore. That, however, does not justify the romanticising about records. Even the first claim about the music is inflated, but the claim about vinyl records I just do not comprehend at all.
I know there are a range of technical, social and even economic reasons for why vinyl is the way to go. I am skeptical of the technical ones but not going dig into the audio engineering – not my forte. I might not be willing to weigh in on the technical virtues of vinyl, but I can share my recollections of their use. I am sorry but my recollections are not good. They did not treat me well, with all the dust and the skips, even at times some warping. They were routinely despite my efforts scratched. Regardless of my attempts to clean them, with the various sprays and felt brushes and more, they still were dust-covered. And with all of that the sound quality diminished.
On top of that there are the creature comforts. I cannot with vinyl just flop on the sofa and relax and listen. Nope. You are up roughly every 20 minutes to flip the record or put on the next one on. Today I have brought the decadent ways of TV remotes to music listening. Today I have my phone and a bluetooth connection and I simply like it. Not only like it but am amazed that I basically have my music collection in my pocket even if some of them are MP3s.
Now the social argument might have some sway. Going through the bins of a local record store is something I have found myself engaged in many a Saturday afternoon with my bandmates at the time. And no doubt the album artwork is and was worth checking out.So there might be some merit there. But as one lyricist states. . .classic art has had its day. And not just art but the band, the bandmates, and also the record shops – all are long gone.
Regarding the economic, I am not seeing a huge return on one’s old record collection. Like any collectors item – high value requires the item be pristine. It is unused, ideally unopened. Any serious record collection, or serious record, was and is NOT unused and most certainly opened. And I have sold my records and have gotten a few bucks but far from even. I bought a lot of records and they did get played.
So that brings me to my own conclusion regarding vinyl – that it is just a bad trip down memory lane. For those of us that love rock and all that entails, it is hard to accept that it is fading – that the times are a changing. And I do feel that is the case. To proclaim vinyl as THE audio platform, however, is to just return to a time when life was good. . .was simpler. And what better way to challenge the contemporary than to critique the digital platform – to look back and hold up the vinyl record as the true coin of the realm. Sadly the coin of the realm is a slug or wooden even.
That however brings me to the new band that I found at Arlene’s. That band being Crush of Empires. A four piece with a great singer, tasteful guitars and solid rhythm section. Their tunes worked and we are talking the groups first EP. Perhaps they owe a nod to Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains, but nothing wrong with that. They were just refreshing to see. It has just been awhile since I was out checking out new talent or so it feels. So I saw these guys had a few gigs and figured, lets go check them out. It was well worth it!
So I am not sure about the value of vinyl but once again a live show just can be so good. I just enjoy checking out a new act with little or no idea what I am going to see or hear. And I am not looking for visionaries or the next big thing, nor the loudest, nor the greatest. That would be lovely to see. I wish I had seen lady Gaga when she was playing the Lower East Side and all. My sights are much lower, I just enjoy a band or artist that has something to say, that offers something to me.
The question though is what is the difference between holding up vinyl records and a grunge influenced live act. Both have their roots in the past. Everything does. Just the live act is building on that. They are taking that sound and making it their own – recreating it. The vinyl for my money is an attempt to go back to something that really was not there in the first place. There is no perfect or ideal sound. . . sound is always reflective of the moment. I guess I would argue that sound is best not on vinyl or digital but live.