Don't take my vinyl away

Or so says Urge Overkill.

Pearl Jam tells me to spin the black circle.

Slint tells me that their "...recordings [are] meant to be listened to on vinyl."

And Drive Like Jehu, not a band to mince words, kindly scrawls "CDs really ----ing blow."

Not to mention to the zillions of bands that only release tunes on 7" singles, or bands that dump extra tracks on vinyl releases of their albums, or even bands that release two record versions of their albums (whilst those stuck in the CD age only get one).

But this isn't about vinyl. I'm writing about recording medias period.

Everyone seems to have their favorite way to release stuff. The hipsters dig vinyl. The majority dig compact disc. The elderly and mix tape fanatics dig cassettes. The brain-damaged dig 8-track. Frank Black digs whatever ancient thing he can get his hands on. And some just dig live performance, forgoing that silly recording idea altogether.

Vinyl does (honestly) have a warm, warm, cozy sound to it. Hearing the needle slide into the grooves is a wonderful sensation. Compact discs have a nice "mastered" sound and are easy to use and carry. Cassette tapes have the unbeatable side dynamic, forging an art form on the spot. 8-tra--okay, that's a lost cause.

Bicker about these, please. It's only right.

But get this. Digital audio is taking over. In a sense, it's TAKEN over and not entirely settled in. Pshhh...forget CDs, dude. I gots me an iPod! I can carry FIFTEEN THOUSAND SONGS in the palm of my hand. Music has become so advanced that you don't have to lug a stack of vinyl over to your friend's house just to check out some new tunes; you can IM someone an MP3 or swap iPod playlists.

I think iPods are neat, and Apple has a nice gadget on their hands.

But there's a problem. Digital music is destroying an art form.

People don't care about album art. People don't care about song titles. People just want the catchy beats without any sort of intrusion whatsoever.

But that's like tossing water on a Monet painting just so you can carry the colors around in your hand. Forget that. Digital music has its place, but overuse of it is frankly destroying art. One of my favorite things to do is open a new CD (or cassette or record or 8-t--joking) and check out the song titles and album art and liner notes and thank yous and lay-out of tunes. I'm in a minority, especially when you can zip over to Napster and snag whateverthatsongiscalled for free so you can put this song that rocks the party that rocks the body into your MP3 player.

Art? Who cares about that?

I'm greeted by a chorus of crickets.

Hope it's available on vinyl.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/30/2005 10:30:00 PM, ,

One hundred million people can be wrong

Pitchfork Media.

Oh, bless/curse thy name! Pitchfork Media. Only five syllables, yet summoning up enough excitement and anger to last a lifetime. Conflicting emotions. Ruptured identity.

Pitchfork Media. With trembling hands I visit you daily, leaving a scorned lover or a best friend. I wake up with hopes that you'll review my favorite new album. I see the name. Do I read the review? Or do I back away, forget about it, do something else?

History lesson:

Pitchfork Media is an independently run music review site, and in its seven (or so) year lifespan, has become the most successful and influential Internet-based site geared around independent music (whatever that means-- you can't tell these days). I've been a follower since 1999. I guess that makes me want of the crochet old men who yap about "it being better in the old days."

But it wasn't. Pitchfork sucked back then. The reviews made my writing look like Tolsoy; they were two paragraphs or less of shoddy one-liners and indie cred high-fives. Since then, PFM has collected a capable collective of music snobs to fill its ranks, and now the site is a giant billboard for ads. Oh, there's also five reviews a day plus lots of other features.

Here's the problem: I can't put a finger on the fine details of the problem, but Pitchfork's overall approach to the arts drives me up a wall. Instead of trying to broaden peoples' musical horizons, they gather their favorite things under the snob umbrella and don't let the sun in. Oh yeah, they also recently started branching out (reviews of mainstream things) to try to "okay" it for their ilk to listen to Big & Rich or Fantasia.

That's a big one. But oh, the other crimes they commit. As noted by a friend and freelance writer, PFM appears to utilize a plan or map or something. They promote whatever their niche genre-of-the-month happens to be (freak-folk, grime, dance-punk and ambient English techno-sleazy are all recent examples), and in the process they ignore or dismiss anything else. And the albums that don't fit into their plan are kicked out of the indie snob club without even a goodbye or complimentary hat. I can think of how many good albums have been given mediocre (at best) or abysmal (at worst) ratings because they weren't making horse noises or copying Gang of Four or whatever was cool in the Pitchfork offices that month.

And the reviewers. Gah. Talent? By all means! If I could write using the vocabulary of some of those folks I'd have a Ryder truck full of cash waiting for me every city I visited. I don't think they have any "fair" reviewers, though. Well, they do, but they lock them in closets and only bring them out to get someone to write about Superdrag complelations. The Big Guns either praise something to high heavens or make it look like the Worst Album Ever. Look at the year-end polls, man! There's a lot of worthy stuff on there, but the Rapture nabbed the top spot a few years ago. That probably made the band some money, but has anyone cared about them since then? And the Arcade Fire disc is pretty sweet, but they're hailing it like it was the best thing since flush toilets. And they tend to diss bands altogether solely because it's cool to diss them. Yes, I'm talking about Pedro the Lion. First you hate them because they/he made a concept album, then you hated them/him because they/he stopped making concept albums. I just think PFM hates Pedro because of the Christianity thing. Christians aren't allowed under PFM's Cool Umbrella unless your name is Sufjan. I'm sure loyal readers will always remember the teenie-bopping hysterics of Spencer Owens or the oft-hilarious, oft-mind rending Brent DiCrescenzo (whose Tool-review-as-high-school-English-essay was brilliant), but raving psychotics like those two are few and far between.

But I do love the site. As much as I hate it, I LOVE it too. I'm really happy when they actually give something I like a good review. They haven't touched the new Teenage Fanclub CD yet, but if they give it over a 7.0 I'm going to go nuts (in a positive way). Their news section is fantastic as well, and they've sometimes the only place I can get any info about bands I like without wading through Google for hours. And they've also "broken" some artists I love big time: Sufjan Stevens (Daniel Smith admitted that PFM basically made the Suf's career), the Arcade Fire, Dizzee Rascal (at least in the US), the list goes on and on and on. They even solidified the Wrens' fanbase, something the band deserved after all of those years.

I'm going to cut this off before it gets any longer. As it stands, Pitchfork calls the shots. They can say __________'s new CD is the best thing ever, and millions of unwashed hipsters will buy it or BitTorrent it or something. I love Pitchfork for some many aspects, but there needs to be another hub of underground music critique that isn't cliquish and self-important. And I need to create it.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/30/2005 09:29:00 AM, ,

Fun under the age of 80

Rumor has it that Beaver County has the second highest concentration of senior citizens in the United States (next to some county in Florida). Big shock. The speed limit signs around here might have "55 MPH" listed on them, but the working speed limit is somewhere in the teens.

See, locals complain about there being nothing to do. "Beaver County is boring," they say. Or, "This place is dumb. Let's go to Pittsburgh." Okay. These words usually come out of the mouth of people under the age of 30. But they're wrong.

Beaver County has LOTS to do. Never a dull moment-- if you're retired, that is. Bingo halls are around every corner. Retirement homes dot the landscape to the horizon (you don't have to leave to play bingo there). There are also lots of nice places to eat in the area, at least. Older folks like to go out to eat, right? Oh yeah, public parks and yard sales and matinee shows at theatres and social halls are always dominated by teetering, staggering seniors. George Romero hails from western Pennsylvania; is it any surprise he makes zombie movies?

But back to the fun thing. I don't like the "whaaa no fun here" complaints. It even plagues Geneva students (I won't get into that in this post). Oh no, Beaver County is boring! There's nothing super exciting here to occupy my attention!

Get a grip. There's plenty to do. Or, lemme guess, do you need some sort of giant teen/early 20s-geared fun palace to divert your attention? I guess our society equates fun with going to raves and re-enacting Budweiser commercials. Go to Pittsburgh, then. You can have fun anywhere if you put your mind to it. Sometimes all it requires is yourself. I have fun sitting down and using my imagination. Or playing an instrument. Or drawing. Or watching birds. Or watching the sun set. Sure, I have a blast doing complex fun things with tons of people, but it's not a requirement. There's also more than a few little parks, coffee shops, mom and pop eateries, historical landmarks, and pretty places to sit down and watch nature. Oh, right, that stuff is boring. I forgot, I guess.

So if you constantly complain about how lame it is in BC, put your money where your mouth is and move. I'm sure there's a non-stop P. Ditty party waiting for you somewhere else. And lots of glitzy malls you can roam around in while talking on your cell phones to someone two feet away.

I even plan to leave someday. Maybe a writing or music job will take me out of here. But I'm trying to enjoy what is in Beaver County instead of being upset about what isn't. For now I'll stay put with the old people and make my own fun.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/29/2005 04:01:00 PM, ,