Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One and Only One

Artist: Bowery Electric
Album: Lush Life
Source: Bought used

In these iTunes-centric times, much ink (real and virtual) has been spilled bemoaning the death of the album. The kids these days, say those in the know, these kids just don't want the full album experience. Download a track or two from Mr. Jobs and all is well.

I am, to no one's great surprise, an Album Guy. I like the entire experience, the hour or so of getting from track 1 to the run-out groove, the way the sequence of the whole shebang can take you on a little journey. When Radiohead blew the industry's collective mind with their sudden online release of In Rainbows, I think part of the deal was their attempt to preserve this experience. And I was right there with them.

But the thing is, Radiohead and the other Album Guys are only right part of the time. The rest of the time, The Kids know what the score is.

See, the trick with the album experience is that it's only worth going on about and preserving and such when groups can, you know, make a whole album. R.E.M. used to be able to do it, Pink Floyd were masters of it, and even newbies like The National have it down. Give guys like this an hour, and they'll give you a whole world.

But this is not a given, and iTunes has the 99-cent downloads to prove it. I first heard Bowery Electric when the track "Freedom Fighter" was on a compilation disc that came with some magazine. Good god was it ever good. A beat that jumped up and never stopped blasting off the launch pad, guitars that did all sorts of weird and wonderful things, and a sharply sweet vocal from Martha Schwnedener. I could not wait to hear the album.

I found Lush Life in the used bin at Other Music. Ten tracks, and a promise of 50 minutes that expanded on the promise of "Freedom Fighter" and filled in the spaces it suggested. Track 1, press play, sit back and take the trip.

But the plane got stuck on the tarmac. "Freedom Fighter" was still awesome...but what the hell was this boring crap gunking up the other 9 slots? Languid trip-hop that had come to the party after Tricky had taken everyone else home. Bleh. Score 1 for The Kids.

SISOSIG? I may have been too late to the download-one-song party to save me from Lush Life, but in the meantime I've become quite adept at selective ripping, thank you very much. "Freedom Fighter" stays on the hard drive, Lush Life goes on the junk pile.

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