Monday, February 18, 2013
It's All About the Hype
I've been waiting for the new Neurosis album to be released on vinyl. It was released on cd at the end of last year, surely there can't be that many people buying cd's anymore?, but for some reason it has taken a few extra months to see the light of day on vinyl format.
The fact is it's not that great a record. Sorry for being an utter snob and claiming my personal opinion as fact but it's the truth, youth. The thing is, I own all of the Neurosis records on vinyl, all of them up to but not including their previous album Given To The Rising. Ironically, I only have that on cd. And that grates me a tad. I don't really think that record is all that amazing either to be honest, but since I own all of their other albums on vinyl, I kind of wish I had that one of vinyl too. I actually picked up that cd from a distro at a show we played in Warsaw with Speedhorn, around the time it came out. The fact is, it was cheap and the guy who had the distro didn't have the album on lp. I thought, fuck it, I'll get it on cd now so I can listen to it on tour and then I'll pick it up on vinyl when I get home.
The problem was that when I got home the vinyl had long since sold out, despite the fact it was released on a major-indie like Relapse. I've never gotten around to buying it since. I love all the Neurosis records up to and including A Sun That Never Sets and even the album after that, The Eye of Every Storm is a perfectly OK Neurosis record, and I needed Given To The Rising purely to complete my Neurosis collection. Of course, now it's sold out and for some fucking reason another pressing was never made, the only place you can find it is in second hand record shops or online. And of course, it costs up to thirty quid, which it simply is not worth. And therefore I've never bought it, although I've been saying to myself for years that one day I'll just bite the bullet and fork out for it. One day when I have a lot of spare money for some reason..
I just don't get why a label, upon selling out of a pressing of a vinyl, simply doesn't press more. Of course, I understand if it's a small DIY label that has barely shifted a seven inch over the course of a couple of years, but when it's a big label like Relapse putting out a big fucking band like Neurosis, why limit the copies?
So the new record.. I'd heard it a few times and the truth is this. There are good moments in pretty much every song on the album, but there isn't one song that is great all the way through, and being that most of the songs are at least six minutes long, there is a fair amount of average Neurosis on the album. Of course, it's still enough to justify buying the record. The album does have it's moments after all. So, I've been pestering my mate Tim at Sound Pollution record shop to let me know when the album arrives. I wanted to make sure I got a copy of it upon release since it would most likely sell out pretty quick and probably not be re-pressed, meaning that if I missed it when it came out then it would be forever lost to the over the top prices of the second hand market.
Tim messaged me yesterday, telling me the record had arrived. “Cool, I'll be over tomorrow to pick it up if you can save me a copy?” I replied. No problem. But.... “Just so you know... it costs 339 kronors!” What. The. Fuck? That's about thirty quid! I'm sorry, but fuck that! I'm sure it's got a nice, shiny, gate-fold cover and I'm sure the vinyl weighs about five hundred grams or whatever, but that is nonetheless daylight fucking robbery. I've got a kid on the way and nappies to buy for fuck sakes!
So I guess, unless the record appears on Ebay or Discogs in a few years time at a knock down price because whoever owns it realises it's not that good, not likely I guess since quality doesn't really have anything to do with value, then for the first time in my life, I'll be making the decision not to buy a new Neurosis album. It looks like my Neurosis vinyl collection is doomed to in-completion. And since Given To The Rising was probably the last time I bought an album on cd, I won't be obtaining it on that format either...
I know people are buying less and less records these days, even if vinyl sales are on the up again, they alone can not compensate for the vast decline in cd sales since the only people who buy vinyl these days are record collectors like myself, but be that as it may, surely hiking the prices up to insane heights is not the way to make things better? I came close to a similar decision a while ago when Godspeed! You Black Emperor! released their long awaited follow up to Yanqui U.X.O. and was a little taken aback by the steep price of that, which itself came in at two hundred and fifty kronors, but I went for it anyway. It was the first GYBE record for years, and it was really fucking good. The price did sting a bit though...
The sad thing is I really want to support my local record store, because horrifyingly the record store is becoming a dying breed, and I understand fully that the price of an album in the store is merely a reflection of the cost of it coming in, but I'll be fucked if I'm spending over thirty quid on a brand new lp.
On the other side of the coin, there are still a lot of great mail-order distros out there, selling punk and hardcore records at punk prices. But there lies another problem. A lot of labels these days are hyping their releases by only doing one pressing of a stupid amount, like one hundred copies or something. There have been albums recently that I've been after that have come and gone through distros before they could even make it to the catalogue list, never to be seen again. Two weeks later they're on Ebay for four times the original price. What's the problem with doing a release of five hundred and then if it sells out in a decent amount of time, pressing some more? I have nothing against labels putting out a limited edition of a record, be it coloured vinyl or a special edition cover or something, as long as they press a normal run at the same time. But all of a sudden it seems like it's more important for a label to have loads of collectable records on their roster than just having loads of copies of good records. Of course, the reality these days is that a band selling five hundred copies of a seven inch is good going, more than a thousand and it's a big release. My friend Stachel recently put out the final Herätys seven and that sold out straight away. The nice thing is that he immediately made an order for a second pressing. If only every label was the same. I've literally come across labels recently who have releases of seventy five copies. What the fuck is that?
Ironically, it seems the frenzy of record collecting is running in tandem with the decline of record sales in general. Myself, I've never been arsed about all that collectable shit though. I don't care if a record I buy is a first pressing, tenth pressing or a re-release on another label years later. As long as it has the original cover artwork and it's not some shite re-working with a new cover and extra songs like, sorry to be picking on Neurosis again, the re-releases of Enemy of the Sun and Souls at Zero, then I don't care. As an example, I was at Trash Palace record store a while back, a great second hand shop, and found two copies of the first SS Decontrol record. One was a first pressing that cost five hundred kronors, the other was a re-press on another label that cost one hundred and fifty. Same artwork, same everything. No fucking discussion.
It's all about the hype I guess, whether it's a trendy scene like early 80's US Hardcore, late 80's UKHC or Fucked Up releasing a stupidly limited edition of a seven inch, hype costs money if you're not quick enough or old enough to pick it up first or only time around..
There have been happy discoveries of late though. As always when reading documentary books on music scenes you discover a whole host of albums you'd never heard of, forgotten about or just never got around to buying. If you're reading a book like American Hardcore then getting turned on to a lot of those more obscure records is going to cost you an arm and a leg. I speak from experience.. Recently though I read the final instalment of Ian Glasper's books on the UK punk and hardcore scene, Armed With Anger, which concentrates on the diverse underground hardcore scene of the Nineties, and discovered and rediscovered a load of records that I'd never bought or never even knew I needed.
Imagine my delight when I tentatively scanned Discogs for the one and only Kito lp, expecting to find it at anywhere between twenty and eighty quid, and actually finding it sitting there waiting for someone to give it a home for the sorry sum of just four pounds! I can guarantee you the Teen Idles Minor Disturbance ep would set you back a bit more than that. And the best part, the person selling the record was Atko from Voorhees so we had a good catch up to boot. From there it was green light ahead! Voorhees/Stalingrad split, three quid, John Holmes lp, four quid, first Bob Tilton seven inch, six quid, followed by quite a few more. The thing with the scene from this period is although there was a lot of great music, not many people outside of the UK really gave a fuck about it. In fact, the most expensive record I found was the re-press of the Hard to Swallow lp, and Kev assures me that Lil from Household Name Records who put it out still has about two hundred copies of that at his house.
That scene was summed up completely by a guy we know who came to a Diagnosis? Bastard! gig and was blown away when Sikas told him Bloody Kev was the singer from Hard To Swallow. He was chuffed and almost a little star struck by Kev, which is in itself hilarious. This guy even had a HTS patch on his denim, so understandably Kev was chuffed too...Until the guy said something about Hard To Swallow being a side project of Iron Monkey... “”Were we fuck! We started about five years before the guys started Monkey!” Typical. Of course, nobody really gave a shit about Monkey until they split up..
It's all about the hype...