Thursday, 20 July 2017

In Memoriam: Chester Bennngton

For me and a number of my generation, we grew up in the shadow of nu-metal as it crossed over into the mainstream.  We found an alternative to pop music imported from America via MTV, for us Eminem, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Papa Roach and the like were our own form of rebellion.

Loud music.  Angry music.  Parental Advisory - Explicit Lyrics.

We weren't kids anymore and we wanted to turn up our stereos and scream along with the swear words and hoped it offended our parents.  That's what teenagers were built to do.

For a number of friends that I have made through volunteering at a local youth music project, they grew up emo.  Rock was pop.  The alternative had become mainstream.  Screamo and other niche sub-genres were a new alternative to the mass-marketed product.  But the mainstream is always the gateway drug.  The choice to turn away is what makes us feel individual, even when we do it all together.

Tributes to Chester Bennington have been filling up my time stream since the speculative news broke.  We've all been hoping it was fake news, but nobody seemed to be discrediting it.

The suicide of a globally recognised frontman in his early 40s is unthinkable.  Leaving behind a wife and 6 children is heartbreaking.  The fact that a successful new album had brought the band touring in the UK recently leaves so many people asking the same questions.

I'm sure the next few days will reveal more, as inevitable toxicology and character reports surface.  But it doesn't change a thing.

We're hurting because we can't understand....

Cathartic lyrics, screaming loudly, it didn't help.

It didn't change a thing.

Some are maybe hurting because they understand it too well, some are maybe only just hanging in there.

Statistics state that suicide is currently the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK.  

Social media seems full to the brim with people affected by mental health problems.

We're all here for each other.  We're all willing to share, and comment, and like.

But for some people it doesn't seem to change a thing.

I hope the people that truly need help are strong enough to recognise that.

And I hope those that it is too late for, those like Chester Bennington, are able to find peace in the next life that they couldn't find in this.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

remaster system

I now seem to have reached a curious age.

Should I be concerned that I am now setting out to buy albums that I already own?

Am I getting forgetful?

The convoluted solution to this conundrum lies deep within the record industries insistence on re-releasing old music and now I have found that my past has been remastered.

First things first, this year does not mark the first time that I have added remastered versions of albums to my CD collection (that's right, you read it correctly... a CD collection, now deal with it), but the simple difference is that previously I had been acquiring these releases for the first time.  I went through a phase of purchasing expanded versions of David Bowie albums, with a healthy disposable income and a hunger to own more music, I made a number of pre-orders to not just add The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and Alladin Sane to my racks, but also whatever demos, alternative versions and live versions that came with it.  Some albums I have listened to more than others (the two aforementioned, for instance), but I struggle to think of an occasion that I have gone reaching to indulge myself with a spin of Don't Let Me Down & Down (Jangan Susahkan Hatiku) (Indonesian vocal version) from the Black Tie, White Noise 10th Anniversary re-issue.

And this is the crux of the matter.  Those albums weren't re-released for me. 

They were put out in an attempt to part completists with a little more of their hard-earned for something they already own.

But now the past has caught up with me, as within a period of 9 months I find myself doubled up on copies of Be Here Now and OK Computer...

The Oasis re-releases started appearing to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Definitely Maybe, but I held out until what could possible be my favourite Oasis album (that's right, you read it correctly... , Be Here Now may be my favourite, now deal with it) got the full 3CD remastered treatment, adding remastered b-sides and unheard demo tracks into the mix, and the completest that lives inside of me was screaming out for me to pay full price for an album that I already paid full price for upon its original release.

D'you remember the furore that surrounded it?  The overblown video for the lead single and the buzz of a band that had gone stratospheric with (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, and while HMV on Oxford Street opened at midnight for eager punters to get their hands on it on the day of release, I remember pre-ordering Be Here Now with a £1 deposit at my closest Woolworths in Waltham Cross, who opened an hour early to deal with the overwhelming demand (there were three people, including myself).

It must have been a half term holiday as I remember cycling to Woolies on that morning with my little brother in tow, cycling back home and then taping the album on my first listen so that I could get back outside in the sunshiiiine, on my bike with a copy of Be Here Now ever-present in my beloved portable cassette player (we all called them Walkmans, but they weren't Sony Walkmans).

My memories of acquiring OK Computer are not quite so crystal clear, I vaguely recall it possibly being purchased from a Cash Converters, likely for about £3, some time after the initial release.  I was a voracious devourer and collector of music but I also had a budget.  Much of my vast collection was made up of second hand CDs and reduced sale offerings.

But Karma Police stood out from the peer group of pop and indie on a compilation album circa 1997, they were mainstream, but on the outskirts of popular music, I didn't know at the time that their sound would shape my outlook, that later albums would fill my brain with stark possibilities of what music could be, and that those earlier albums I would later revisit and relate to so heavily.

With Radiohead, OKNOTOK presents an opportunity to own a nice shiny disc with which I can further explore the mindset and soundscape of a band on the verge of everything and nothing... critical acclaim, fanatical adoration and mental breakdown.  And all for a price of £9.99, likely less than the album originally retailed for upon release.

And of course, the remastering process means nothing to me.  Only audiophiles will be excited by whatever has been done to make it sound... actually, I'm not even sure how it sounds, since the remastered album isn't even the thing I am interested in and I'm not sure that the albums themselves have even left their respective cases since purchase.

So I'm now sat pondering what other 'classic' albums will be coming of age, reminding me of the ever advancing years, ripe for remastering and peddling back to those that already have them, facing temptation with a smattering of unheard or unearthed extras.

And I'm pondering which I'll be too much of a sucker to resist.