So this past weekend I returned to Milwaukee again for my former college roommate's wedding. It was a nice time. I spent too much money, but it was all worth it and you hope that kind of opportunity only comes along once for the just wedded.
Anyway, I had to make a quick run up to Grand Avenue Mall with another one of the groomsmen who'd forgotten to pack black socks for the weekend and might've looked kind of ridiculous in his tux without them. We ran up to the mall in drizzling rain, an hour before we were supposed to be suited and booted for the ceremony and while he tried to find a cheap pair of black socks, I took a look around the old mall.
It's been years now since I'd last stepped foot in the mall and I know tons of remodeling work had been put into it, but coming in through Boston Store like I always did (cos I was always coming from the west, you know), the first proper mall store I'd always see was a Sam Goody. Now vacant.
"My music store's gone," I said to Tony. It wasn't really my music store. In Milwaukee, Atomic Records still holds that title, and even though the only album I think I ever bought at that Sam Goody was A Rush of Blood to the Head
(oh, and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
), there was still a tinge of sadness to see a big, black empty room now standing there.
"Well, that happens to a lot of music stores," Tony retorted.
It's true. And the very reason it's happening, I'm sure is because of pages like these and the rapidfire acquisition of music anyone can have through the internet is killing off the need for the likes of Sam Goodys and FYEs. Really, I don't think I mind... I'll always take the independent stores anyway, but who knows how long those will last too.
In a way, I like what the internet's done. I'd have to, wouldn't I? But with it comes complete lack of surprise. You can hear every step of a song's concoction from earliest demo through final cut by means of an artist's MySpace page, website or any number of blogs. The other day I was reading all the updates for Oasis new album with all the other Oasis fans eagerly awaiting Dig Out Your Soul
(bad title and worse cover
). I don't think I like knowing track lists months before I have the album. Somehow, it just makes the wait seem impossibly longer.
And while iTunes is all too happy to offer up bonus tracks and digital booklets with new releases, you just don't really get the treats anymore, do you?
Like, for instance...
Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker
01. Precious Eyes
02. Venom Cable
03. I Forgot My Name
04. Song of the Corn
05. Sorrow or the Song
06. Auntie's Operation
07. Why Does the Sun Come Up?
08. Grey Harpoon
09. Keep Me Company
11. Lovers Paradise
The best thing about young bands is their appetites and prolificacy. Look at the Arctic Monkeys -- they're just a shade older than this blog, but they've already got two albums under their names, a few EPs, plenty of non-album B-sides and although they didn't put out anything new this year, their frontman did.
Their heroes the Coral were much the same way in their early days. While their self-titled debut in 2002 was about as schizophrenic as rock records come, it was also really really good. They did an about face (or maybe just smoked some weed) the next year and mellowed into folkier tones on 2003's Magic and Medicine
, which was also really good.
I still don't know what to constitute Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker
as, but I will say that from a marketing and band reputation standpoint, it was a stroke of genius. With a few songs that still needed to get out of their systems, apparently, the Hoylake sextet went to the Welsh country side toward the end of 2003 for a week and a half and just dabbled.
The results weren't a patch on their previous two records, but it's not to say there wasn't some fun in the songs, and what's more, the band's label found itself with another album on its hands. Okay, so maybe this stuff wouldn't go to Q
and get blanket five-star reviews or "Liverpool's Second Coming" subtitles, but Coral fans could be expected to enjoy a bit more musical whimsy (read: madness) from the boys. They'd been conditioned for it.
landed in UK shops in January 2004 with a slashed price tag and notice from the label that it was "more of a mini album," or, say, a "stop gap" between Magic and Medicine
and the next album proper.
See what that does is it automatically makes you forgive the fact that only about half the tracks on there can be counted as proper songs and it also deflects negative criticism because it builds an innate "Look, they didn't HAVE to do this, but they thought it would be fun for their fans while they wait for the next album" justification.
Clever, huh? Even at 11 tracks (more than suitable album length), the run time didn't top a half hour (but early Beatles albums barely did), but no matter what the content was (and some of it was crap), it was made clear before you even put it on that it shouldn't be taken seriously.
In America, it came as a free bonus with the US release of Magic and Medicine.
And I remember walks to class in the early part of 2004 with a walkman (iPods were still too new and expensive) in my bag and CD of choice for the day inside it. This disc got a bit more play than the proper album.
For all it's impunishible faults, Nightfreak
actually contains enough good stuff to make you think it was really nice of the Coral to do. With a bit more polish, "Sorrow or the Song" could've easily been a single on any of their albums, and while "Venom Cable" sounds like the simplest little jam on the simplest little riff, it also works out to be incredibly fun. "Lovers Paradise" would make a fine epilogue to any album and "Precious Eyes" too wouldn't seem out of place on other Coral LPs.
The finest moment, however, is "Grey Harpoon" -- a song that was concocted on the spot in the studio and done with enough street-savvy panache to make you half expect Snoop to swoop in and start a "With so much trouble in the LBC"
rap when James backs off the mic. Seriously, try putting it on your next party mix and see if anyone bats an eye. I'd bet you if anything, you get head nodding and a few "What is this?" inquiries.
bought the Coral a bit more time to flesh out better ideas that would arrive on The Invisible Invasion
in 2005. Since then, the Coral seemed to have backed off a little (they're only releasing albums every OTHER year now, lazy sods...), but you wonder if today, even four years later, they'd be able to pull off a Nightfreak.
An unapologetic stop gap made for fans and fans alone. Sure, they could put it up on their MySpace page, but you'd still have the people that swoop in and go "This new album sucks," and the message boards full of "Are we supposed to take this for real?" arguments.
It's the kind of thing that will die with the music store. Because let's face it, there's no feeling quite as nice as picking up something you know one of your favorite bands made for you and their other fans alone. And picking it up at a cut price.
Labels: The Coral