May 6, 2008

GROPING AUNT MARY - Vinyl On Demand and the Reissue Saga

When I feel like touching computers, I usually end up wandering the alleys of re-ish haunts like Vinyl-On-Demand, Akarma, and, to a lesser extent, Lilith. There's often a patch of pining and sheep-counting before I finally retire and dream of the days when I'm so cashy I can drop 100 G-dubs on a 5-lp box set of unfamiliar things. But is that really what we're hoping for? What draws us to these things?
I think the tombstone on crate-digging ought to be carved and set by now. Most of these gems probably ain't finna swim up out of the darkened stacks of a thrift store in Moose Jaw or an estate sale in Plano. They're on somebody's shelf, accumulating value or in-queue to be played for honored guests. Maybe they'll find new life in 2am radio racket. Maybe someone will throw them on a tape or upload them for scouring fans to rub their mouse all over. Needless to say, most of the fun of digging has been replaced by the obligatory feeling of deliberate searching. When I walk into a record store, my mind is empty. I forget what music is or what it looks like. When I get on the Internet, my mind is flooded by the knowledge of treasures within reach.
Is my generation destined to lose that gratifying feeling of discovery? I mean, which is worse: having someone hand you an annotated, footnoted, rare photo-drenched slab of audionecrophilia, or be trapped in that nostalgic notion of the undiscovered gem, feeding on the failed dreams of bands and artists in the wrong place at the right time? Is there a difference? Is it because we need a way of making the past and the present more clear?
One of the reasons I hit so many record stores every time I drop a toe in a new town is the search for history. There are the local scenes that petered out, the remains scattered thru the A to Z. There are the almost-movements, where three or four customers made avid requests then never returned to put up the dough. There is the local lore, tacked to the wall or dusty and framed. There are the regulars, regaling you with tales of when this place was that. They're cultural documents.
The Internet, on the other hand? I can't decide. Neither fate seems comfortable. So there it is. An unresolved argument for and a little against an unresolved conflict. Go buy the Severed Heads 5-lp box set from Vinyl-On-Demand if you just can't let the dead lie. Or download as much as you can and try to ignore the feeling that you're picking the corpse's pockets. Maybe you'll find a 5-spot.

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