Y'all may have heard that downloading music is teh norty. Napster, of course, caused the dramatic collapse of the recording industry - who can forget those horrific scenes of executives in cracked sunglasses, soles flapping off their All-Stars, lining up at Sally Ann soup vans? Or the Rock Star Riots, when hunger-crazed lead guitarists poured out of their dilapidated Surrey mansions like so many crazed rats, Fenders raised high to smash their way into the local Spars, only to collapse from malnutrition as they waited for the green man at the pedestrian crossings? It took days to clear away the bodies and ferry them to the mass graves hurriedly dug on Hampstead Heath.
Shocking, shocking scenes - and a terrible indictment of the evil that men, women and children do when technology erodes their basic humanity and turns them into ravening consumerist machines. Why oh why did they ignore the moral leadership of the British Phonographic Institute and the Recording Industry Association of America? These people are practically secular popes, corporate Ghandis de nos jours, and they have all our best interests at heart.
Fortunately, we now know what we did not know then, that buying music is right and sharing music is wrong. All you need is cash.
I myself purified my soul this Saturday, entering into the echoing splendour of the Oxford Street Virgin Megastore to actually buy actual product - viz. the new Steve Reich five CD retrospective, Phases, and Beck's The Information. I could just have easily downloaded the lot from various places in various ways for free - if the high profile legal attacks have worked in closing file trading down, nobody's told the traders - but in both cases, I got my money's worth from the physical media.
With Phases -- what an apt title -- five CDs for twenty quid is stonking value, and the quality of the sound really matters. Compression is no friend of this music. If you're going to get much out of Reich, you have to get stuck in - and the more transparent the sound, the greater the danger you'll be swept out to sea before you've even noticed the tide has come in. (You're excused the three thousand word essay on the hows and whys of Reich: it's the wows that matter).
Beck, now: his brand of bite-sized surrealism is more tasty snack than five courses at the Ivy. It's the sort of music that freshens up a Tube ride or turns thirty seconds on an escalator into an entertainment. In this case, if you're looking for value you can't get from downloads, you get it from the packaging. The CD insert is just two sides of graph paper, together with four sheets of peel-and-place stickers from which you're supposed to construct your own artwork. Just the sort of playful nonsense to slap a smile on your care-worn physog, and nicely done. Exactly the sort of incidental bonus that will save the CD from obsolescence, right?
You'd think. But no. In the twisted logic of the record industry, this is "an unfair advantage" and means the album isn't eligible for chart placement.
Further comment not needed.