In defense of… record store rituals
As I sit here listening to the Morbid Angel discography backwards in order to determine if there is any difference in my opinion or enjoyment of each release whilst hearing them in the context of reverse chronologically, as I never have before, I came to the realization of a few things. One, Im kind of fucked up. Like, mentally. Just kidding - kind of, maybe. Not that that is necessarily NEWS to the world or myself, but sometimes that realization floats into my head like pollen after child roars into a dandelion, sending the debris soaring like little white batmen into the world. It's nice. I deal with it. It lands gently and sort of infiltrates my psyche with respect, my eyes might itch for a second, but I’m all good in the end. No harm no foul. But sometimes it hits me like an overworked and underpaid therapist that barely misses my abused, protruding, and devilishly crooked nose as she slams a healthy stack of psychology textbooks on a desk in front of me; leaving me coughing for my life in wake of the dust and sending my blood pressure into certain overdrive; as if the several mugs of jet black coffee I had before this completely fabricated session didn’t already have that completely under control. But, fuck, man. There are plenty worse things in life. CASUAL SEGWAY: like getting your music only digitally!! I understand not everyone aligns themselves with this view or even has an opinion on it at all. Unluckily for you, I have more than few words to say on the subject. There is something within me that I can’t explain that goes beyond a mere love for music, or books, or just art, in general. And as I scan my head to try to figure out what it is in this moment and I look back on all the words I’ve already mistyped and concluded my brain is ten steps ahead of my physical being, completely leaving out letters and swapping them for miscellaneous characters, as I have an undying audacity to spew out forth onto the page everything I can in fear that I’ll lose it forever - but its easier to lose words than a lot of things. People being one of them. Music another. Experience being the main one. And sometimes I’m scared that there is not enough time left in life to listen to every record I want to listen to (in various orders and sections, apparently), read every piece of classic writing I want to read as well as keep up with the current offerings and.. OH FUCK, I forgot about that Japanese horror manga collection I ordered from the Powers That Be 4 months ago that sits in a stack collecting crypt dust and spiders a long with numerous others.. anyway, you get the gist. I HOPE. Yeah, it is all quite overwhelming and everyday I put my nose to the grindstone and do my absolute WORST to get it all done. Some may see that as ridiculous. I see them as wasteful. At the end of the day, we’re all in this science experiment called Life On Earth together, and no one knows shit about which shortcut we took to get here or how we’re leaving or where the actual hell we end up… and if its at least going to be cool or not. It’s kind of like waltzing into a record store and blindly buying one with no prior knowledge of whats actually embedded within the grooves - that can be seen as burning excitement or a horrifying waste of money - depending on your viewpoint. I am NOT about to waste this experience NOT listening to Formulas Fatal To Flesh by Morbid Angel, which FINALLY brings us to my SECOND realization that Gateways to Annihilation remains my favorite Morbid Angel release; ESPECIALLY when listening to their discography in reverse order. SO TAKE THAT. Often times the first trilogy in tier records (Altars, Blessed, and Covenant) are considered the holy grail, so to speak. But, for me, the SECOND trilogy are infinitely more dynamic and interesting; awesome, slimy, vibrant, and artistically powerful death metal records (Domination, Formulas, and Gateways). Either way, theres something to be said for that raw brutality of the first one (Altars), it is just so fucking great. BUT for all of our sakes, let’s not get going on an old-school death metal tangent again… although all those releases ARE available in their “Full Dynamic Range” editions via Earache Records and I IMPLORE you to look into that shit. Go ahead, keep telling me my intros are way too long and often entirely too personal and barely proof read… go ahead. I’ll add an extra paragraph full of death metal and extensive verbage. I’ll fuckin’ do it. The Devil Made Me Do It And I’ll Do it AGAIN. And you’ll like it. Aaaand were off…
I have gathered you all here to day in attempt to explain the connection, deep seated love, passion, and experience I have with physical music. Vinyl especially, but CD’s and cassettes as well. I have memories with these mediums and records that I can talk about like I’m talking to you about an ex-girlfriend, nostalgic time in childhood delinquency, a family member, or a vacation I went on with fond memories of.. only difference is, I’m MUCH happier and more excited to exhume the memory of my old Alice Cooper Live cassette or Judas Priest’s British Steel vinyl I scored from Jerry’s Records, the first record store I ever set foot in, when I was 13. My heart is a semi-vacant coffin that fills up little by little every time I see a record store go out of business, people reading books on their iPhones, “pre-ordering” an album on Apple Music (like.. honestly, blow me), you get the picture. I’m no dinosaur old war veteran holding on to the good old days, I’m ripely 24 years old… arguably with the life experience of a 56 year old and the mentality of a 7 year old, but we’ll get to that LATER. There is something, like magic, that cannot be replicated or reproduced about vinyl records. The feeling, the experience, the ritual, everything that goes into it, makes the music better. I promise you, it does. NOW if you are reading this, odds are I’m not telling you anything you don’t know because you’re strong passionate understanding music freaks that dominate the Earth, and I love you. BUT the rest of ya who are still hanging in there somehow (there’s a lot more coming so you might wanna take a deep breath), this might help. KIDS, just because you can download any song at any time and listen to it right there and now DOES NOT mean that you will enjoy it more than hearing it on physical releases - in fact, it dampens the quality and kills the value! Whether you realize it or not. Of course, you are not about to bust out a vinyl record player at a high school house party and throw on say James Booker’s "Lost Paramount Tapes" while playing beer pong and trying to get laid or something (although, that would be dope as hell and I commend you for trying), there’s a time and a place for everything. Digital media, Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, they are tools. Tools to get you to where you think you need to be musically. You can check shit out, access it quickly, use it in appropriate situations like the gym.. OR my party scenario - that’s alllll well and good my friends. But, goddamn, we need to appreciate the physicality of life more. We are dark, primal, ritualistic, rock & roll and electric-infused human beings. The ritual of somehow accruing the record (thorough an actual store, even online, your friend’s older brother that always tries to sell you weed and lives in basement, whatever), opening it, wasting time plucking at the shrink wrap carefully so you don’t scuff the gloriously displayed art work (yeah, album art becomes a significant when you don’t look at a 2 inch version of it) dusting it off, setting it in the demonic record playing needle device, spinning it, hearing the crackle and fuzz as the intro riff bleeds in to Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath from their debut record Black Sabbath… that’s a ritual you’ve just performed. That’s special. You feel that shit. That’s in our blood. We inherently feel good about it. That is COMPLETELY diminished with Spotify. The experience is not even in the same world, it is so far removed and pissed on. You know when you used to steal your Mom’s vodka, drink half the bottle, feel awesome, get hammered, and do really fun shit and maaaybe crank Pantera; remember how cool that was? Remember then, also, when you filled the remaining half of that bottle up with water hoping she didn’t notice? Either she did and you got some sort of punishment, or she didn’t and you actually forgot, and proceeded to drink that watered down vodka to great displeasure and shittier feeling? THAT’S the difference in feeling from psychical musical to digital, to my best analogy skills… Wait, no? None of that happened to you? It was just me? Don’t be silly. I just drank all the Vodka. Fuck it. MY POINT is... Kids today need this experience of physical music wether they realize it or not. It was so vastly important for my growth and development in more ways than one… (obviously) mentally, spiritually, you name it, it’s the best medicine. Along with lifting weights and drinking blood, of course. And I mean that. Perhaps, music just isn’t your thing, man. OK, well, apply it to books. Apply it to photography. Apply it to WHATEVER. The world is better that way, the real way. DeathComesLifting.Com. Boom. YES. I said it.
NOT TO MENTION, the element of surprise that is also completely diminished by having the ability to sample, and now, actually listening to the whole album in its entirety as many times as you want before you “buy” it. Which, with what I’m approximating by many artist’s paychecks is that is a silent majority of the population. Not having to take a risk on a record, for better or for worse, is a lesson hard learned when carried on into real life, and a fun one to learn with music while the stakes are low. Think about it, you come across record with a cover so strange, appealing, speaking to you directly almost literally; but you have no way of listening to it. Are you actually going to waste $20 on something the that’s potential to be the worst excuse for a collection of instrumentation the you’ve ever heard in your life ever? I’d argue, well, yeah. Yeah, you should. Because if that record is the BEST collection of music you’ve ever heard, it quickly becomes the best twenty dollars you’ve ever spent. It’s so validating and rejuvenating that I’m imaging that’s what it’s like at the blackjack table when you hit on your big risk… although I don’t win there. BACK to the story, if you hate the record, worst case scenario… a cool record store made $20 and hopefully they’ll protect your musical best interest with it and you have a ridiculous record to enhance your collection with that you may even like later. Tough trade off, EH? Not having to buy music, or furthermore, getting to preview every song before or IF you decide to listen to the whole album, dampens (and in my onion RUINS, although I understand most are not as dramatically passionate/ridiculous as myself) the listening experience. Not only because there’s no element of surprise because you know what to expect because obviously you already or you wouldn’t have listened to it after the preview session.. but because there’s NO FUN to it anymore. There’s no electricity, no risk, no excitement!!! Going back to my pervious gambling example, that’s probably why people addictively gamble, right? Because of the edge of the cliff risk that’s involved with the red line adrenaline- pumping pay off at the end of the risk; it’s a symbiotic relationship. Minimizing the risk minimizes the intensity of the reaction to the reward. It becomes cheapened drastically. I don’t even like to listen to singles or watch videos that artists release leading up to the record’s release because I don’t want to spoil anything for myself, I’d rather hear that single in context of the record, how it was intended to be, before I formulate any sort of opinion. It’s funny the value we place on music versus other art forms in this way. Half of you would SHIT YOUR FUCKING SHORTS if one single second of a spoiler is revealed from the next completely regurgitated and generic Marvel film; but will listen to three quarters of every song on every album before you buy it or not without even batting an eyelash. But, who is this cynical vampire to cast judgement? I just think it’s time for a reevaluation of the value we truly place on music and more specifically, physical music and the things it can teach us about ourselves and life in general. Hold on.. I gotta go flip the record. I’m listening to my favorite record of all time for inspiration while writing this… The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars by Mr. Bowie, may he be resting in eternal peace and rock ’n roll harmony. That’s just it, though. This world seems to be becoming so cold, digital, corrupt, uncertain, crazy. Entering Ziggy’s world is a creative and pleasurable escape, and inspires me to attempt to create a world similar, or die trying at the very least. I fear we the people, but especially the children today, will not have that escape. The will not be generously given that hope that David Bowie gave me and continues to give me; and that’s a terrifying reality to even a death obsessed horror gore freak metal head like me. Physical music raised me. That’s where I developed my sense for the world, my ideals, my beliefs, my artistic vision, my SELF. Not that I, or anyone (besides Bowie) is perfect, but I would be severely lost and ultimately unhappy without that physical music experience. And I just implore you to give it a try… with a PROPER turntable and speakers NOT that Crosley suitcase compact record player shit PLEASE. But I digress because beggars cannot be choosers. And ya gotta do what ya gotta do. And ya gottta fight the power. One love. In conclusion, NOT to completely demolish and piss on everything that is iTunes & Spotify, I use them myself. Quite frequently, in fact!! Have you taken a look at my playlists? Enough said. They are a wonderful tool and taking advantage of modern technology is only beneficial if you balance it out with physical reality. They are an incredible source of infinite catalogs of music available in their entirety for basically no cost. But could you imagine if that’s always been around? How we as music fans/consumers and the business would change for the worse? Not to mention it’s overwhelming to a point that it drives me ab-so-freaking-lutely mad because I end up downloading so much shit that I WANT to listen to but never do.. piles up.. girlfriend leaves.. you get the picture. But, it is extremely important to note that (just about.. honestly) every record I like and want to listen to AGAIN, I buy. Usually on BANDCAMP which is a WHOLE ‘NOTHER article we can get to later. But what I WILL say is Bandcamp is doing amazing things for underground/independent artists, and the listener as well. I love that I can order an underground metal or otherwise band’s vinyl on BC, receive a free digital download, and rock it out immediately until the vinyl arrives to the crypt. AND, from my research, Bandcamp pays the artists infinitely more than the powers that be. SO, instead of jumping to Amazon or Best Buy to buy a record.. I also implore you to support Bandcamp first (and there are tons of the BEST underground metal labels releasing AWESOME SHIT ALL THE TIME); if you’re doing the online thing (but try to go to a store). You see, much like fitness, and much like life in general… this music streaming shit is a balancing act. If you ONLY bought records, your wallet would hurt and you music selection would be limited. If you are Henry Rollins then do your goddamn thing and if you are him you are probably not reading this anyway. Although I hope you are. Big love to HR. Henry Rollins AND HR of the Bad Brains. ANYWHO, not to go off on a tangent about that, my bottom line is, my plea to you all is (and I know most of you are intelligent awesome strong free thinking freaks that know this MAAAAN) please visit your local record store, support it, rock it, and love it. That would be the entire point of this article/mad rambling is to be in support of the local, brick & mortar, passion & rock, Record Store. Being as there is quite little profit to be made from such a business, the brave and amazing individuals that operate these establishments need our support more than you think. At the time of writing this, Record Store Day is this Saturday. Go check out your nearest one. No, I’m not telling you how to live your life its just a fucking suggestion!! Do it for the kids. No seriously, check it out. You won’t be sorry. These places are amazing sources of the greatest gift man has given to Earth - NO NOT Pop Tarts, Blow Up Dolls, & Whiskey - get your goddamn head out of the gutter. I’m talkin’ ‘bout MUSIC. And I AIN’T talkin’ ‘bout love. If you didn’t love it you definitely would not have made it to this point in the article. So… Go forth, open your mind, support a local business, make someone’s day… and let those records change your life. *cues drum roll intro to Five Years by David Bowie*