The era of the album is over. This we know. It ran from the 70s when the guitar came of age and the supergroups ruled the music world and its last great flowering was Britpop– a time when there were a loads of really good albums out there, Blur and Pulp and Oasis’s (whats the story) Morning glory? Loads more.
But what killed the album? The Internet? Yes probably. Well definitely. But you know what helped? CDs.
They are / were at once clinical and ugly. Clean and dirty.
When they first came out people moaned about the too clinical thing, for ages – that the sound was too ‘clean’ and how could you listen to blues on a CD!
I never really got that. I mean yes, there is something irresistibly atmospheric about that scratchy old needle picking some blues or a bit of piano jazz off the vinyl – but come on – we could have lived without that.
But what I really dislike about Cds is that they are so ugly. Vinyl is covetable. Vinyl has, or had allure. Has – it won’t die, and no wonder. The huge black shiny disc, that needs caring for. TLC applied through little soft cloths and unguents and sprays in wee bottles. That shiny line down it when it’s been well polished.
The huge picture on the front – those mad double albums (gatefold sleeves I think they were called) that opened up, the lyrics and all that space for the words and thoughts from the band – the liner notes.
Liner notes, they even had a name for it. Sometimes interesting, often funny or just self-indulgent, it was all good. The name for them by the way, comes from the notes put onto the protective sheets that used to line the album itself back in the day when they were a bit more fragile.
Yes the albums, the covers, the material itself, like jeans, they all just seemed to get better with age. I loved the way the corners of them got frayed – but they looked better for it.
Compare all that with the CD. The plastic cases that grow tarnished – kinda cloudy – and covered in scratches with age. And how those cases so often crack on one side. The little booklets, just too small to take to your heart. Too fiddly.
Yes I am nostalgic. And yes you have to move on – but it’s always sad when we upgrade and its not as good as we had before. When things denigrate – like light bulbs…. Can’t they be environmentally friendly and actually shed light adequately too?
No… oh right.