- Violent Femmes: Dance, Motherfucker, Dance!
- The Pharcyde: Oh Shit
- Squarepusher: My Fucking Sound
- Kruder & Dorfmeister: Deep Shit
- CSS: Art Bitch
- Butter 08: Butterfucker
- Spacemen 3: Feelin' Just Fine (Head Full Of Shit)
- Future Sound Of London: Just A Fuckin Idiot
- House Of Pain: Put On Your Shit Kickers
- The Vaselines: Bitch
- Kid 606: Ecstacy Motherfucker
- Ben Folds Five: Bitches Ain't Shit
- Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Fuck Shit Up
- Eels: World Of Shit
- David Bowie: Queen Bitch
- Super Furry Animals: The Man Don't Give A Fuck
- Placebo: Brick Shithouse
- PJ Harvey: Who The Fuck?
- PJ Harvey: Happy and Bleeding
- Tania Maria: Super Happy
- Lady Gaga: So Happy I Could Die
- The Beat: You Won't Be Happy
- Placebo: Happy You're Gone
- King Pleasure: Sometimes I'm Happy
- XTC: Stupidly Happy
- Elvis: Girl Happy
- Spiritualized: Oh Happy Day
- Medicine: A Short Happy Life
- Boards Of Canada: Happy Cycling
- The Box Tops: Happy Times
- Benny Goodman: Get Happy
- Felix Da Housecat: Happy Hour
- Andy Williams: Happy Heart
- Lou Rawls: You've Made Me So Very Happy
- Björk: Violently Happy
- The Smiths: Unhappy Birthday
- The Grid: Angel Tech
- Orbital: Attached
- Cinematic Orchestra: The Awakening Of A Woman
- Nine Inch Nails: Corona Radiata
- Spiritualized: Effervescent
- Amorphous Androgynous: Fat Cat
- biProg: Frequency Map
- Alvin Lucier: I Am Sitting In A Room
- Brian Eno: Ikebukuro
- Cabaret Voltaire: Low Cool
- Ulrich Schnauss: Monday-Paracetamol
- Flying Saucer Attack: Popul Vuh 2
- Explosions In The Sky: So Long, Lonesome
- Mogwai: Summer
- Tangerine Dream: Thru Metamorphic Rocks
- Squarepusher: Vacuum Garden
- Fishbone: Party At Ground Zero
- Daft Punk: One More Time
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood: Two Tribes
- They Might Be Giants: Number Three
- Negativland: Four Fingers
- Massive Attack: Five Man Army
- Tom Waits: Sixteen Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six
- The Clash: The Magnificent Seven
- O. V. Wright: Eight Men, Four Women
- Evanescence: Cloud Nine
- Caetano Veloso: Nine Out Of Ten
- Freddie Scott: Are You Lonely For Me
- Raff n' Freddy: Listen
- People Under The Stairs: Fredly Advice
- Pako & Frederik: Pintan Alley
- Freddie Notes & the Rudies: Guns of Navarone
- Freddie McLean: Fine Fine Fine
- Freddie McKay: Love Is A Treasure
- Freddie McGregor: Push Come To Shove
- Fred Locks: Vision of Redemption
- Charlie Hunter Trio: Fred's Life
- Freddie Hubbard:: Little Sunflower
- Freddy Mellow: Truly
- Freddy Cannon: Things Go Better With Coke
- Freddy Fresh: Merry Pranxsters
- John Fred & his Playboy Band: Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)
- R. L. Burnside: Tribute To Fred
Right now, things are fine.
Curtaining rain outside, chocolate chip cookies on the counter, and a general state of equilibrium.
Things may very well change to-morrow, or next week, or even later to-nite; up or down, forwards or back, brighter or darker.
It's the moment that matters. These are the moments you stash away in the attic of your mind; the reproducible moments, the simple and practical moments, the moments of clarity and balance and stillness.
Rather than the nostalgic moments, the "what if" moments, the moments that wonder what happened to days gone by.
That's just what they are; days gone by, ancient history, cancelled checks, vaporized alcohol, stardust.
When we change our minds, we can change the state of matter itself. When we hold on to fixed moments in time, it's like having a TARDIS in your pocket.
As is customary, as well as habit, during dry spells between employment engagements, portions of The Concrete Standard are tossed overboard as ballast in order to keep the lifestyle that Your Humble Narrator has grown accustomed to at Monkworks afloat. For years, my record collection has served a dual purpose as a semi-obsessional focus of interest to stave off post-postmodern schizophrenia, and a nest egg of potential incremental revenue, chunks of which can be broken off and auctioned for liquid capital as needed. In the past, the process of determining the selection of the collection to cull and take to trade has been dependent mostly on the level of attachment I felt towards a certain recording. If the sentiment was of a low enough level, the item could be safely removed and sold, leaving an acceptable remainder behind to satiate my self-imposed bragging rights and library status.
The last time I did something like that was only a few years ago. I just completed the most recent cull, and just in that length of time, my intent has changed dramatically. My intention is no longer to retain an acceptable number of items in The Concrete Standard; my goal now is to deplete it as much as practically possible and bring it as close to zero mass as physical limits allow.
As mildly shocking this decision is to my system, both physically and especially emotionally, there is a concrete justification for it: I'm simply not a part of this world any more; this world of music collecting. Obviously, it's not because I don't love music, but rather than the act of record hunting and hoarding no longer gives me the joy or the thrill or the satisfaction it once did.
At Alma Mater, thanks to being surrounded by music all day, collecting grew from a hobby into a lifestyle, and then, because eventually you heard about everyone else's collection and what they had in it, a competition to build, if not the biggest, but the most diverse, the richest, the most eclectic collection in comparison to your co-workers. My associate Bil, who became a kind of music mentor to me, once stated in his 'zine that:
"Record buying is not a frivolous luxury, it's a way of life! These records will keep you sane; don't get them at your own risk!"
What I fear now is as The Concrete Standard slowly atrophies, making way for the imminent dominance of La Norme Concrète
, whither my own sanity, my own mental health, my own emotional integrity? My hope is that the nigh-obsession I fostered for years over the size and shape and content of The Concrete Standard won't turn into an appendage with nothing to grasp onto; that without something like the security the sheer mass that The Concrete Standard provided, my resulting drive and impetus and passion just firehoses out of an empty end into a vacuum, leaving me an empty shell.
At the shop to-day, patiently waiting for the drone behind the counter to finish tallying up the takes and passes, I busied myself in the vinyl section, browsing through the jazz and reggae and twelve-inch vinyl. Unlike compact discs, which are safely ensconced in their plastic sarcophagi, vinyl records are more often than not housed in cardboard dust jackets, which, ironically, gather all manner of dust and dirt and grime and adhesive residue and pulverized insects and dead skin cells and mold and mildew and just a general layer of yuck as they sit and age. If you've ever gone rooting around in the cardboard boxes stored in every American attic, garage, and crawl space, you know the scent this combination of controlled decay can give off; and if you've spent any amount of time flipping through stacks in search of something in particular, or perhaps nothing in particular, it can be a kind of ambrosia, a bouquet, a nose.
For the first time, I got the first tiny inklings of that smell starting to affect me in a less that positive manner. It was by no means offensive, but it also had a noticeably diminished effect on my own zeal. That's when I first thought that I was starting to separate from this microcosm of music nerds, of casual obsession, of post-postmodern hunting and gathering.
This world will carry on, in one way or another, without the presence of a single membership, like mine. The question is, what do I do to fill in the void?
Matching up the contents of La Norme Concrète
with the real-world copies of The Concrete Standard is the easy part. The advantage to maintaining a record collection that only exists virtually is that the sentimental factor is greatly reduced in some instances, because one of the greatest dealbreakers when it comes to deciding whether to hang on to something (in addition to the psychic imprint it leaves on the mind and the memory bookmark it inserts into the brain) is, ironically, the packaging, which is often some of the more fleeting and superficial elements of any material object.
Example #1: I still have the box that Jones, my old iPod, came in. It serves no further purpose, because Jones has moved on to better things, but it still sits on my shelf because of the moment in time it's attached to in my memory; plus the iconic silhouette graphics are still pretty stirring. On the other hand, five fingers: it's just a cardboard matryoshka
that also exists on thousands of other peoples' shelves (plus landfills and recycling centers) and has been featured in countless of unboxing photoessays on any number of tech-fetish blogs. I'm only a casual design groupie, so there's no point in hanging on to packaging, no matter how distinctive, that's already been documented in other, more anal archives. The only practical reason to keep the box that anything comes in is for future transport, and the only other box that I still have that fits that criteria, and gets semi-regular use, is Proteus' original packaging.
Example #2: At Alma Mater my associates and I were regularly showered with promotional copies of newly-released or soon-to-be-released records. ("Showered" is perhaps an overly optimistic descriptor; more often than not, "begging for" was the operative term) Most of these "promos" came in the requisite jewel cases; identical, plastic, and utterly soul-sucking, but some of the records from specialty labels were a little fancier, most notably the late 90s re-releases from Impulse Records that attempted to recreate the distinctive style of the original vinyl pressings. These often featured gatefold artwork, expanded liner notes, and a paperstock composition that mimicked the feel of an old record jacket. Having items like these in The Concrete Standard made me want to listen to more jazz.
On the other hand, five fingers: as pretty as the packaging is, it's still just a surface detail; especially if the old adage that says the music is the only thing that really matters turns out to be true.
Dealing with packaging and its influence on minimizing however, takes on a whole new set of issues when coupled with something that is hopelessly obsolete and fatally nostalgic, but at the same time infinitely collectable and an organic foil against the digital artifacts of our post-postmodern world: vinyl.
Saddled with the Generation X stigma, I naturally grew up in a world where the audio hierarchy was dominated by the compact cassette, followed closely behind by an already-fading vinyl culture. When the compact disc premiered in 1982, I was presented with a choice of paths; embrace the burgeoning technology or cling to the already-perceived-as-obsolete format. A combination of personal economics and throwback nostalgia pushed me towards the vinyl end, even going so far as to start scrawling "SAVE THE LP" on any available flat surface with a Sharpie. And since every radio station in the country, including the ones run by my high school and community college, still employed massive vinyl libraries to provide their playlists, it was a given that anywhere I went to host a program was guaranteed to have at least two working turntables, allowing me to pick and choose from my own collection and customize the shows I hosted.
In this sense, so-called "obsolete" technology was actually an advantage, because the playback gear had already been grandfathered into the structure, while new technology like CD players either weren't the rage or hadn't been installed yet. As far as the current situation is concerned, I no longer have a turntable, I don't currently host a radio show, and I don't have the skills to be a DJ. Still, the vinyl contingent of The Concrete Standard is proving to be the most tenacious faction of the three primary formats to rid myself of. For whatever strange reason, the smaller, slicker, more futuristic compact disc seems to have less
value than the bulky, fragile, and fusty phonograph record; similar, but not the same as the heightened value the incorporeal mp3 file has over it's digital hard copy brethren.
Maybe it's because vinyl is slightly more difficult to replicate digitally that it has more staying power. Or, like everything else, it reminds us of where our collections started, as well as the potential breadth of our collections. In a post-postmodern world that is rapidly duplicating everything from more fragile formats to digital archives, very little is being left behind, but for efficiency's sake, the most relevant and popular items are being processed first. That leaves several hundred thousand worlds that are still hiding in record shop understock, used bookstore warehouses, and countless other backrooms.
The past has always been the future before the future was new.
Related: Negativland's "Shiny, Aluminum, Plastic and Digital
By the time you take the advice to heart, your life has already passed you by. I know mine has, it cruised past the station I was waiting at while I had my head down, barreling through work and depression and all the files in between; all the things we accumulate over the course of a year, a decade, a generation. By the time there was a long enough interregnum for me to realize and reorganize my thoughts and goals and desires, it was too late. It's been too late for a while now, which is not to say the time spent doing whatever I was doing up to this point was wasted into the æther; but everything so far has already set into amber and can't be improved on or changed.
Boom-Boom warned me, she warned me to get out and meet people, to not work so hard or so much, to not be so paranoid about relatively unimportant things like missing a month of rent every now and then or splurging on a savory meal every now and then or saying something foolish in mixed company every now and then. She warned me, not in so many words, to let life pass me by while I still had the strength and the passion and the drive to exploit the spaces in between work and rent and Hell-as-other-people, lest I turn into an angry, bitter, black-hearted person in ten years.
That was over ten years ago. I didn't listen. I've never been angrier or more bitter than I am now, and my heart is a cinder.
Target fixation is a term borrowed from the military and often applied to mental health; it's what happens when a fighter pilot, for example, is so focused on reaching their target that their awareness of everything else within their natural sensory range is greatly diminished, often to the point of colliding with the target itself. Because humans are mortal, we tend towards a similar kind of fixation as we traverse our limited years. At best, we focus on the present and what we're doing at the moment, what bill to pay, what clock to watch, what fermented beverage to invoke the day's amnesia with; at worst, we reverse into the past and revel in our former achievements, the younger days, the brighter nights, what once was that we forever try to recreate. Only rarely do we turn our inner gazes forwards, into the future, primarily out of fear, because the future, despite the bullshit promises of sci-fi technology and a world gestalt of unity, also houses a singular constant: death.
We don't want to live our lives in fear of death, so we ignore that which we understand the least, especially the one inevitable rule of nature that voids our very existence. And while we all leave traces of ourselves behind; in the memories of our friends and family, in our letters and essays, in the lessons we transmit to the rest of the world. But in the end, memory is only imprinted on brittle brains, words are only committed to degradable formats, and speech is mutated from one mouth to another.
At the end, we're more than dust, but less than the sum of our parts we make ourselves out to be.
Now I have to talk to my mother.
One of the stronger stigmas of having the bad luck and poor timing that comes with belonging to the so-called "Generation X
," is the fairly high probability that one is also a child of the 1980s, a decade that continues to fascinate and remains the subject of intense emulation, more so than its chronological neighbors. Despite the scarlet fashion letters of the day, (which haunt every decade, regardless) the 80s fostered a healthy archive of innovative sounds from artists unafraid to make fools of themselves.
Your Humble Narrator is one of the poster children of the 80s, having been brought into the world in the dead center of Generation X's landing zone, making the start of my formative years in 1984, pretty much Ground Zero for new wave, second British Invasion, and electrodisco standard-bearers to come. If this is the soundtrack that laid the foundation for my life story, however, electronic music are the roots that dig themselves in even deeper.
The use of electronics in music gets a bad rap in some purist circles, primarily because it's viewed as lazy, uncreative, and results in a cold, impersonal, soulless product. There is some validity to this claim; sequencing any portion of a piece of music may eliminate the risk of human error, but it also strips it of the natural impurities that make on-the-fly post-punk and jazz performances so evocative in their rawness. On the other hand, five fingers: removing the guesswork from any one element of a project also allows the team to focus their efforts more concertedly on the parts that remain; which are often things that cannot be automated without some difficulty or compromise in quality, such as vocals. Sometimes, the automated electronic parts are designed as such to purposely fade into the background, like a trance or a drone, bringing the more "handmade" elements closer to the fore of the listener's range of detection.
For whatever aberrant reason, a bleep or a bloop or a clonk is almost always infinitely more evocative to me than an electric phrase or an acoustic chord. This is the aural-olfactory trigger that's linked to so many memories captured at the moment a certain record was played, at a certain place with a certain person, that holds so much power in the bubble of instant-but-random recall.
Ruby and I had the following conversation to-day:
me: it's just interesting how we associate times and places with the soundtrack that was happening
Ruby: there's some music i listen to that makes me feel like I'm 15 years old all over again.
Ruby: which isn't always a bad thing. but usually is.
me: yah, I get that
me: like flipping thru your yearbook
Ruby: and, there aren't many bands that I've just flat out stopped liking, you know?
Ruby: everything that I've ever listened to, I still do, to some extent.
Ruby: but it's funny to hear a song that you were in LOVE with when you were younger, and just thought it was the most perfect song ever, yadda yadda
Ruby: and then when you're older, and more grown up, you give it a spin and you're like '"How did I ever relate to this?"
me: "How was this song ever a hit!?"
Ruby: I'm fond of saying "Yeah, I used to love this band, but then I stopped hating my parents.'
Ruby: take Placebo, for example. I still love them and still jam them a lot.
Ruby: but take "You Don't Care About Us" for example.
Ruby: that song was like my anthem for a while there where my friend and I stopped hanging out for a while, and up until that time, we were inseparable.
Ruby: still a great song, but it just doesn't hit me the way it used to.
Ruby: and yet I can remember perfectly how i felt at the time, you know?
The memories we generate won't be much different from the memories of previous or future generations, because memory pretty much sticks to basic human behavior; pleasure and pain, gain and loss, etc. The standards for what triggers are more legitimate, more honest, more real will change and mutate just as they have for generations before and the decades we partition them into out of convenience.
Irony: The United States is notorious for spurning the metric system, yet we as Americans still measure pop culture trends by decade.
As the future we expect becomes more and more apparent as the future, it'll be interesting to see what new events, influences, and inventions emerge as stressors for new generations of associative memories.