Entirely coincidentally, this week, the week that HMV went into administration, I have finally decided to get rid of my LPs and cassettes – the former unplayed since 2000, the latter briefly revived in a house move in 2009, but long forgotten before that. I already have duplicate CD versions of some of these, or CDs of greatest hits which do much the same thing; and I have ordered a dozen or so replacements on CD from one of those online sites that has hastened HMVs decline, on the principle that every household with two female children growing up in it needs to contain a copy of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, as well as London Calling (and I don’t feel that guilty about HMV, I feel I did my bit to help them over the Xmas period). Nevertheless, this has meant deciding that there is a whole bunch of music I don’t want to listen to anymore.
I’m not a great believer in the idea that music sounds better on vinyl, or even in the ritual of taking records out of sleeves and that sort of thing; I do think having a physical object as the repository for music is crucial to how I at least listen – browsing a list of titles isn’t the same as browsing a shelf of poorly organised things. But there is something to be said for the LP as an art object, over CDs – I’m keeping Fear of Music ’cos it has a weird corrugation pattern on it. What I have been going through, deciding what to chuck, what to replace, and what few to keep, is a distinctive aesthetic, not necessarily as constrained as even I remember: mid-to-late-80s-white-boy-Indie, sandwiched between the fading of New Wave and the horrors of post-Nirvana grunge. When the whole world seemed very jangly.
In most cases, letting go has been fairly easy. I don’t have any great desire to return to Big Black’s Songs about Fucking, one of the least sexy records ever; or Dinosaur Jr; or Polvo. And I’ve decided that I no longer need to keep either of my sisters’ copies of David Bowie’s Changes One, or the family copy of The Beatles’ 1962-66 ‘red’ greatest hits.
But I’ve also rediscovered things I had forgotten about – at the risk of embarrassment, or not, things like Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted, Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring, Eartha Kitt, The Colorblind James Experience, Dionne Farris, The Aquanettas, Scrawl, who I saw almost get electrocuted in Columbus, Ohio in 1998, even The Triffids, whose career was ruined by Jason and Kylie’s wedding. I’ve also discovered to my surprise that I seem to have acquired every record ever made by the Throwing Muses up to the mid-90s.
I have been left wondering what principle I used to apply when buying some things on LP rather than cassette – some sense that certain things might be listened to on the move, perhaps, or maybe a sense that some albums you were meant to buy as LPs because they were proper and serious. I can’t remember when I bought my last record on vinyl, although I have a feeling it might have been a second-hand copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours in Reading in about 2000. The first was Remember You’re a Womble. They’re both going out.