It’s Mad How Something So Real Can Be So Conditional

Downloaded the new Katy B album on Spotify onto my phone at work for the journey home (connection isn’t good enough on the train back otherwise).

Despite the ease of getting new releases ahead of time, release dates have acquired an importance they haven’t had since I used to listen to a lot of music as a yowf. Last year it was only Your Future Our Clutter by The Fall whose release date I had anticipated. Already this year there’s been Let England Shake by PJ Harvey, now this, and further ahead Goblin by Tyler the Creator.

The little rituals add to the piquancy – the only sense in which music is still an object perhaps. No case of me and a friend going up to Croydon on the day The 27 Points (yes The Fall what of it) was released, trawling the record shops to find a copy on vinyl, heading back, putting on the first side (two record gatefold), lighting up, opening a beer and listening, commenting, playing again, laughing – having the record in your hands and putting the needle on it when you got home was a great moment.

Plus I don’t really like downloading stuff all that much.

Drifting into this on the train (what the hell’s wrong with me today?), eyes half shutting, memories of the dancefloor rather than the knowledge I’ll dancing to it any time soon.

Listening to it again now, on headphones back home (amp, speakers + record player in storage, like all my cds at the moment). The whole computer/headphone consumption reminds me of this bit in JG Ballard’s The Kindness of Women:

Watching as he enjoyed himself in the limousine, I guessed that he was the forerunner of an advanced kind of human being. If one day the world became a film festival, its inhabitants would all resemble Dick Sutherland. Television had made him impotent, but perhaps its real role, in evolutionary terms, was to depopulate an overcrowded planet. The camera lens was our way of disengaging from each other, distancing ourselves from each other’s emotions. Looking out from the limousine at the veering, over-exuberant streets, it occurred to me that everyone in Rio was having, not a good time, but the image of a good time.

Like most pop I think, this is music to be consumed socially. This is one of its great strengths. Even in the context of charts, it being bought and listened to by many unknown people means there is the sense of communal participation. It’s why I think it loses its force for enjoyment if picked up after its moment. The lack of that when I’m listening to it makes me slightly sad, as if I’m listening to it in a formalist sense, as an aesthetic test. The sharing of headphones by teenagers on buses and sodcasting is presumably an attempt to undermine the isolation, the ‘distancing ourselves from each other’s emotions’.

I like the album tho!

Conditional on what tho? Context! Age! Sex! Companions! Weather! Medium.

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