Friday, 17 October 2014

When living in a world where re-issues of music are more exciting than new music

Call me a sucker.

I've been enthusiastically enjoying the archival projects of The Smashing Pumpkins (and by that I of course mean Billy Corgan) over the last few years, and am very excited at the prospect of the Machina/Machina II reissue next year. I love making playlists and all these rare outtakes and live cuts make for fun compilations of 'alternative tracklistings' and so on. I have put a lot of time into this sort of thing, particularly with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which is my perhaps my favourite album of all time, if not at the very least the most meaningful.

I'm not alone out there. There has been a huge revival of interest in older bands work, informed by streaming services and so on, and many of the big players like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have been enthusiastically getting in on this. Some of the lesser known bands like Slint are also cashing in.

Such re-issues are not however viewed with any skepticism. At least not anymore. Respectable publications include a regular rundown of their best reissue of the month (and even week), such is how built-in they are into the recorded music market today. It's like an alternative greatest hits compilation (which does appear rather unnecessary today), focusing on particular bodies of work.

Yes they are cheap to produce, given these tracks are all pre-recorded rejects, but there's real value in them. The recent 'Adore' re-issue by The Smashing Pumpkins sincerely helped me re-appraise this body of work in a new light, thanks largely to the timing of me revisiting it at the same age of the songwriter. I am also embarassed I never noticed the deliberate echoes of the closing track '17' in one of my favourite b-sides from the era 'Blissed and Gone'. There's a nice transition for me to build into a new playlist..

For loyal 'band fans', they may feel obliged to purchase these increasingly more costly relics (yes I am talking to you now Mr. Corgan) but that's a moot point in a way.

If I do have a point, it's that I very much enjoy these re-issues by my favourite bands and it's the unheard songs I long to hear, not the re-mastered versions of the albums themselves. So, in effect, it is new music I am excited to hear which is fair enough. Yet, knowing the majority of these songs were once considered inferior does sometimes leave a bad taste in my mouth (especially when they are shit, as they often are).

For now, I worry as I segue into my thirties I will reliably turn into my Dad and insist on solely listening to old music. I have every song I could ever wish to listen to at my fingertips, including music that isn't even released yet. Why do I insist on listening to the same old stuff?

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

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