The Great R.E.M. CD Hunt (Part 2)
In the last article we asked some of the fundamental questions of the universe.
- With the re-release of Paul Weller’s Stanley Road for no less than £32.99, have we reached Peak Vinyl?
- Are we doing the right thing selling our CD collections twenty years after we all sold our record collections?
- Why would you need to buy (say) R.E.M. LPs on vinyl if all their music is on Spotify?
- And if you insisted on physical product, could you buy their CDs in charity shops for less?
As a public spirited individual, I thought I would investigate…
If you are looking for CDs, there’s one place you are guaranteed to find some.
That’s right. I went to the first place any self respecting CD hunter would go.
No, not a record shop.
People’s attics are where approximately 76% of all the world’s CDs can now be found according to a survey I just fabricated.
There the doomed discs all are, packed like sardines, taped up in boxes upon which the legend “CDs: loft” has been scribbled. Right next to the box of DVDs, I dare say. All destined never to see daylight again.
Sure enough, a brief search in my loft revealed vast quantities of CDs. A time capsule of my (and my wife’s) ’90s musical tastes.
And sure enough, amidst the Shine compilations (1 and 5), the Forrest Gump soundtrack and a collection by Dodgy nestled two R.E.M. CDs. Both of which belonged to my wife. Monster and (because she was always cooler than I was) the “Early Years” IRS best of compilation.
It wasn’t quite as simple as I thought it might be. After six charity shops without a single R.E.M. CD, I was beginning to wonder whether my theory had been the right one. Perhaps R.E.M. fans don’t sell their CDs quite so readily as Kylie fans or Steps fans?
I certainly wouldn’t have had any trouble had I been collecting Dido CDs.
I have never seen so many Dido CDs in the same place as in a charity shop. Every shop had dozens of them. They were everywhere: in the CDs racks (obvs), propping up tables, being used as coasters, one shop had even made a lampshade out of them. I could tell they were Dido CDs as the light it cast made everything seem blander.
The only time I ever saw such a concentration of unwanted CDs was in the Notting Hill Video and Music Exchange two months after the release of Oasis’ Be Here Now.
There was also a decent amount of Busted, JLS and Enya.
I had barely looked at a CD for over thirteen years. It had been so long that I had forgotten why I hadn’t paid them much attention. I know I’m into vinyl so may not be representative of the population as a whole, but I do remember the last time I played a CD in a CD player at home. It was September 2003, just before I bought a 3rd Generation 40gb iPod. After that epochal moment, there didn’t seem much point in CDs.
After 13 years of Not Really Looking At CDs aside from ripping them onto an iPod, putting them back into their jewell case, sweeping up the shards of shattered jewell case that came off as I closed the case and then leaving them in a pile to go into the loft, I wondered whether my current lack of interest in CDs was fair. If I could ignite a love for CDs perhaps I could buy up swathes of interesting music from Charity shops for a pound a time just as everyone else was exiting the market.
I saw myself perhaps as a Wall Street trader, buying calmly whilst everyone else panicked, safe in the knowledge that these stocks had intrinsic value.
Then, in the next charity shop, I found a couple of R.E.M. CDs…
It was shiny. I’ll give it that much. You couldn’t fault it for shininess. It was as shiny as Bob Monkhouse’s forehead on re-runs of Bob’s Full House.
The CD artwork was tiny, a photo of a vast expanse captured uselessly in as small a format as possible. The effect felt similar to trying to appreciate the Sistine Chapel by viewing it on a blackberry.
The CD itself was a circular, featureless, afterthought.
A yawn of bytes and binary code.
A digital shrug.
A consumable unloved…
It really was the most boring thing I had set eyes on in years. And I’ve watched an episode of Celebrity Big Brother.
Sure, CDs store their bits and bytes and replay them perfectly satisfactorily. This is not an argument about sound quality. But being able to replay what is stored on something is really a minimum requirement for any medium. In a world of hard drives and lossy formats we ask a little more of our physical media.
I saw that, in order for me to love the CD format, I would have to be attracted to bright, shiny, featureless, bland things.
And I’m just not.
My eyesight’s going. I can’t see a four inch paper sleeve. I like those big black slabs of plastic and their massive twelve inch cardboard sleeves, with all the storage problems and dust they come with.
I gave up the Great R.E.M. CD Hunt there and then. There just didn’t seem much point.
Good luck to you if you like CDs for their quality of music or their um, compact size and disc-like shape.
It’s fine. It’s me, not you. In fact, the world is your oyster because it’s never been cheaper to buy the things. Fill your boots.
But what kind of people would truly, madly, deeply love these little shiny discs? There are probably others, but I could think of two groups.
Magpies. They love shiny things. That was one group.
The other? Fans of Dido.
Part 3 (where I attempt to buy R.E.M.’s albums on vinyl) next time…