Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I Want My MP3...Or Do I?

Recently, my MP3 player broke. It won't turn on, so it's a fairly fundamental failing, as far as using it to listen to music goes. Now, this may seem trivial, but it has far-reaching implications.

For one thing, I now need to compromise my post-Xmas spending on fell-running gear as I divert some of the cash towards a very necessary replacement. It may also be the case that I have to finally relent and give in to the consumer behemoth that is Apple. Having successfully avoided it thus far, because of added compatibility with my car, and the lack of any immediately attractive alternatives I can see myself opting for an iPod.

However, there may be an unexpected upside to my MP3lessness. This weekend I had a 310 mile journey to Devon to suffer, with a return leg the next day. Obviously of the same length. In the absence of an MP3 player, I had to dig out these strange plastic discs called CDs (pronounced see-dees) to listen to in the car. I thought I'd use this opportunity to dig out a few albums I'd not listened to for a while.

In amongst some Cure, Radiohead, Suede, GnR, etc. I also found myself brave enough to reach for some albums that fall firmly into the guilty pleasure category. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of a guilty pleasure when it comes to music. In my case, these were albums I listened to over and over again as a kid, but now can't bring myself to listen to them. A couple of for instances from this weekend's trip was Kula Shaker's K, and Ocean Colour Scene's Mosely Shoals.

This is strange, as over the years my tastes have matured, and I can see the shortcomings of these albums when stacked against some genuine classics. But at the same time, I'm no longer precious about what constitutes 'real' music, and I can shake my money-maker to Girls Aloud with the best of 'em. These albums, and others like them, are gathering dust between these two extremes: truly great music from a diverse range of genres; and unabashed, inconsequential, pop fluff.

So I was very surprised about how much I enjoyed listening to these again. Aside from the novelty of listening to a whole album from start to finish rather than relying on the shuffle of my MP3 - which in the case of OK Computer is a spine-tingling experience - I found a whole load of memories flooding back. Mainly blasting these songs out getting ready for my first tentative ventures out after dark, hitting the pubs and clubs of Camden; then tapping my feet to them on the Tube (using my Walkman) in a state of nervous anticipation: would we get in or not? Would I get served or not?

As well as reliving my childhood, I also found myself thinking about how old I'm getting. You see, inbetween the CDs, I was also listening to The Early Music Show on Radio 3 - renaissance period choral music - and a dramatisation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on Radio 4. This sandwich between my youth and my premature middle age comes as I'm just a week short of my 30th birthday.

I'm just wondering if I dare regress any more: before finding my musical feet as a child, I used to really like stuff like Dire Straits, and played Stars by Simply Red constantly. I used to listen to my Dad's Police albums as a kid too. I heard Spirits in the Material World yesterday morning and thought: 'this ain't so bad'.

Is this okay? Or are these my first steps down the path to being the crazy old person at family dos that will dance to anything (Abba, Grease Medley, etc.) as my discretion goes the same way as my marbles? This is harmless enough, surely? Okay, so it's nothing ground-breaking and there's definitely better out there. But to exclude them completely means missing out on what are - if I'm honest - some fairly decent tunes. From time to time it can't hurt to reacquaint yourself with these old friends. Can it?

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