I’ve wanted to get a record player for a while now. I’ve held off , mainly because I’ve moved so much in the last few years. I thought that it would be freeing to live with fewer possessions – to fit most of my life in a laptop. This spring I decided that I would like to be weighed down by records again.
I love playing records. I feel that I become more involved in the music when I commit the needle to vinyl, as if I were actually playing an instrument: a ceremony that allows me to enter a space the musicians created. With MP3s, I tend to skip over tracks until I decide that I’m bored with everything. The truth is, I’m not bored – merely seduced by the ease of changing tracks.
Having a record player again has allowed me to rediscover a collection of albums that have sat in storage for over 20 years. Recently, I listened to a record by Ride, a shoegaze band I loved in the early ’90s. When I took the vinyl out of the sleeve (decorated with penguins walking around in snow), a piece of paper fell out with the autographs of all of the band members.
I had totally forgotten about this piece of paper.
My friend Homay and I saw Ride perform when they came to Providence, Rhode Island in 1991. The venues in that town were small, so we quickly realized that if we hung out in the club after the gig, the band would eventually come out. The division between star and audience dissolved and everyone was free to just talk. I remember thinking that the lads from Ride were very nice. They were young. They asked us how old we were. I remember answering “19”. One of the guys from the band eventually joined Oasis. Maybe it was Andy.
After picking the autographs off the floor, I played the record. As much as I love the music of Ride, as I do My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus & Mary Chain, I found that it’s not particularly suited to my little portable record player. All the feedback and distortion gets contained in the small speakers and the wall-of-sound fails to unfurl. What does sound great, however, is music with a clear vocal melody – treble-centric music. Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66 sound great. Lani Hall’s voice chimes through like sunlight. I played their record one morning and kept it playing while I showered so that Rosie (my pug) could enjoy the music. I couldn’t tell from her facial expression whether or not she had a preference for music played on phonographs.
I think Ride would sound spectacular if I saw them perform again. This is something I intend to do when I’m 19 again.
(this article was first published on still-sound. blogspot.co.uk )