Several years ago I owned The Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys on vinyl and it was one of my favourite things ever. I owned Faith on vinyl too, at least temporarily, although I suspect it got traded away in one of those poorly thought out relationships that sustained itself on angst, the novelty of having sex, and the trading of meaningful gifts instead of actually liking one another. Maybe it didn’t get traded, I can’t be sure, but if it did there would be some other treasure among my collection. There is paranoia that sets in at a certain stage of those types of relationship, a lingering fear that you’ll be the one who gave less and thus become beholden to someone you no longer really like. It’s only worse when you’re young and stupid and trying very hard to be intense about things, because intensity seems like something worth chasing.
But I digress: we were speaking of the Cure. Albums on vinyl, which I prized as talismans to hold up against the banality of the city I lived in. Other Cure albums I owned on tape: Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; Pornography; Disintegration. These weren’t a talisman against anything really, just a part of my music collection, for I came to CDs late in life and still bought cassettes long after my friends had given up on them.
Like so much music I used to enjoy, I stopped listening to them once I acquired a car with a CD player and ceased owning a record player.
I didn’t think I’d miss them, to be honest. It wasn’t like I didn’t own Cure CDs at all. I told myself I could make do with best of collections that captured the singles for a time, and reacquire the albums later – but somehow fifteen years slipped past and I still owned a handful of best-of collections that made up the bulk of my Cure listening. And, as a result, the Cure slipped out of the list of bands I listened to a lot, because good as any collection of singles may be, it’s still not the same experience as listening to a full album. A good album is a complete experience and you do great violence to it when you simply select the best songs and put them in consecutive order.
Then, last week, I was in a CD store (they still exist – who knew?) and I discovered you could buy boxed sets of five cure albums and I figured, well, why not. I paid thirty bucks and walked home with a box containing Three Imaginary Boys, Seventeen Seconds, Faith, Pornography, and The Top. It’s taken me a week to finally get around to listening to them, since I knew I wanted to do each the entire way through, in order, rather than pecking at the album piecemeal or putting them on random.
I’d forgotten The Cure did a cover of Foxy Lady, way back in 1979. I’d forgotten how much I used to love All Cats are Grey. I’d forgotten Fire in Cairo altogether, which is horribly unfortunate given that’s its a pretty awesome song, and I’d forgotten the way Three Imaginary Boys moves from the off-kilter rhythm of Fire in Cairo to the distorted guitar of It’s Not You in a way that changes the way I engage with both songs.
It feels good to have those songs back in my collection. And yet, at the same time, I’m sitting here with the knowledge that music stores are on their way out, that the CD is a dying format and it will eventually be replaced entirely by electronic downloads. And with it will go the idea of formatting an album as a complete experience, because really, what’s the point when people can cherry pick the songs they want?
I’m going to miss the music store and its ability to stumble over something that I’m not really looking for. I’m going to miss liner notes and cover art too, internal booklets full of lyrics that will eventually decode the mysteries of a singer’s distorted voice, the mystery of trying to figure out who the people being thanked might be.
I’m drinking beer and it makes my teeth hurt. This would be a problem except for two things: I have extraordinarily bad teeth these days, having spent seven years not going to the dentist for financial reasons, and it’s extraordinarily tasty beer blended from five malts and containing all sorts of chocolaty, coffee-like flavours. I can put up with a little tooth pain in exchange for that, especially since it’s fleeting and I can confidently drink with the knowledge that it’s not a cavity of some kind (I hit the dentists regularly now – its a perk of paid employment).
I’m also trying to pick a story to read at the dayjob tomorrow, when we retreat for planning and bonding type activities. It feels slightly odd to be taking writing to work to read to co-workers, like the dayjob and the evening job are in the process of bleeding into one another, but I guess that’s kind of inevitable when you work for a writer’s centre and the vast majority of your coworkers are also writers.
On the plus side, the lunch conversations are infinately more interesting than my last job, where people would discuss football and lawn bowls. Not that I have anything against either activity, but it’s not like I have any interest in them either.
And so I’m kind of futzing around, not really picking anything, ’cause readings are a little weird at the best of times and some of the obvious choices are a little weird for me to read aloud since they have a female protagonist speaking in the first person. Which means I’m reading a short story, or part of one, and I’m not entirely sure which is the best choice.