Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Bones of An Idol

"We cling to the raft, we are missing by half what we wanted,
But we escaped with the bones of an idol
Escaped with the belt and the title, but our land is gone."

--The New Pornographers, The Bones of an Idol

This is a bit of a post-script to the previous post regarding the closing of "The Finest," the venerable old record store in Fort Collins. So you may want to skip down and read the older post first, but do what you will. I decided to take a trip down to the The Finest record store on Saturday, their final day, to see what was going on, reminisce, and maybe pick up a few deals on CDs. Yes, I still buy CDs, I'm old school that way. But I haven't bought any at the Finest in years, it seems like. Maybe one or two now and then, but the vast majority I now purchase on line. This is of course a primary indication as to why the Finest, and other record stores of the like, are going out of business.

So I cruised across town to see what I could dredge up on the last day. Turns out they were selling CDs for 50 cents per CD, or 25 cents per if you bought 100 (!) Pretty good deal there! So I walked over to the rack of CDs and started to leaf through them, and an unexpected wave of nostalgia washed over me. I used to do this all the time! leaf through racks and racks of CDs. And I don't think I'd done it in years. It was a bitter-sweet feeling (more bitter than sweet? Sorry, couldn't resist). The music lovers who read this will know what a pleasure it is to browse through stacks of CDs, looking at the strange bands, the popular bands, the new stuff, the old classics. Looking for the perfect disc to complement your mood, fill in that gap in your music collection, or maybe looking for a particular disc, and maybe finding a completely different disc. And I wouldn't be doing that again, at least not in this town, possibly never. So I went through them all. Not that there were that many to leaf through by this point, the carcass having been picked pretty clean by the culture vultures who came before me, but I didn't want to miss anything this one last time. I started at A and went all the way to Z. My time was somewhat limited so I stuck to the pop/rock section, which is my kind of music anyway so no harm done there. I was hoping I would find something I liked, something that would make the venture worthwhile. And for 50 cents per disc, I figured I could take some chances and get some things I wouldn't normally buy. What the hell. Support your local business, I thought ruefully.

I ended up finding 16 discs to purchase. 16! All 16 for $8! And in retrospect I kind of wished I'd have bought more. But 16 was enough, certainly. I'll list them all at the end, it's an amusing list to me. But what really made it worthwhile was 1 disc in particular that was really just perfect. Honestly I'd have paid $8 just for this: "Of Skins and Heart" by "The Church."

It's a terrific album, and it was also a CD that I used to own and frequently listen to when I was in college, but had subsequently sold at some point in some unguarded moment of stupidity. I'd always vaguely regretted selling it. And there it was in my hands again. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it until I saw the cover. It immediately reminded me of all the great songs therein. I turned it over to see the song listing and most of the songs came back to me right away, just by looking at the titles. Even the song title font elicited memories of listening to this CD in my dorm room 20 years ago. Proust can have his madeleine, I have this. I couldn't believe I was going to be able to purchase this CD for 50 cents. It was worth so much more than that to me. Maybe more in terms of sentimental currency than filthy lucre, but all of a sudden I felt like I was ripping these guys off for this precious little treasure. I entertained the notion that maybe I'd sold this exact copy of the CD to The Finest 20 years ago, and there it sat for 20 years, waiting for me to come back and claim it on the very last day at the last possible moment. In reality I don't think this was the case but it's a romantic notion to which I'll cling.

It really made my day, finding this long-lost CD. Sure, I could have simply bought it on-line at any number of intervening moments between when I sold it in the murky past and yesterday, but the symbolic relevance of finding it here, at the Finest, at the place where I may have even purchased it all those years ago, felt more reassuring and correct.

And shameful as well, that this poor store would give me so much happiness on the day of its closing! I walked to the counter and paid for my treasures and my trash. I thought about giving the clerk a 20 and saying "Harry, keep the change." I really didn't know what to say, actually. Sorry you're closing? Thanks for all the tunes? How come you didn't hire me 20 years ago, you jerks? It didn't really matter what I said, so I just said thanks, took my change and my CDs, and walked out.

So what does the fall of Saigon sound like? As promised, the list of 50 cent CDs purchased by yours truly, in alphabetical order in which they were found:

"Breakfast Club", self-titled, from 1987. I got a chuckle out of this one since it was a CD I bought in high school for the single "Right on Track," but sold shortly thereafter as I believe the rest of the CD is absolute rubbish (we'll find out shortly!). Not the same nostalgic wash of the Church, but it made my chuckle, and that's worth 50 cents apparently.

Buffalo Tom, Sleepy Eyed, from 1995. A 90s alt-rock band I'm slightly familiar with, worth a chance. And I know a Tom from Buffalo! Although I think the band is from Boston.

The Church, Of Skins and Heart. See aforementioned notes.

The Church, Parallel Universe, 2002

The Church, Forget Yourself, 2002. I was so full of good-cheer over finding the Skins/Heart CD that I snatched up all the other Church CDs I could find, regardless of quality.

Dada, American Highway Flower, 1994. See Buffalo Tom above.

Bryan Ferry, Taxi, 1993. I've a blind-spot for Bryan Ferry. This CD looks suspiciously self-indulgent and therefore bad, but it's Bryan F'ing Ferry!

Liam Finn, I'll Be Lightning, 2008. Score. This was a CD I was considering buying actually. Liam Finn is Neil Finn's son, Neil Finn of Crowded House and Split Enz. Hope the apple doesn't fall from the tree, because Neil is terrific. Speaking of Finn...

Tim Finn, self-titled, 1989. My roommate in college actually had this cd, I liked it but it's been probably 20 years since I've heard this. Sweet find.

The Juliana Hatfield Three, Become What You Are, 1993. This CD I'm almost certain I owned at some point, but it's been lost for several years now. Happy to have it back. One of C_ favorite CDs from college actually. But look, honey, I got one for you too!

Lush, Lovelife, 1996. I had the older Lush CD college, don't know much about this one.

The Mission UK, Children, 1988. This was probably only second to the Church CD in terms of "oh wow" nostalgia. I loved this CD in college, got sick of it at some point, and sold it. I think it only has one good song on it "Tower of Strength", but what a song! easily worth 50 cents just for that song. Youuuuuuu are a tower of Strength, To Meeeeee-eeeeee!

Beth Orton, Daybreaker, 2002. I only know "Mount Washington" from this CD but I recall that it is a well-reviewed release (ed: not true), so it's worth a shot.

Graham Parker, Don't Tell Columbus, 2007. He gets a free pass for "Squeezing Out Sparks", don't care if this is rubbish.

The Sundays, Static & Silence, 1997. See Lush above.

24-7 Spyz, Gumbo Millenium, 1990. A post-Living Colour all-black metal-rap-funk 90s indie band. One of my friends liked these guys in college, I think I even went to see them once, seeing the album cover made me crack up so I bought it. I did listen to this one and it certainly sounds dated, and self-consciously different, but it's interesting, and that counts for something I suppose!