Line-ups that make (or break) the band

New on Collapse Board

When the two old enemies embraced this week in London, many fans were wondering if the decades-long feud was finally and fully laid to rest. Would there be a Pink Floyd reunion? A new tour? A new album? Realistically, isn’t it much too late for that now? More to the point – as many were quick to remark – the band could hardly reunite since Richard Wright had died in 2008.

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Weird Al Yankovic

Youtube user RevLucio made a fan video to accompany Weird Al’s song Germs, a parody of various NIN songs (mostly Closer). It’s from the album Running With Scissors, which I recall had some pretty sweet parodies. I love this one best because it’s an absolutely fantastic song.

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#trendingtopics: 15 Vocalists

Ofra Haza

The rules:  Don’t take too long to think about it.  Fifteen vocalists that will always stick with you.  List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.  And in no particular order.  Tag fifteen friends, and me, because I’m interested in seeing what singers my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note — in the ‘tag’ line.

Here are mine:

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Trending Topics: The Longest Tunes In My iTunes Library

Not sure if this topic is actually trending yet, but it should be! (Thanks, ET) It’s not based on all the songs in my collection, just the ones I have to hand. One song from each featured band (so it’s not just a list of Pink Floyd songs):

Sufjan Stevens – Impossible Soul (25:34)
Like Echoes, it’s like an album’s-worth of songs in one.

Pink Floyd – Echoes (16:31)
I still go absolutely weak at the knees watching that!

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#trendingtopics – Music Shuffle

From Facebook:
Time for another one of these.
Write down the first 25 random songs that come up on your MP3 player, iPod etc. I used Last.fm set to My Library station.
No cheating!
No editing!

I thought I’d give it a go, using Last.fm, just to see what would happen. I found it interesting because it was forcing me to listen to things that I hadn’t heard in a while or given a particularly fair listen, and playing things out of the context of how I usually hear them. There’s some good songs here …

1. Foetus – Verklemmt

Bit of a no-brainer for me, considering how much I’ve been listening to this lately. I find the video hard-going (made by Alex Winter from Bill & Ted, it’s got literally thousands of cuts), but it’s a great song from the album GASH.

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2. The Kinks – Dead End Street

Ah, I never tire of this song. I used to play it a lot when I was unemployed and starving-broke, living in a miserable bedsit in one of the rougher parts of South London.

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Perfect 10

The “perfect 10” ratings given to Kanye West’s new album have given many pause for reflection on the inherent ridiculousness of numerical review scores. When Metacritic lists a score of 93 on an album, it does suggest that it must be uncommonly good. I mean, that many people giving it 10/10? Really? For something to be that good, it really has to be as good as albums ever get. What worried me in this case was how few people seemed willing to really mention the music – what made it such a “perfect” album?

No album will ever be perfect, but I would expect a “perfect ten” to be strong all the way through. It would have to be more innovative than Radiohead’s The Bends, and stronger than My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, which was certainly inventive but was ultimately forgettable as a collection of songs. There’s plenty of great albums I just never got round to buying. You might be surprised that I’ve never bought Sgt Pepper, and I don’t really know why I didn’t, but I can’t miss what I don’t know. Many more, I’ve not owned long enough to know I’ll still love them many years down the line, or they have too many weak moments among the strong.

Pitchfork gave The Stone Roses a perfect 10, and that’s the opposite of what I’d call an “ideal” album – they were really only good for one single, and the album was ultimately quite weak and patchy, didn’t break any new ground and was – at least by me – quickly forgotten. A perfect 10 needs to do better – much better, at least, than the brief snippets of Kanye’s new record, which didn’t entice me to hear more. If I’m thinking of a “perfect 10”, it has to be something like

Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

Primarily influenced by David Bowie’s Low with the thematic influence of The Wall, it’s not really surprising that I would love it this much. As a varied and consistent album, The Downward Spiral is stronger than anything NIN produced before or since. Over 15 years later, Trent Reznor’s breakdown album is still an absolute pleasure to hear.

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How Much Is Music Worth?

Yesterday, I waffled about the music collection that includes the 21 Nine Inch Nails records we’ve paid for. Today I’m going to talk about the one that was free. It also features a pretty awesome (presumably fan-made) video with NIN as the Village People!

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“You think 925 is a lot?” observed my colleague, discussing yesterday’s post. “We have 5,000 CDs.

OK, so that’s a lot.

“Well,” she explained, “They were only about five pounds each.”

Music these days is cheap. This is a good thing in many ways, because it makes music more accessible. Music fans have essentially divided themselves in two: those who buy music and those who don’t.

Back in the old days *creak*, you either bought a record – again, for around six pounds for a vinyl album – or you taped it off a friend. There were singles you bought and singles you taped off the radio. That was how you decided its value: you’d either put up with the crackling hiss of poor-quality audiocassette or shell out for the real thing. New music was discovered through the radio, cover-mount giveaways with magazines, or home-taped compilation cassettes.

Of course, the scale of the non-purchasing was small: on average, each album would be shared between two or three people – not the 20,000 you might get on a torrent site. If you taped an album, you’d at least give it a listen, not shove it on a CD somewhere and forget it existed.

That’s the trouble with these days. I remember the first time I did it. In the days before Napster et al, my husband’s friend had a huge hard-drive full of songs he had ripped from CDs, and invited us to load up a CD-R full of free music. I grabbed two albums and a ton of miscellaneous tracks.

I realised something very strange quite early on: that I wasn’t happy with my home-burned versions of the albums I liked. I wanted to have that sense of ownership that comes with buying a record: I bought them both almost right away. I also felt guilty about what I regarded as theft.

As for the miscellaneous tracks, stripped from the context of the albums to which they belonged – or to the lovingly-assembled tracklisting of a compilation tape – they felt literally worthless. I didn’t even bother to listen to them. I have played that CD-R twice in a full decade. Any of the tracks I gave a damn about, I just bought the album.

For some reason, I get on fine with digital downloads. I think it’s the pain of purchase. Not the hassle of purchase – Amazon’s one-click checkout system is a godsend, and the bane of drunken impulse-purchasers everywhere. (Kanye West? Really?) Nope, I mean the old-fashioned bittersweet transaction of parting with hard-earned cash to enjoy the fruits of another’s labour. My sweat buys your sweat.  (They really need to fix that aircon.) The thrill of online shopping is every bit as tangible as buying something in a store: the price of a cup of tea buys me a song; I can have an hour’s music for an hour’s (minimum) wage.

When you get something free that is not a personal gift, you don’t value it. It is, quite literally, worthless. Through this, we have utterly devalued music. Those who don’t buy music often download tens of thousands of tracks which they don’t bother to listen to and certainly don’t love. There’s no appreciation there. No value. They haven’t sacrificed even the tiniest bit to own it. For me, a music purchase is a choice I’ve made between that album and a video game; that album and a lipstick; that album and a new pair of shoes. My Skechers are so worn through that they’re tearing up my socks and blistering my soles, but my ears are happier than ever.

What’s really making me happy lately is Nine Inch Nails’ 2008 album, The Slip. It was given away as a free download – crucially labeled as “a gift” from Trent Reznor to reward his fans for their many years of devotion.

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David Bowie & NIN: Hurt

I remember being very worried that the universe would explode from sheer awesome when this concert took place. Bowie in white – aloof, icily cool and alluring; Trent in black – passionate, sensual, vulnerable and sexy as hell. I never loved them more …