Music as art, music as fetish property - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #62

I am always harping on here, on other select locations and to people forced to sit next to me on the bus that I think we all ought to do a little more to support our local scene, that means buying a tee at a local gig and wearing it, buying a few pints to prop up the bar too and hanging out in your local record shop. It is in those dusty shelves, between those weathered vinyls and plastic sleeves that great music is born. You just have to go into one of these little local independent (Because fuck you HMV and fuck you Apple) shops and you can see and meet like minded heads, get chatting about that vintage Stooges they’re playing on the turntable, get hipped to the best gigs, the best underground bands and the best vinyl they just got into the shop. This is the dream, and the dream, much like many other dreams, is dead. Even independent record shops are ugly and corporatized who get their pricing via Discogs and their business strategies from Basil Fawlty. The shelf-space slowly gets reduced and the celebration of music as art is almost vanished behind an air of boredom. I was in Avalanche records in Edinburgh, formerly the finest jewel in the cardboard crown of Edinburgh’s pathetic independent record shop scene and saw it all unfold right there, a horrifying, mad mad scene, the mind recoils in horror. The celebration of music as fetish property goes on though, and proudly so because I love me some fetish property. Recently I received an email from beyond the grave from Pure Reason Revolution, a Spring newsletter but the only thing growing out of the Pure Reason camp is poppies. Selling off the remaining merch, so get down to their merch store where tons of stuff is extra-special cheap. They were selling a vinyl of the continental version of their sublime the Dark Third album for ten earth money and I just couldn’t resist. Something drew me to possess that album, with the yellow stuff on the cover. I’ve got a cd copy of the album and usually listen to it through my iPod dock because that’s how I hear most of my music sad to say. It was something about the rarity, the fetish nature of the LP that I just needed to possess. I probably won’t listen to the LP ever, maybe spin it once for my own edification, but the iPod is just easier. But I just have to own this record.

Previously I’ve been a firm believer in the music as art camp, and if you love something it really shouldn’t matter in what form it comes to you. If you genuinely love books as artistic expression, you should love the Kindle because it makes reading books easier. If you love music similarly you shouldn’t be complaining about MP3 because it allows you to carry a whole record collection in your pocket in as great a quality as you could desire. Usually I don’t give a good god damn about anything except the sound. I don’t care about first pressings or Japanese imports or making sure the sleeve art is flawless, man I’m here for the songs so digital copy will do me just fine. And I love the Dark Third, verily it is my favourite album, with several moments of quite literal heart-stopping beauty and an absolutely flawless package of sound. I’ve listened to it many hundreds of times throughout my life and hope I’ll listen to it many more times. I first encountered it many years ago when a friend loaned me three albums that pretty much defined my musical taste ever since. Riverside’s Second Life Syndrome, Yes’s Close to the Edge and Pure Reason Revolution’s then only album, the Dark Third, and I was just besotted with all of them and remain locked on all three to this day. When I heard about the Dark Third vinyls going, something gripped me and I felt compelled to own it, not out of some musical gratitude to the band or any kind of obsession with the album (I already have two copies), I want to own the vinyl as an article in itself. I want it in the way some people obsessively collect first-pressings. I don’t intend to sell it and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it once it comes in the post. It is just an ownership trip.

During some time in the last century (presumably minutes after the birth of the slogan teeshirt) that society was decided not by what you are like, but simply by what you like. Bands, films, views on abortion and your preferred iconic revolutionary, these things now matter more than gentlemanliness or grace or beauty. Your teeshirt says more about you than just about anything else. Long before that, as Marx keenly observed (I read a lot of Marx and Marxist philosophy in school, okay) that society was governed and mediated by power, and not just any old garden variety horsepower or political power, but by consumer power. We define ourselves by buying things. Well, impressionable thickies do. I define myself by my band shirt which is equally stupid but I like to think of myself as superior. How many people have you heard talk about retail therapy? Or going down the shops for amusement? People don’t just go shopping because they need new things, they go shopping because they enjoy spending money and owning superfluous crap and this has always kind of disgusted me, but now I’m part of it! I have bought another copy of my favourite album, not to play, not because the old one wore out, not to give the band a bit more of my money for being so gosh-darned awesome; I bought a totally superfluous copy of something to own it. To be able to look at it, except I won’t look at it much, I’ll just own it. Somewhere in my head I’ll know that I own a vinyl copy of the Dark Third and that will make me happy. When I’m moving house in twenty years I’ll find it and be renewed in my love of ownership. It is rather repulsive I must admit.

So let this article not just wallow in my own commercialist self-loathing, and let it stand as a ringing endorsement of the Dark Third. The Pure Reason Revolution album that came first, dedicated and named after the third of our lives we spend asleep. An album containing as much magic as it sings about and just burning with first-out-of-the-gate pride and unselfconscious beauty of quite a quietly stunning flavour. I don’t dream. At all, ever, in any way. I close my eyes and open them and eight hours have gone past. I don’t dream, because I don’t need to. I have the Dark Third for that. The creation of a dreamlike haze, through a potent cocktail of stratospherically high angelic vocals from the two harmonising leads, the plastic guitar tone that just seems a little too good, all of it adds up into a package of the most impressive album I’ve ever set to spinning. Not a moment is wasted and not a moment is dull. It’s a record that’ll have you up most of the night, replacing your dreams with this light, enjoyable machine which just works and works and works. Sometimes you’ll have a dreamless night, but the Dark Third will always be there.

Written under duress by Steven.

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