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October 05, 2005

Mad Crazy Laziness

Here's the fact of the matter: Four and a half years ago, I packed up the vast majority of my CDs when I moved from Virginia to Ohio, and I never unpacked them. Before I packed the CDs away, I ripped about 1200 tracks off them onto my computer and also stuffed them into my (then state of the art) Creative Nomad Jukebox, comprising basically my own personal radio station, so I was not generally lacking in terms of the stuff I wanted hear, and aside from that I went about accreting additional CDs at the rate of several a week, and then later abandoned CDs altogether to buy everything online through iTunes, eMusic and Allofmp3.com, or to stream it off of Rhapsody. By and large unpacking those CDs was unnecessary: One way or another almost everything I wanted to hear got to my ear without having to crack open the boxes.

Note, however, that I said almost. Some material stayed stubbornly out of my grasp -- which is to say, was right in my basement if I had bothered to root through some boxes, but I wasn't, so it might as well have been on the dark side of the moon. Among them was Wrong Way Up, a one-off album from Brian Eno and John Cale, which has two of my favorite early 90s tracks on it: "Lay My Love" and "Spinning Away." For whatever reason I didn't burn either of those two tracks before I cartoned up my CDs, so I haven't heard either track since at least early 2001. I really love those tracks, and would occasionally almost rouse myself to open up the CD boxes to find the CD. But then I would think do I really want to go through all that effort for just two songs? And them once again I would slump into feculent slothery, listening to the little voice in my head that said patience, sloth Jedi. Sooner or later they will come to you.

And so they have: Rykodisc recently re-released Wrong Way Up, which means the album is now available on eMusic and Rhapsody both: I streamed it off the latter while I was downloading it from the former. Once again my interminable immobility has paid off in spades. Excellent.

To be honest, at this point, I really have to work to find a band whose output is so obscure that I can't find it anymore. Right now, on Rhapsody, I'm listening to Falling Joys, a favorite of mine in my senior year of college. These guys were an Australian band who barely made a ripple out of Oz, and yet now I have access to their entire corpus right here online. The Blue Aeroplanes? Check. Kitchens of Distinction? Check. Tanita Tikaram? Check, baby, check. I can stump the online world by pulling out bands like The Katydids, Martha's Vineyard and the Monochrome Set right out of my ass, but I bet by this time next year I'll be able to find even these hopelessly deader-than-Marley's-ghost bands. At which time Krissy will finally put her foot down and demand I get rid of all those damned boxes. And I suppose she'll be right to do it.

In the meantime: Wrong Way Up. Solid.

Posted by john at October 5, 2005 08:00 PM

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Comments

claire | October 5, 2005 09:04 PM

oh my god, now you have the strings from the first song stuck in my head "dum dah dah-da da-dum, dum dah dah-dah da da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da dum dah dah-da da-dum ..."

i can't believe you bought that on CD! i still have the damn thing on cassette tape (somewhere ...) it wasn't until a year later that my roommate finally bought a CD player and we had to go through every record store in town to find "the real ramona" on CD for his birthday. good times.

this just brings up the sound bite i gave to a friend a little while ago: in the digital age there is no more underground, only underexposed.

Steve Eley | October 5, 2005 09:45 PM

To be honest, at this point, I really have to work to find a band whose output is so obscure that I can't find it anymore.

Online? The Beatles.

(Yeah, I know, nobody's heard of them, but they really were a pretty good underground pop group in their time.)

Amanda Miller | October 5, 2005 10:09 PM

To be honest, at this point, I really have to work to find a band whose output is so obscure that I can't find it anymore.

David and David, Boomtown.
I have it on cassette.
my favorite soundtrack for 1988.

Amanda Miller | October 5, 2005 10:13 PM

yeah, nevermind. i just found it on CD on Amazon.
feh.

John Scalzi | October 5, 2005 10:21 PM

Steve, you can find the entire Beatles output on allofmp3,com. It's grey market (which is to say, it should be illegal but thanks to Russian copyright law, isn't quite), and it's where I downloaded my tracks from (I already owned all the Beatles albums, so I felt fine doing that).

Ron | October 5, 2005 11:44 PM

Katydids! Heavy Weather Traffic! Woo hoo!

You want hard-to-find-online MP3s, try the Colourblind James Experience.

Nick | October 6, 2005 12:38 AM

Blue Aeroplanes - excellent. Kitchens of Distinction - faboo! Now -- how about That Petrol Emotion, American Music Club, Trip Shakespeare, Thin White Rope, Straitjacket Fits and Slide -- any five of those gets a marriage proposal!

John Scalzi | October 6, 2005 12:45 AM

You'll need to talk to my wife about any marriage proposals. She handles those for me.

AMC -- but of course, and also Mark E as a solo entity. Straightjacket Fits -- Yup, and I can't help but think I saw them live once a very time ago on the same bill as the Blue Aeroplanes and The Church. TPE are good but not my fave, same for Trip Shakespeare, and Thin White Rope rings a bell but I can't say why. Don't know Slide.

Bill the Splut | October 6, 2005 01:04 AM

"We pushed the Empty frame of Reason out the cabin door--
No, we won't be needing Reason anymore."

But all of the songs have quotable lines.

One of my favorite albums. Too bad Eno and Cale never collaborated again, after wanting to murder each other after this one. Check those daggers between the eyes Eno put on the cover.

claire | October 6, 2005 03:05 AM

okay here are my heartbreaks:

tragic mulatto's "hot man pussy" on CD - you can buy cassette tapes on their website but no CDs baby. i don't think the CDs actually exist. if anybody has one ...

nomeansno's first two albums -- can get the CDs but can't download them on the web.

billy bragg's first three albums are out of print and you can't get CDs of the weird re-releases on his websites. also no downloads.

Jon Mann | October 6, 2005 03:17 AM

Aah, Aussie indy bands. If you like Falling Joys, you might like the Clouds; the bands were sort of stablemates at the time. I think there's a compilation album called "Collage" on iTunes.

David Klecha | October 6, 2005 07:10 AM

Indio, which featured writing and voice work from Joni Mitchell on the album "Big Harvest," is conspicuously absent. Likewise, Canadian Rock faves Moist and The Tea Party are missing or underrepresented. The absence of local guys (Domestic Problems, 19 Wheels) I can forgive, I suppose, though with both bands in hiatus I really can't go to a show to buy a CD any more, and it would be nice if there was a digital outlet.

Sue | October 6, 2005 08:30 AM

There's one song I haven't been able to get from iTunes that I've really, really wanted. Of course, at 7:30 a.m., the title eludes me, but it was off some '80s soundtrack and by somebody named John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. It was a fabulous song and I think I've heard it exactly once since the '80s.

So . . . maybe I'm the only person who thought it was fabulous. It happens.

John Scalzi | October 6, 2005 09:11 AM

Sue, you're probably thinking of "On the Dark Side" from the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack, It was a pretty big hit, actually. I don't see it on iTunes, but it's there on Rhapsody.

Jeff Hildebrand | October 6, 2005 09:41 AM

How about "The Monks"? I'm pretty sure I've seen their "Bad Habits" album as a CD on Amazon.com, but there was another CD they released (only in Canada, IIRC) whose name escapes me at the moment. I have the tapes at home... somewhere.

Then there's "The Dead Milkmen". I inherited a bunch of their stuff (on cassette tape, of course).

Anon | October 6, 2005 10:28 AM

Building a music collection around lossy compressed, DRM-controlled formats... Interesting. I mean, I ripped about 6000 songs over the past two years, but I wouldn't want to depend on my hard drive to keep them safe over the next few years. MP3s and such are convenient, which is the whole point, but for home use with a real stereo...?

And while such things are highly subjective, there is no way I'd *pay* for a DRM-controlled 128-bit AAC file. Some songs are so anemic and filled with so much AM distortion they are, in my not-so humble opinion, unlistenable. 99 cents ain't cheap enough for that kind of quality.

Well, 128-bit *anything* is not "CD quality." I'll argue that point until the cows come home, and are slaughtered for dinner.

I guess I'm just surprised that anyone would buy such things. I suppose I spend my money on all sorts of things others might consider a complete waste.

Nice website though. Shame about the lawn.

Mary | October 6, 2005 10:41 AM

Hey, eMusic uses absolutely no DRM and plain vanilla mp3 format. Believe it or not, they work on the honour system and it seems to work just fine. A couple of years ago, they were saying in plain language that you could share your files with immeidate family as well, but they now seem to require that you download for yourself only. You can still download and burn your songs as often as you want, though.

They also encode using VBR (variable bit rate) with an average rate of 192k. Yeah, not audiophile quality, but still quite good on an iPod.

I'm ripping my Monochrome Set vinyl soon. Ah, the sweet strains of "Jet Set Junta" and "March of the Eligible Bachelors" await ...

Ron | October 6, 2005 10:43 AM

Dead Milkmen are easy. I found eight of their albums on eMusic.

John Scalzi | October 6, 2005 11:18 AM

Anon writes:

"Well, 128-bit *anything* is not "CD quality." I'll argue that point until the cows come home, and are slaughtered for dinner."

Wouldn't argue the point, so the cows are safe for now. But then, most of my collection is not recorded at 128k -- I rip at higher (variable rate) encoding speeds and most of the places I download from offer a better bit rate. Even Rhapsody streams at 160k wma, and downloads at a higher rate. As for DRM, mere words cannot express my utter lack of concern as to whether I can get around it if I so choose.

More to the point, however, even the 128k encoding standard allows for perfectly acceptable casual listening from my primary musical sources, being my computer and my portable music players. For my day-to-day listening needs -- which is the issue here -- this stuff is perfectly fine.

dichroic | October 6, 2005 05:59 PM

Folky types still seem to be hard to find - I can buy CDs online easily enough but not download songs. Gordon Bok. Cindy Kallet. Alex Bevan. Tony Bird. Si Kahn. Archie Fisher. And so on.

andy | October 7, 2005 10:48 AM

Just found these tracks on Napster, pretty easily, too. Interesting, but a little before my time. I can only imagine some of you people with your Flock of Seagull hairdos standing in a circle 'dancing' to "I am the crow of desperaaation..." Great visual, at least in my head.

By the way, streaming music is great for casual listeners, and for cheap college students like myself. I pay a monthly subscription fee for Napster, but I don't dare use their track-purchasing system (99 cents per). I just stream and record it locally, using an external wave editor. It takes a little more effort to get a CD out, but it works eventually. It sounds fine for me, on my $50 computer speakers and even in my '97 Honda with 164k miles. Maybe I'll buy a real CD again when I upgrade either of these...

John Scalzi | October 7, 2005 11:19 AM

Andy, allow me to do my general handwaving in the direction of "when you leave college and get actual money, remember to go back and buy some of the music you're illegally burning onto CD."

For music I want to listen to away from the computer but I'm not sure I want to actually buy, I avail myself of the Rhapsody "to go" feature to download the stuff onto my Zen Micro. For the car, I have one of those little radio transmitters. Works fine.

Laura | October 7, 2005 04:57 PM

I'm lazy regarding my music collection, too, to the extent that if it's not on iTunes, I'll just wait for it to turn up someday. I'm currently hoping for "Pilot of the Airwaves" by Charlie Dore and "We Are the World". Yes, I know what a giant geek that makes me. :-)

Chris Barrus | October 7, 2005 06:32 PM

Seconding the recommendation of the Clouds here... I would actually pass on the "Collage" comp in favor of either "Penny Century" or "Octopus." Both are pretty close sounding to the Breeders' "Last Splash" album.

tom hill | June 1, 2006 05:39 PM

saw your comment on John Cafferty, movie was Eddie and The Cruisers. It was John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown band that did the music, song was probably Dark Side or Warm Summer Nights which you liked. I watched the dvd the other night and wanted to buy one or two songs of ITUNES but IT AINT there. You can buy CD's from amazon.

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