I did something I haven’t done for a long time tonight: I bought myself two CDs. Music in the flesh. Not just downloaded through iTunes. Or got from wherever. My grandmother gave me some money for my birthday so I went to the record store and ran my eyes over all the shiny cases. Ran my fingers over the ones I found attractive. And then handed over some not-so-hard-earned and took home two CDs wrapped in a brown paper bag.
When I got home I took out the sleeves and looked at all the glossy pictures and the lyrics all laid out. You forget the ritual of reading lyrics when you download music. You don’t get to see the banality of some music made flesh. (However, I usually subscribe to the Pulp theory of lyrics, as is printed on many of their albums: “Please do not read the lyrics while listening to the recordings”. They have a point).
That’s one thing that I do enjoy about digital music, I listen, and that’s it. I don’t read lyrics, I don’t see imagery, I just hear the music and that’s what sells it to me. I have found it strangely regressive. It feels like the (very) old days when I just listened. It wasn’t about image, or reputation, or sex. It’s about music. (I have been rather relieved though to see that my selections made on sound have still kept my taste on the respectable side, if I may say so myself).
Of course, digital music is still force fed to us with images. Alongside the music video telly shows, now there’s YouTube. You can watch music videos whenever you want. You can see artists’ television appearances, interviews, the lot. And of course, they’re all on MySpace.
At high school I used to visit the newsagent every day waiting for the three-month-old shipped-by-surface-mail NME to arrive. I would feed on it, not having even heard many of the bands. I used to pick some that seemed to sound ok in print, get their recordings through no small amount of effort and fashion myself around them. There weren’t many that I picked out that I ended up detesting. I’m sure my parents had to repaint my room when I left, such was the amount of blu-tac I used to stick up NME covers.
My consumption methods have changed, but tonight when I walked out of the shop I still felt the same old thrill and I had to admit, watching your tracks download from iTunes just doesn’t have the same kick.