By Woodrow Whyte
Have you ever bought a record that you’ve never heard before, only to discover it was total balls? I recall one formative experience when I was about fourteen and I inadvertently bought an album by Australian F-rate pop-punk band The Androids. Considering Green Day are the ‘A’ grade in this highly questionable category, you can probably guess just how fucking appalling it was. I was horrified. “What have I done to deserve this?” I thought, as I marched straight back to the shop that dared sell me what is essentially the most embarrassing record I have ever bought.
Thankfully the likelihood of repeating this experience is all but a distant nightmare thanks to the internet. We can all try before we buy…or not buy at all as the case may be. For me, I can’t remember the last time I bought an album without hearing the music beforehand – or at least having a vague idea of what it was going to sound like. Yet, when the internet is taken away from you, things can get pretty dire. I ended up without the internet for the best part of a month and I felt like a complete neo-luddite. I didn’t quite realise it before but I am wholly reliant on the internet for new music, which in hindsight is not the best way to be.
I moved house and it took about three weeks to get the internet working. Matters were made worse when I was mugged – taking my last connection to the internet via my much beloved smartphone. I was stuck in musical no man’s land, stranded with only my CD collection and a recently discovered 12” of Madonna‘s Immaculate Collection for company. It wasn’t terrible, I suppose. I enjoyed digging out records I had completely forgotten I owned and spent a lot of time doing nothing else but listening to music in my room, which isn’t as isolating an experience as I had remembered. Yet when it comes to finding new music and writing about music – aka my job – I became a little stuck. And when I say ‘a little stuck’ I mean ‘couldn’t write a fucking thing’.
My bad journalism skills aside, it got me thinking, am I too reliant on the internet in terms of music discovery? The internet is obviously a great thing for music as, despite what some might say, buying music is a luxury. Those of us with little have to choose carefully. Imagine if you had never heard of The Ting Tings before and you spent your last £10 on Sounds from Nowheresville. Cheated doesn’t even cover it. The internet prevents tragedies like this occurring, but the element of surprise when you buy something you haven’t heard before can be the difference between liking a record and loving it. I think the joy of discovery is heightened this way and its something which, if we remove our heads out of the soundclouds, we could all probably benefit from doing a little more of. But if I’m honest, in practical terms I just couldn’t do it. I can’t live without the internet to fulfil my incessant need for new music.
Of course there are people who will still go on a random vinyl hunt and just pick things at random, which is something I envy because if I had the money, I would too. Despite the chances of picking up something awful, you might just find something amazing too. For now though, I’m happily catching up with the new Beach House record (pretty good), Gossip (hit and miss), Rye Rye (the Vengaboys sample freaks me out), Alt-J (stunningly beautiful) and I’m still waiting to hear the new 2:54, Best Coast and EL-P releases. To avoid being without internet ever again, I’m going to have extensive surgery to become a human Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Androids – Do It With Madonna