New York City, baby.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Life Without Ipod: A Pathetic Battle To Stay In The Know

We lasted an hour in Virgin Records in Union Square, but on our 38th pair of listening station headphones, while speed-reviewing Nellie McKay, our girlfriend mouthed to us that “she was ready to go.”

Tragically, we did not get to the Blonde Redhead on the next
station, nor did we have adequate time to make a clear-headed
summation of Nellie McKay.

We calmed ourselves with this lie: we would be back. Deep down we
knew that by the time we did return, the listening stations would be
switched out and we we’d never know what Mission to Burma sounded like.

As you may have gathered from this tale of consumer desperation, we
don’t own an Ipod, we’re not wealthy or disciplined enough to have
internet access at home, and we don’t download at work because it
would be a distraction and because our computer doesn’t have a CD

Seeing the Walkmen on a listening station is thus a moment of
elation that download-addicted music bloggers will never experience.

But because my mission to Virgin was not a solo one, we had to move
efficiently through the store. Burning 15 minutes sampling tunes
from the new Modest Mouse CD might seem tempting, but it will cost you down the road, for example, when time is short and you come upon the CMJ Revolutionary Sounds section.

By then, the girlfriend is fading quicker than a Pierce Brosnan
romantic comedy from theaters. But, hun, don’t you understand, we’re
listening to sounds that could overthrow the cultural hegemony as we
know it.

If something good came out of the Virgin experience, then perhaps it
was this: a new system for reviewing music. The rating scale is
simple: the longer we spend at one listening station, the higher the
grade. If we stay at a listening station for 38 seconds, we’re not
giving the album our strongest endorsement.

Franz Ferdinand: 3 songs, 5:47

Why we pulled out: sounded great, undeniably so, but it reminded us
of the majority of our friendships in New York: completely
superficial. Where was the Live Forever tune, the Brit-pop ballad that made you feel heroically sad and triumphantly wronged?

Ambulance LTD.: 3 songs, 7:53

Why we pulled out: the first song, a crisp, eyelid-closing
instrumental, grabbed us. The second song Primitive (The Way I Treat
You) delivered with a hazy summer-y Luna (which really means Velvet Underground) riff. We seriously contemplated buying the album, if only so we could hear the whole thing, ideally on a late Friday night at our imaginary friend’s place, the one with the Metropolis poster and vintage jazz albums, while we sipped Red Stripes on a comfy, ratty sofa.

Modest Mouse:  2 songs, 3:39

Why we pulled out: We skipped to the single Float On after the first song failed to rock our world.  The song’s video had impressed us
with its creativity, but without the benefit of the visuals, the
song began to resemble those who we imagine worshiped it: wimpy yet

Stellastarr*: 1 song, 1:25

Why we pulled out: Remember the eighties? We do and they sounded
better than this.

Jamie Cullum: 4 songs, 12:23

Why we pulled out: A jazz-piano version of a Radiohead song -- didn’t Brad Mehldau already pull off that trick? Listening to Cullum’s take on High and Dry made us think of summer drives around lakes. His
style, equal parts sad and upbeat, reminded us of Vince Guaraldi
Trio’s Christmas Charlie Brown
music. Making up roughly half the
album were originals: they should have comprised even more. Warning:
if you don’t fall squarely in the Billy Joel camp, this album will sicken you.

The Stills: 1 song, :34

Why we pulled out: Thrills, Kills, Chills, Hills: we’re feeling
scared and overwhelmed.

The Darkness: 3 songs, 3:39

Why we pulled out: This is the second time we’ve heard them on
a listening station. The joke still isn’t old. We’re nervous that as
soon as we bring the disc home, it will be.

Dizzy Rascal: 2 songs, :50

Why we pulled out: The expectations for this English rapper were
high. Could he top the Streets? Maybe it’s unfair for us to compare,
especially after only listening to Dizzy for less than a minute, but
life on the listening stations can be a cruel one.

Anthony Hamilton: 2 songs, :46

Why we pulled out: For years, we’ve been waiting for the next great
R&B singer. Shouldn’t it have been Lenny Kravitz? Damn you, VHI Fashion Awards and your seductive invites.

Jem:  1 song, 1:89

Why we pulled out:  Because we already went through our cute girl
voice trip hop period. And because our Goldfrapp and Ivy CDs haven’t been taken out of their cases since back when Ed Burns’ could still bother us.

Muse: 1 song 1:02

Why we pulled out: As we listened to the single, we studied the
label on the CD: it read Mercury Prize Winner. The British haven’t
been right about anything since Blur.

Blondie: 1 song, :56

Why we pulled out: we remarked how Debbie Harry will always be cool. Of course, this comment was made as we we’re walking away.

Mum: 1 song, 2:34

Why we pulled out: We were digging the dreamy, atmospheric music
until the Icelandic singer with a high-pitched voice came on and
gave me scary flashbacks of the humpback whale sonar from Star
Trek 4

Snow Patrol: 2 songs :45

Why we pulled out: We thought there might be something here, but at
that point we were feeling the heat to wrap up, thus, we were left

The Postal Service: 1 song, :34

Why we pulled out: Sounded promising, but with the clock ticking,
you needed to blow me away. And quickly.

Nellie McKay: 1 song, 1:56

Why we pulled out: Because our girlfriend wanted us to leave. Pronto.
We will not be forced into making a rushed decision. Nelly deserves better.

Final Verdict: How could Virgin, in good conscience, not have the
new Streets album on a listening station?  We purchased the
Jamie Cullum, the Ambulance LTD., and one non-listening station CD,
the Coffy Soundtrack. We then went to Tasti-D-Lite and bought our girlfriend a cup of ice cream with Carob chips on top to ease the
suffering she had just endured. In the end, her sacrifice was worth
it because now we could go to Lower East Side bars with cool people
and talk about music and not feel inadequte. We could write about
music on our blog and impress cool people that way. For the next
week, we would be safe.


  • At June 7, 2004 at 3:07 PM, Blogger retrobuzz said…

    revolutionary system.

  • At June 7, 2004 at 3:56 PM, Blogger Jessica said…

    I thought you pulled out because you were a hardcore Catholic who earnestly believes in the rhythm method.

  • At June 7, 2004 at 6:29 PM, Blogger Anonymous said…

    The Rhythm Method: 4 songs, 5:89

  • At June 8, 2004 at 12:40 AM, Blogger Lock said…


  • At June 9, 2004 at 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Excellent system. And thank you for not enjoying Modest Mouse.

  • At June 9, 2004 at 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That was me.


  • At June 9, 2004 at 6:18 PM, Blogger Eliot said…

    After the tragedy of Charles Bronson's death, I'm so glad his brother Pierce is now getting the recognition he so richly deserves.

  • At June 9, 2004 at 6:33 PM, Blogger Anonymous said…

    Bronson. Brosnan. Either way, he's no Sean Connery.

    Ed. Note: yes, the correction was made because we know how feels about keeping blogs free of factual errors... one might call him a vigilante in this regard.

  • At June 10, 2004 at 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Back when they were unknowns made a regretful listening station purchase of what seemed like a cool hard rockin punk band. They were called Sugar Ray which I had confused with luscious Jackson, inexplicably. Getting them home and listening for more than a furtive few minutes I realized that they, Senator, were no Jack Kennedy

    -Evan Genest

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  • At November 17, 2005 at 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said… has this cool thing where if you just sign up and do an offer, you can get a free ipod

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