Offsetting the Uncool Footprint

“Would you sleep with that?” A sleeve-art picture of a young Dave Mustaine was thrust into my hand.

I looked up at the doppelganger. “I do sleep with that.”

Him Indoors shrugged, replacing the CD with its 12 brothers in the Megadeth section of our record collection. It was the first time we’d done this, despite having lived together for nearly a decade. We finally alphabeticised and listed our 925 sound recordings before boxing the CDs into special stackable clear plastic boxes so that we can actually find music when we want to listen to it.

Fear Factory … Filter … Flyleaf … Foetus. I picked up one of the 19 pieces of Thirlwell magic and checked the condition of the jewel case, noting the same moody pout. “Are you absolutely sure you don’t have any redheaded uncles who maybe travelled a lot?”

He laughed. “Is this your copy of Implode or mine?”

Front Line Assembly are by far the most represented act in our collection. That’s the trouble when your tastes overlap – you end up with two of everything. Even taking out the duplicates, we have 32 FLA records; 7 on vinyl, 25 on CD. Two sets of Delerium, two sets of NIN, two KMFDM collections and two copies of Die Krupps vs Front Line Assembly: The Remix Wars.

Of course, we don’t have all the same records. The pop and indie is decidedly mine, just as the metal and most of the dance music is his. If it’s from the 60s, it’s mine, but most of the 80s releases are his. Normally, we can glance at a record and know immediately who bought it. Cardiacs’ Baby Heart Dirt? Mine. ZZ Top’s Eliminator? His. There’s a fair number where our overlapping tastes allow us to neatly fill in the blanks in the collection (Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Mission), and a fair few oddities such as how the hell we ended up with two copies of Pigface’s Gub despite neither of us thinking that it’s actually any good.

Then there’s the ones that you honestly don’t know how the hell they ended up there. Van Morrison & Cliff Richard’s Whenever God Shines His Light. I mean, really? I honestly do not remember buying it. I don’t remember ever even liking it. I’m definitely sure it doesn’t belong to Him Indoors, so how on earth did it end up on this list? Did it get accidentally swapped with a former flatmate for my missing copy of Dark Side of the Moon?

That got me thinking, however: what’s the difference between the embarrassing records you’re quite proud of, and the ones that actually make you cringe? You know how people are trying to offset their carbon emissions. Can you do that with music?

What would it take to Offset the Uncool Footprint of that particular single? I mean, I’m not embarrassed about it because of the content – I’ll happily own up to enjoying spiritual sing-alongs by Donna Summer and Candi Staton – it’s just that it’s Cliff-Bloody-Richard and he kinda creeps me out. Let’s face it, we all know that hardly will his corpse be cold but all the revelations will come spluttering out about how he’s spent the past 50 years snorting cocaine off the backs of boy prostitutes. I suppose I have no real opinion on Van Morrison.

If I combine my original 7″ Magical Mystery Tour EP (which includes I Am The Walrus) with my copy of Diana Ross’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, would that do it? How about if I throw in my glow-in-the-dark 12″ of Kraftwerk’s Neon Lights? Or is that no longer cool?

Cool is relative. One of HI’s friends was secretly embarrassed about loving ZZ Top, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all. On the other hand, to own one copy of Def Leppard’s Hysteria might be seen as unfortunate; three looks like carelessness. Are HI’s 14 Def Leppard records offset by his 28-strong Laibach collection? Or even just the one ultra-rare white-label Meat Beat Manifesto 12″?

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A decade ago, most people would have been hesitant to admit to owning 30 records by Iron Maiden (that’s excluding the big metal box monstrosity). Not too long ago, Iron Maiden were suddenly fashionable, though you might get a few funny looks if you admit to the 18 Helloween records in the closet.

I think a record can’t be truly embarrassing if it’s fun to listen to. Dammit, even my copy of The Birdie Song by The Tweets earnt its place in my collection by being bloody entertaining when I was five. I can even offset that by having danced my ankle-socks off to Toyah’s I Want To Be Free that very year.

If that’s not cool enough, I have an extremely rare promotional red-vinyl 7″ by a band called Smash called “Lady Love Your C***“, which is somewhat let down by not actually being any good whatsoever; and if left-wing sloganeering doesn’t do it for you, I also have My People Were Fair And Wore Sky In Their Hair But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars In Their Brows by Tyrannosaurus Rex – which is also, I regret to say, utter crap.

Then again, I need those to offset Kinky Boots and the Vic Reeves version of Dizzy, both of which I can semi-justify by protesting that they were bought in the postmodern ironic 90s.

There were quite a few oddities turned up in this process. A copy of H3llb3nt’s Hardcore Vanilla, which turned out to be a CD-R with “not final version” scribbled on it in marker pen. A 45 rpm 7″ from the 1950s called “Enid Blyton Reads Noddy Stories” – no doubt something my mum listened to as a kid. A Creatures 7″ that HI picked up from the Anima Animus tour that seems to be filled with postcards and no actual music. A floppy disc by satirist Chris Morris that came free with Select magazine in which he did a spoof Pixies track called “Motherbanger“, playing all the instruments himself.

The Uncool Footprint on my cringeworthy Flowered Up album can be offset by its contemporary – my signed Verve 10″ of the still-awesome Gravity Grave. I have to face myself in the mirror after purchasing a Kanye West track by digital download, but I hope that my ownership of an extremely obscure punk single by Gog Magog that Organ fanzine was plugging a while back goes some way towards recompense.

I was pleased to find my copy of German jazz-rock breakbeat crew Plexiq’s Bambi Dragon Don’t Spit No Fire, and my vinyl Indie Top 20 Volume 9 (the one with Fatima Mansions on it), which fulfils every imaginable criteria of “cool”. (Wow, those tracks still sound great!)

Unfortunately, I have multiple items by Chapterhouse that I just don’t think I have anything cool enough to “pay” for. The Slowdive, the Ride stuff – that was just a product of being that age at that time, but I find it hard to imagine ever having thought Chapterhouse were as brilliant and amazing as I did at the time, and I genuinely did love them. No amount of reasoning, pleading, apologising or trying to hide it with a strategically-placed chair leg can make up for owning one album and two singles by such a wishy-washy bunch of limp, insipid, floppy-haired lispers. (Who, I hasten to add, were perfectly nice young men.)

All I have to offer for my defence is that I also have two releases by Girls Against Boys, who were to “cool” what Chuck Norris was to “tough” (back when Chuck Norris was the law and definition of tough). It’s a long shot, but it might just work.

Either way, that Cliff record is going to the local charity shop, in the hope that some granny or other will think it’s such a lovely record by “that nice young man”, and will like it a lot more than I ever will.

Of course, grandma might just pick up that spare copy of the Remix Wars CD instead …

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3 comments on “Offsetting the Uncool Footprint

  1. (I have to start by saying that this isn’t meant to be antagonist, but is meant to offer one perspective.)

    I suppose being in the biz, or connected to it (depending upon how you look at it) makes ‘cool’ important. At some point in my 30s, I finally decided I didn’t care anymore about what people thought of the music I like. To prove it, I’ll tell you that while I don’t listen to their stuff often, I love Duran Duran. Totally uncool, I know–but I don’t care anymore. I got totally zen about it–I like what I like, other people like what they like, everyone’s allowed to have their taste and what’s the point in arguing about it? What’s the point in calling some music fluff, even if it doesn’t display any particular talent, if someone enjoys it? Music I enjoy makes me feel good–why should I feel bad about it, if someone else thinks it’s garbage?

    In short–like what you like, don’t like what you don’t like, and yeah, toss stuff that you used to like, or somehow wound up owning. But shame is stupid, and labeling some stuff as cool and some stuff as not cool is really only about saying “if someone likes this, they should be ashamed, because it’s garbage.” That’s why, as far as I am concerned, ‘cool’ is bunk.

    Not that my opinion on the matter is worth more than anyone else’s. 🙂

    • Oh, that’s fighting talk if ever I heard it! I LOVE Duran Duran! 😀

      Seriously, though, I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’ll vigorously defend the pop songs in my collection.

      To me, “uncool” is synonymous with “not very good”. However unfashionable, something that has genuine merit is always cool, which is why Toto Coelo’s “I Eat Cannibals” scored rather highly in my all-time Top 100.

      It’s been nearly 10 years since I was “in the biz”, though I guess HI still is very much a part of that particular machine, but either way I couldn’t love the music I very passionately enjoy if I adhered to Pitchfork-style fashionable standards. You’re completely right that it should be based on what gives you pleasure.

      This post was only intended as a lighthearted opinion piece, and of course your opinion is worth more than other people’s – or it should be to you, anyway. 😉

  2. Pingback: 30 day song challenge: day 14 – a song that no one would expect you to love « Reinspired

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