So I’ve made what might well be my last ever visit to Exeter Fopp today. It’s possible I might go back tomorrow, but unlikely. Which means that my final ever purchase in the record store at 191 High Street (I doubt whatever comes next will be another record store), where I’ve been buying records since I was about 13, was London Sessions by LCD Soundsystem. Somehow it strikes me as fitting that it’s both a new record (out last Monday), and an old one (in that it’s live versions of songs any LCD fan already owns).
Before I bought London Sessions I checked the user-reviews on Amazon.co.uk; there’s only one at present, and it’s remarkably erudite. The author uses the marvelous term that titles this post: “An album may be fractured, broken into pieces, ignored by those with short attention spans and mobile phones sodcasting their awful racket all over trains the country wide”. I’ve never seen or heard it used before, though Urban Dictionary tells me it’s been around since 2007. When I used to catch the train from Dawlish to Exeter circa 2003 there was one notable bastard who nearly drove me to homicide through sodcasting Britney Spears and Sugababes from his tinny Sony Ericsson speaker. I like the term a lot.
I was thinking about over-used terms in music reviews the other day, I think inspired by reading yet another writer use the deadening phrase “the [something] is all [something]”, as in “the chorus is all heavenly choirs” or “the guitar solo is all angular electric shocks” or “the intro is all pounding drums” or “the guest rap is all boasts about the size of his penis” or whatever.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I used to trot out “the [something] is all [something]” like a crutch in reviews where I was otherwise grasping for sonic metaphors, similes, or descriptors or some other kind, and I think this is why I’ve grown to hate it so much. It makes me clench my fists.
But it’s not the phrase I hate the most in music writing. No, the peak of my ire and disgust is saved for the pseudo-objectivity and desperate-clamor-for-authority that runs through the phrase “album of the year”, especially when used in any month other than December and in any context outside of “my favourite album of the year is [something].” My particular least favourite usage is when it’s preceded by the phrase “may just be the”, the definite article adding yet another layer of obnoxiousness. I find something ugly in the desire to crown an album king, in the rush to have your voice be heard as one of the first to canonize.
I also find something stupid in the whole arbitrariness of the end-of-year wiping of the slate within music journalism and music geekdom in general. I do it myself; for the last couple of years I’ve kept new CD acquisitions in a growing pile and only filed them away into the alphabetical stacks on New Year’s Day, where they get almost-forgotten about, their useful lives ending with December whether they were bought 11 months ago or 1 days ago. Those late-in-the-year purchases don’t get a fair crack of the whip.
Because the wiping of the slate makes everyone rush out in January eager for the cool new thing, whether that’s the BBC’s “Sound of” list or whichever opportunistic indie band decided to hold their new record over from a late-autumn release in order to try and catch a conspicuously high chart position in a quiet week. I’ve seen too many contacts on Twitter or Facebook in the last week or so singing the praises of Adele or whoever because they’re desperate to listen to something that’s new and call it good; sod that. Don’t put away last year’s records yet. Or those from the year before, even. Listen to something you know is awesome one more time, and stop hankering for the “album of 2011” already.