It’s just been the May bank holiday weekend in the UK and I undertook to do some typical bank holiday weekend stuff, including clearing out my garden sheds (that’s right, I have two! Yes I’m aware this is a seriously privileged over-allocation of sheds).
This involved the usual detritus... a decrepit lawnmower, baby & toddler instruments with bits missing, hundreds of dead spiders and much worse, a few live ones as well.
Inevitably it also involved CDs. Lots and lots of CDs, hundreds in fact, boxed up randomly – all but abandoned - a travesty of wasted plastic. Most of the CD cases are cracked of course and they generally don’t look attractive – what a faulty product when you really think about it.
I cleared a shelf unit at the back and unloaded the boxes – anything to make extra space. My god, look at this! I never even played half of these all the way through. Here’s a random sample:
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – their over-rated, over-hyped debut (mind you, their 3rd album Howl is on my ‘classics’ shelf)
Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque – isn’t this said to be a classic? – might have to revisit soon
Diesel Park West – Shakespeare Alabama – as above
Grandaddy – Sumday –I do remember being distinctly underwhelmed by this
John Frusciante – Shadows Collide With People – I think this is his 25th solo record, doesn’t he make an album a month or something?
Aha – Minor Earth Major Sky – This has a great B side on it called Barely Hanging On, but as an album it’s hardly up there alongside the likes of Scoundrel Days (or lost A-ha classic Memorial Beach)
Athlete – Tourist – their overly ambitious and eventually career limiting second – it contains literally one good song. Athlete, if you’re still out there, please go back to being the real you!
P.I.L – Greatest Hits – surely this has some crackers on it
Jerry Cantrell – Boggy Depot – what? How many solo albums do I have by guitarists from old-favourite heavy rock bands? I almost certainly paid well over a tenner for this. What was I thinking?
Gomez – Liquid Skin – One-time-lauded indie golden boys, they have actually just released a new record I see
Terrorvision – Regular Urban Survivors – assume this was a bad mistake attempt at a guilty pleasure – you can’t deny they had a sense of humour though (check out Superchronic and Bad Actress for example)
The National – Boxer – wasn’t this on several blog best of lists a few years back? If so what’s it doing in the shed? Maybe it’s a spare copy. Note-to-self - Mistaken for Strangers and Guest Room must be ripped & re-engaged with asap
Guilty Pleasures Rides Again – got to be something here for the bank holiday barbeque playlist surely
What are these fit for now?
Since there’s a set of old Mordant Short stand up speakers in here and an old amp and CD deck, I could set it all up and spend the month of May on a nostalgia trip. I’ve got the urge to just select a disc at random, and play through my favourite track from it. That might be a fun way to squeeze some value out of this motley collection. But I don’t have time for that.
I could just throw them in a box and take them down to the next car boot sale (yard sale US readers). But I don’t even think I’d get a punter for them these days. Ten years ago I did do this and the CDs sold out rapidly (a pound for three). But these days, it’s probably only old mobile handsets and iPods that fetch decent prices.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could claim a refund on CDs you never got value from? I’d be in for a good few hundred pounds cash-back on this set (which I would happily spend on new music of course). Maybe there could be an industry recycle scheme whereby you can trade in the CD and get the download version for free, or maybe exchange an old CD album for one new download track?
At least I should spend an hour with the laptop in here ripping a select bunch of tracks into my iTunes library – the Shed Playlist Spring 2009. That’ll work. I’ve created something out of it after all.
Ways of Listening
As I sorted through the piles, I thought about how varied our listening habits have become as consumers and how it all started not with digital but with the CD. One friend of mine, back in University days, would get his new CD home, shove it in the deck and promptly skip through it one track at a time, previewing each song. “How can you do that?” I would say in disgust, “you’re spoiling it for yourself, have some patience man”. And this was ten years before 30 second clips! He always was a futuristic thinker.
Another friend took it to the furthest extreme the other way. Whenever he acquired the new release disc of one of his favourite artists, he would first insist to take it upon himself to play back the entire catalogue of that artist, in chronological order. “Unrealistically obsessive, mate”, was my considered response to that one.
I fell in between these two extremes, always insisting to myself that I wait for the opportunity to playback in full any new CD purchase, on the hi-fi, not headphones. Of course, this hardly ever happened due to the ever dwindling amount of free time, hence not listening to half these abandoned CDs in my shed.
Just lately, I have actually been buying more downloads, mainly from 7 Digital. You can’t argue with the prices (many new releases on ‘sale’ at £5) and the 356 bit rate MP3’s sound pretty good to me. I miss the tactile quality of CD packaging of course and still go for some stuff on CD (recently Metric, Spoon, some classic back catalogue by Talk Talk). But after an experience like this weekend, it might be more downloads from now on and a little less plastic.