Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 26, history graduate & human rights student
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Apr 13
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TFV EMA vinyl vinyl sunday
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Apr 11
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#Selfie

TFV EMA vinyl
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Nov 25
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London Calling through the static hiss

I finally got round listening to the second LP from my newly purchased (second-hand) copy of London Calling and, as I had hoped, it was much cleaner. Obviously whoever owned it before didn’t often play it all the way through, which isn’t too surprising as I know I’m a lot more familiar with the songs in the first half. And when I went back and properly cleaned the first LP (which I really should have done to start with, for the sake of my stylus if nothing else), it did noticeably help.

The thought had occurred to me, however, that record hiss is probably one of the most primary signifiers of vinyl’s physicality - not to over-romanticise it. In fact it’s not something I’ve encountered much or at all, simply because I don’t have that many ‘old’ second-hand records - the only one of similar vintage is a copy of The Undertones, or Patti Smith’s Easter, neither of which seem much overplayed in the way London Calling probably invites naturally. It’s interesting to experience nonetheless, from the strongly audible crackling as soon as the needle hits the record (instead of the normal muted stutter) to the soft fuzz surrounding the opening chords of ‘London Calling’ (which however is quickly overpowered by its booming rhythm) or to hear the quiet beginnings of ‘Jimmy Jazz’ suddenly filled with extraneous noise. It may all be an illusion, but I frequently find that vinyl makes me listen to music with more depth and attention.

vinyl the clash
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Jul 07
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Vinyl Sunday: Sea Tiger, The “Teenage Bandit” LP (Troubleman Unlimited Records, 1998)

Vinyl Sunday: Sea Tiger, The “Teenage Bandit” LP (Troubleman Unlimited Records, 1998)

sea tiger HGP vinyl vinyl photos vinyl sunday
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Jun 27
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paulftompkins:

Twitter: we have fun over there!

actually, since (vinyl) records are an analogue medium you wouldn’t necessarily need electricity to listen to them. some tall trees, rope and coconuts to provide drive power*, a fine reed as the stylus and some dry bark as the speaker cone (I’ve tried the paper cone trick on a regular turntable before, with surprisingly clear results). it would be unamplified and not in stereo, but theoretically you could listen to your records on a desert island, if you were willing to put the work in (and hey, you’re stuck there!).
*I got this idea from Terry Pratchett, who said by way of explanation for the various counterhistorical levels of development in his Discworld fantasy series that the ancient Greeks had the technology to produce a wind-up gramophone, but as far as we know they never did. 

paulftompkins:

Twitter: we have fun over there!

actually, since (vinyl) records are an analogue medium you wouldn’t necessarily need electricity to listen to them. some tall trees, rope and coconuts to provide drive power*, a fine reed as the stylus and some dry bark as the speaker cone (I’ve tried the paper cone trick on a regular turntable before, with surprisingly clear results). it would be unamplified and not in stereo, but theoretically you could listen to your records on a desert island, if you were willing to put the work in (and hey, you’re stuck there!).

*I got this idea from Terry Pratchett, who said by way of explanation for the various counterhistorical levels of development in his Discworld fantasy series that the ancient Greeks had the technology to produce a wind-up gramophone, but as far as we know they never did. 

(via velveteenrabbit)

vinyl
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Jun 23
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favourite Dischord reissue
(okay, the LP is currently out of stock, but that’s not quite the same as limited edition…)

favourite Dischord reissue

(okay, the LP is currently out of stock, but that’s not quite the same as limited edition…)

hoover dischord emo vinyl vinyl sunday post-hardcore 90s
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Major labels notoriously blew it in the ‘90s by killing the single as a format and outrageously overpricing CDs, which of course lead to the downloading revolution and the crippling of an industry. Now that they’ve been given a chance to redeem themselves with the resurgence of interest in vinyl, not only are they shooting themselves in the foot, but it’s the same foot, the same gun, and they’re even reusing the bullet!

The cost of collecting vinyl has risen to a degree that borders on greed | Record Collector News

This quote, which seems to imply that overpriced CDs caused the invention of MP3s*, came across my dash a while ago with a sizeable conversation around it that I was going to join with the above criticism, but then never got around to completing the post. Now someone has asked me about my thoughts on the topic in general, I’ll wade in again.

Simply put, we’d all (at least on the consumer side) like vinyl to be less expensive, but as long as it’s sold by capitalists and we keep buying it at inflated prices, the price will keep climbing. And throwing around the accusation of ‘greed’ when your site and article is about record collecting is a bit… disingenuous, I suppose. Personally I don’t think of myself as a record collector in any kind of meaningful sense, although that is apparently what all vinyl buyers are now - any more than I am a ‘book collector’ simply because I buy (physical) books and like nice editions. With vinyl the use value is paramount, although the use I get out of them is (visually) aesthetic and kinaesthetic as much as aural, and also includes what is I guess technically the exchange value of contributing to the artist.

I think the real significant difference between CDs then, and vinyl now, is that while CDs represented the default music format for most, and thus the price was what the wider market could bear, vinyl is obviously (and will remain) a smaller and self-selecting market, a subset with a different reference point for ‘fair’ prices. If labels price themselves out of a wider group of consumers, without too much disposable income but with a moderate interest in vinyl, in favour of a more affluent and dedicated bunch of fans willing to pay high prices, it may not be bad business strategy in the short term (and since when does capitalism really think about anything else?). This is a good and more reasonable piece on the dangers of a speculative collectors’ bubble crowding out more ordinary fans:

"The vinyl marketplace is probably permanently contracted, but rather than over-serving the superfan, it should pivot toward super-serving the casual fan. Anyone should be able to walk into any record store in the world and buy a standard vinyl copy of Nevermind for a reasonable price, rather than confronting the 180 gram pressing or the deluxe quadruple LP that fishes for their cash from a lofty wall display. In its attempts to scrape profits out of a niche, the business has squeezed its output out of the bins entirely.”

There’s the ‘should’ word in there of course, and I think a distinction should be made about whether one is making a business case in warning against the collapse of speculative bubble, or arguing for broader access to vinyl as a cultural good. The two probably do converge, nevertheless, and logically there could be a good opportunity for producers to grow the market with reasonably-priced offers (if the gain is greater than artificially creating and curating a niche market); but each argument is based on different values and assumptions which ought to be examined. You can’t have your cake and eat it: you can’t have cheap vinyl and have them be genuine limited editions of popular artists. Which, to be fair, we know and we don’t want the latter if we want the former: but as long as there are sufficient people with the resources and inclination to buy the expensive stuff, it will continue that way.**

'Overpriced' vinyl is a consequence of its status as a fetish object, rather  than a mass consumer good; even the high prices of CDs were a function of their status as luxuries, with no equivalent substitution goods (until mp3s…). To bring vinyl or CDs down to an accessible and 'reasonable' price, as in the Dischord Records example used, requires or required stepping outside of capitalism and the pursuit of profit  to some extent. Recasting that as a moral obligation within a commercial industry, to somehow service fans with low-cost vinyl because it will make them culturally superior, if not financially poorer, is ultimately just bunk. Yet the discourse seems to be not 'fuck capitalism' (allowing people to make their own choices about accessing culture) but 'vinyl needs to grow' (as if the culture industry will heed the aspirations of a minority who seem content in propping up their own niche status).

Of course, current recording artists have an interest, both financial and artistic, in making their records accessible, so I don’t see as much issue with inflation at the low- to mid-levels. Above that, artists have the recognition and the backing to put out an expensive record that channels money back to themselves and their labels (who are paying for more extensive distribution and marketing, of course) so greed, essentially, becomes a possibility. Likewise, and especially, for back catalogue reissues - which are just a way of trading on reputation to maximise a niche value. It may have to change if it is to remain sustainable, and it ought to change if it is to be fair, but those are different aims.

*I’m not saying it had no effect on spurring technological development in filesharing or that it didn’t (rather obviously) exacerbate the scale of the subsequent collapse in revenues, but if CDs had been more moderately priced, would Napster never have happened? Of course not - and thereafter the issue was not so much the price of music but whether it had any monetary value at all.

**One potential, theoretical upset to this extraction of value from record collectors, similar to the effect of mp3s on the CD market, would be if 3D-printed records became a genuine alternative. It still seems some way off before there is the resolution required to produce a passable copy, and in machines cheap and small enough for home use, but let’s just say it will happen: then the physical object can be made (through an entirely digital process, incidentally) by the end user, and the means of production of the niche good (only, presumably - and legally - the digital file from which it is produced, and we know how that works) is no longer in control of the labels. It wouldn’t appeal to everyone of course, and there would probably still be the attraction of a known imprint, as well as genuine analogue resolution - but the prices to be commanded wouldn’t be as high, and thus the bottom would fall out of the speculative market for good. 

vinyl economics
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May 16
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Modern Vampires of the City - some initial thoughts:
it’s nice to have an album that has such a strong positive reception without it being a ‘new’ band; we’ve had the hyped-up debut stage, the on-mature-reflection thinkpiece’d sophomore stage, and now they’re on their third record in good time. Two of the normally most curmudgeonly people in my Twitter feed (not, admittedly, usually on the topic of music) are big fans of it so far. 
I don’t use iTunes and it hasn’t been released on Spotify yet, so while everyone was talking about it I still hadn’t heard it - aside from the singles, and once while part of it was playing in a record store - so, figuring I’d be buying it anyway, I went straight for the vinyl today. The moment of putting the needle down on the start of the record was actually the first time I’d heard the opening song, something which rarely if ever happens in my listening.
I like it, obviously enough, but at the same time I’m only getting into it. What I do like in particular so far is that feels like such a composite record: ‘layered’ would suggests depths that I haven’t uncovered yet - which may or may not be there - but it’s more that it’s a familiar sound mixed with snippets of, seemingly, everything. 
Hey, Vampire Weekend are appropriating my culture now! (The end of ‘Unbelievers’, with its pipe-band crescendo - the liner notes credit players of a tuba, trombone, trumpet, accordion and a ‘flistle’, presumably a combination of flute and whistle.) 
The stark purity of the black/white design on the record itself - even as merges into misty grey on the front cover - I think complements, and probably has an influence on, the idea of the music being a perfectly balanced amalgam of sounds. 
Already I’ve seen it described as a ‘perfect pop record’: that didn’t make much sense to me based on the singles, although they do have a rather striking dissonance about them; through the record as whole, however, is a reminder of how their first record felt - summery, playful and free, yet this time even more lighfooted and airy. I really liked Contra as well, but by comparison it felt much more statement-like.
Vampire Weekend » The Clash, Contra » London Calling (or rather, Give ‘Em Enough Rope), Modern Vampires of the City » Sandinista!?
That minute few seconds of dub echo on ‘Hudson’; the semi-faux-baroque piano closing out the album on ‘Young Lion’ (as a throwback to the first record, surely); everything’s a little weird on this album, but precisely and economically so - and that is perhaps its greatest strength.

Modern Vampires of the City - some initial thoughts:

  • it’s nice to have an album that has such a strong positive reception without it being a ‘new’ band; we’ve had the hyped-up debut stage, the on-mature-reflection thinkpiece’d sophomore stage, and now they’re on their third record in good time. Two of the normally most curmudgeonly people in my Twitter feed (not, admittedly, usually on the topic of music) are big fans of it so far. 
  • I don’t use iTunes and it hasn’t been released on Spotify yet, so while everyone was talking about it I still hadn’t heard it - aside from the singles, and once while part of it was playing in a record store - so, figuring I’d be buying it anyway, I went straight for the vinyl today. The moment of putting the needle down on the start of the record was actually the first time I’d heard the opening song, something which rarely if ever happens in my listening.
  • I like it, obviously enough, but at the same time I’m only getting into it. What I do like in particular so far is that feels like such a composite record: ‘layered’ would suggests depths that I haven’t uncovered yet - which may or may not be there - but it’s more that it’s a familiar sound mixed with snippets of, seemingly, everything. 
  • Hey, Vampire Weekend are appropriating my culture now! (The end of ‘Unbelievers’, with its pipe-band crescendo - the liner notes credit players of a tuba, trombone, trumpet, accordion and a ‘flistle’, presumably a combination of flute and whistle.) 
  • The stark purity of the black/white design on the record itself - even as merges into misty grey on the front cover - I think complements, and probably has an influence on, the idea of the music being a perfectly balanced amalgam of sounds. 
  • Already I’ve seen it described as a ‘perfect pop record’: that didn’t make much sense to me based on the singles, although they do have a rather striking dissonance about them; through the record as whole, however, is a reminder of how their first record felt - summery, playful and free, yet this time even more lighfooted and airy. I really liked Contra as well, but by comparison it felt much more statement-like.
  • Vampire Weekend » The ClashContra » London Calling (or ratherGive ‘Em Enough Rope), Modern Vampires of the City » Sandinista!?
  • That minute few seconds of dub echo on ‘Hudson’; the semi-faux-baroque piano closing out the album on ‘Young Lion’ (as a throwback to the first record, surely); everything’s a little weird on this album, but precisely and economically so - and that is perhaps its greatest strength.
vampire weekend mvotc vinyl vinyl photos
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Apr 16
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magnifications of the previous image

vinyl
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Vinyl of The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual arrived today. This is side C, ‘Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realised’; 19 minutes of ambient near-silence, or at least it starts out that way. Normally the grooves on a record, insofar as they can be seen at all, form a jumbled, irregular pattern. But for the first few cm (I’ll be metric, since it is a European record after all) of this track are so quiet that it’s almost an unchanging, undeviating spiral. The lines visible aren’t the actual grooves, I should point out, but an interference pattern representative of them (every nine grooves, as far as I can make out). In order to shake the habitual you have to be made aware of its resting state, I suppose.

Vinyl of The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual arrived today. This is side C, ‘Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realised’; 19 minutes of ambient near-silence, or at least it starts out that way. Normally the grooves on a record, insofar as they can be seen at all, form a jumbled, irregular pattern. But for the first few cm (I’ll be metric, since it is a European record after all) of this track are so quiet that it’s almost an unchanging, undeviating spiral. The lines visible aren’t the actual grooves, I should point out, but an interference pattern representative of them (every nine grooves, as far as I can make out). In order to shake the habitual you have to be made aware of its resting state, I suppose.

the knife vinyl shaking the habitual
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