Physical Media is Dead! Long Live Physical Media! Part 1: CDs

I have over at least 200 of these things still on my shelves and for some reason. And I keep buying them.  Partially because of a weird awful nostalgia (and the fact that they’re $1 at Goodwill now), but partially because of what they represent. They’re cumbersome, they have no real utility anymore, and I still kind of love them. We’re talking about CD’s kids, those round little things with reflective surfaces that are obsolete in every single way. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place in the music nostalgia world. For those of you over the age of I don’t know, thirty or something, you’re first thought is “how the hell do you A) still have CDs and B) still have nostalgia for something so relatively new?” For those of you under the age of twenty (in which case I have to question just who my audience really is) you’re first thought is “how the hell do you A) still have CDs and B) have nostalgia for something past your time?” First, you’re talking to a guy who still snaps up cassette tapes (an article for another time) when he sees them. Second, being from the beginning of the oft loved millennial generation I grew up in this weird pseudo time. I remember a time without the internet, but I also was a teenager when it exploded (that’s 2005 folks, the internet as we know it is only a decade old). On the flipside, I remember a time where I bought (more like checked out from the library) and *cough copied cough* CDs. But the iPod blew my teenage music nerd mind, and subsequently became chronically attached to my pocket. What I am getting at here is that physical media has been just a part of my life as digital. So what better way to celebrate my bullshit nostalgia than walk through some CDs that were, or still are, part of my music collection. I can’t guarantee that the music will be good in any way possible, these are my picks from the ages of seven to at least sixteen (so you know they’re quality picks). And away we go.

Tubthumper by Chumbawamba

Universal Records, 1997

                Oh Chumbawamba you’re music are as hard to understand as your name is to spell correctly. Let’s be honest, we all know this band from the one criminally misinterpreted hit Tubthumer (you know, the one with the drinking and pissing in it). But Tubthumper actually has other pretty decent things to offer. Songs like “Amnesia”, “The Big Issue” are both catchy relatively high tempo songs. Conversely “The Good Ship Lifestyle” and “Smalltown” are slow haunting jaunts that go on for way to long, in a good way. There are of course some truly awful songs here, “Mary Mary” is a headache inducing mess that tries a little too hard to emulate the Riot Grrrl sound. “I Want More” really has no purpose and, like the previously is also a mess from start to finish. Most of the album is relatively weak, but as a whole Tubthumper is still a sentimental favorite.

Dumb and Dumber OST by Various Artists

RCA, 1994

                The Dumb and Dumber OST has no business being as good as it is. I mean, let’s just think about the source material for a second. Here you have a movie with a toilet gag that goes on for at least three minutes. That’s three full minutes folks, longer than any gag should ever go let alone a poop joke. And I thought it was the funniest thing as a kid. But then I got my hands on the movie’s soundtrack via my father’s numerous “I like one song here” purchases. My little eight year old mind exploded. “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” has to be one of the best covers of a song I have ever heard (and to this day is still my favorite version). “Hurdy Gurdy Man” takes a song that was already weird and hypnotic and somehow makes it even weirder. There are a few missteps in cover song land for the Dumb and Dumber OST. “You Sexy Thing” by Dee-lite and “Get Ready” by The Proclaimers are both unimaginative in their execution and are easily the weakest points of the OST (thank God they come at the end). Outside of the fantastic covers, the album included some original alternative rock gems in the form of “New Age Girl”, “Too Much of a Good Thing”, and “Where I Find My Heaven”. The Dumb and Dumber OST was my first introduction to the 90s Alternative world an eight or so years too late.

Lest We Forget: The Best of by Marilyn Manson

Interscope Records, 2004

                I’m what I like to call an arm’s length fan of Marilyn Manson. In no way will I ever participate in the community as they kind of, sort of, freak me the hell out. Not that and I would have never fit into that crowd anyway. That said, I loved (still do actually) everything about this album. Which is a cop out because this is, you know, it’s a best of album. As an angry fifteen year old this was one of the CDs that not only survived the great migration from CD to iPod but also earned a spot in its heavy rotation. And damn was it a doozy of rebellious statement.* There is a deep anger to Manson’s music that is extremely visceral, but also becomes harder to relate to the older you are. I can, of course, still appreciate the thrashing energy that is “The Fight Song” or the deep bitter hatred in “The Beautiful People” in my old age. But I don’t feel it like I did a decade ago. As a result the music doesn’t speak to me on a base fundamental level as it once did. And you know what, that’s probably ok.

TruANT by Alien Ant Farm

DreamWorks, 2003

                Every music nerd remembers the first few bands that they found on their own outside of the vacuum of your parent’s music. For a thirteen year old me that was Alien Ant Farm’s TruANT. As an actual pop-punk band Alien Ant Farm aren’t actually that bad. They are in fact pretty great considering the deluge of pop-punk at the time. But it’s also not the greatest band to grace the genre either. They’re stuck firmly in the “pretty good” level of music and that’s perfectly fine. TruANT as a whole has some pretty decent songs under its belt. Quiet”, “These Days”, “Sarah Wynn”, and “Glow” are all songs that sort of blend together after multiple listening sessions. But it’s a good blend, so it’s hard to complain too much about. That said, the album is broken up with more experimental songs (see “Tia Lupe” and “Never Meant”) that don’t quite work as well as they should. But who cares, the songs that are on point still work twelve years later.

Weathered by Creed

Wind-up Records, 2001

                Oh god, Creed is and forever will be one of the most embarrassing things I ever listened to during that initial music discovery/taste making phase. Which is saying a hell of a lot, I love listening to Madonna. Weathered in all reality, has some pretty ok things it brings to the table. It’s no “With Arms Wide Open” (a song my brother and I still make fun of after sixteen years of hearing it for the first time) but “Weathered” is a legit good song, from intro to chorus. “Stand Here With Me” is a hard rocking schmaltzy mess, and I still love it. “One Last Breath” breaks the monotony with a laid back guitar riff, only to diverge back into the stereotypical sludge fest that is Creed. Weathered is not however, a perfect album. It’s probably the furthest from perfect actually. “Bullets”, “Freedom Fighter”, “Who’s Got My Back”, “Signs”, and “Don’t Stop Dancing” were strictly on the “skip immediately” list (for those keeping count, that’s half the album). Weathered is one of the first albums I ever acquired on my own, and for that it’s earned a permanent place on my shelf.

Blink-182 by Blink-182                                American Idiot by Green Day

Geffen, 2003                        &                           Reprise, 2004

                The Blink-182 and American Idiot albums spelled the beginning of the end of the CD era for me. As blasphemous as this is to punk purists, the combo of Blink-182 and Green Day were my first introduction to the Punk genre as a whole. And it’s almost poetic that my departure from CDs is around the same time that these two bands departed from punk to just plain ol’ rock n’ roll. Blink 182 is actually not half bad a decade later. “I Miss You” and “All of This” are this slow mix akin that breaks the flow of the album. Compare that to “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Go” which both are on point in that old punk style. All in all there isn’t a whole lot to say here about the album. It’s a different, but slightly familiar Blink -182. It’s a sort of meh, which is simultaneously good and mediocre. But was a more mature album from a band that defined itself on teenage antics. And it also killed the band for a good five years.

On the flipside, American Idiot is almost a complete departure from the Punk genre while still retaining its sensibilities. Many had already written Green Day off as “sellouts” years before, but this really the album that hammered that final nail for long time fans of Green Day. And in some ways they were right, American Idiot ended up being my jumping off point too. I love this album so much that anything after just didn’t seem to have that same spark or imagination. “Extraordinary Girl”, and “Letterbomb” are both perfectly crafted rock songs from start to finish. Both of the nine or so minute magnum opuses that are “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Homecoming” are essentially four or five punk songs jammed together. And they’re fantastic because of it. I can’t talk about this album however without talking about the radio death march that was “Holiday”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “American Idiot” and “Wake Me When September Ends”. I suspect that once these songs were played for the four hundredth time on the radio it served to destroy any authenticity Green Day had. In a vacuum these songs truly are perfect and within the context of the album as a whole they’re masterful. But that’s in a vacuum. Truth is this album loses its bite once it hit the mainstream. When the obnoxious rich girl in high-school has listened to Boulevard “like, a thousand times” but has never heard of “Basket Case” or “Welcome to Paradise” there is a serious problem. That and the Broadway Musical was awful.  Who’d have thought?

Mmhmm by Relient K

Capitol Records, 2004

Here marks the actual last CD I ever received as a gift or purchased in my childhood to teenage years. So that distinction is pretty much the sole reason it’s on this list (and chronically the last, see what I did there?). In all reality Mmhmm is a product of its time and that time was sort of bland and boring. There are a few gems on this album, “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been”, “Be My Escape”, and “This Week the Trend” are all ok in their own regard. But that is pretty much all I can say about this album. If you have heard any pop-punk artist in the early to mid-2000s you have heard Relient K. But hey, the sound isn’t that bad. That has to be a positive right? Right? Ok…

So there you have it, a deluge of CDs from my youth. I still purchase CDs I find at thrift shops because why the hell not. But I will probably never again pay full price for a CD ever again in my life time. And for some reason that depresses me a little. There is no perceived value of digital music, nothing to look at in regards to album, no notes or thanks to read, absolutely nothing. And the importance of those things has dwindled the further we get into the digital era. You can share digital music like you could a CD. And somehow the gesture just doesn’t feel the same as it once did. But hey, this is what we wanted right? The death of physical media for convenience right?

*Side Note: I grew up in an extremely religious private school, so this actually did make a rebellious statement. Such that it was…