Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Monday, March 27, 2006

High Fidelity

Originally uploaded by bsglaser.
Artist: American Analog Set
Albums: From Our Living Room to Yours, Late One Sunday & the Following Morning, Promise of Love, Songs of Hurt & Healing, and Set Free
Source: Bought new (FOLRTY, LOS), bought from the band (POL, SF), record-store freebie (SOH&H)

If art imitates life, then more often than not my life seems to imitate Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. I still remember reading the book for the first time on a NJ beach, at first laughing along with the comedy before finally closing the book with a kind of fear: this was more or less a How To Operate Brian Manual. It wasn’t until much thought that I realized we were supposed to feel bad for Rob; I was pretty much just identifying with/rooting for him. It was kind of like how I felt at the end of most Woody Allen movies when I was young – each time, I was sure he’d end up happy, so I signed up for his team, and each time Woody was the one who was wallowing in some sort of despair by the end.

But it’s not all bad. Some High Fidelity moments are pretty damn good, including my introduction to the American Analog Set. Though this took place three years before the movie version came out in 2000, I got pulled into this wonderful group in a dead ringer for a scene in the film. At the end of a day during my mobilization at AOL’s Digital City Philadelphia, I went into one of my favorite haunts, the then-next-door Third Street Jazz and Rock.* While browsing the racks, an amazingly hypnotic, gently melodic drone began playing. And it played some more. And some more. Finally, after several minutes, I went to the desk, asked the guy, “What the hell is that?” It was all nine minutes of “Magnificent Seventies,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if he dropped the disc in a bag and rang up From Our Living Room to Yours without even asking. When I saw the scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack consciously sucks in customers by putting the Beta Band on the sound system, I felt pretty sure that his Third Street Jazz counterpart had made me as an AmAnSet mark and reeled me in.

A double dose of thanks for doing so, too. Not only have I consistently enjoyed pretty much every AmAnSet tune I’ve heard since then, but they saved my sanity twice: Within a week after 9/11/01, the band had a gig at the Knit (one of the first after the attacks on the nearby, still-smoking WTC). Lee and I went, and their gentle, barely-there rocking lulled us into a sense of, if not safety, certainly some much-needed comfort. Fast forward to a couple of years later, when AmAnSet, who have now relocated from Austin to Brooklyn, are playing at Southpaw on my 31st birthday. The wife of one of the guys I invited dragged along her friend Eileen, suspecting she might be able to work a little matchmaking magic. We’re introduced, and my first, totally honest reaction to this lovely stranger is, “Oh, I’m sure we’ve met before.” And I meant it, too.

SISOSIG? As they say, "Fuhgeddaboudit." This stuff stays. It's repetitive, the evolution from disc to disc is minimal, and I love every note of it. After all the AmAnSet has done for me, I am in no position to turn them out into the cold.

*On a mostly unrelated note, I would be remiss if I did not briefly comment on Philadelphia’s wonderful and much-missed Third Street Jazz. In high school it was one of the first “real” record stores I ever encountered, and from then until the day it closed down in 1998, its rows of records, tapes and discs – along with its friendly and way-knowledgeable staff – made every trip there a pleasure and an education. Shit, Sun Ra himself used to drop off his homemade records there and nowhere else. If this sounds too much like a commercial for the joint, then I plead guilty to loving this brothel of musical pleasures and spending many of my dollars there almost immediately after having earned them.


  • I love this project! You've obviously found the perfect venue for your practiced writing style. You, Gunga, are also a better man than I in that you are willing to part with some of your old "stuff" to make room for growth in your life. Whether in a box hidden from supervisory eyes, or somewhere deep in my mind's eye, I have shed nothing, preferring to carry it all along for someday.

    By Anonymous Gil Hodges, at 9:11 AM  

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