06 March 2009

Repackage, reissue, reissue

There was a time when "special edition," "deluxe edition," or "limited edition" sent well earned goose bumps up and down me. It was a 12" single or an album that was truly limited (i.e. deleted day of release) or deluxe or truly special in some "can't buy this from Wal-Mart" kind of way.

These days, those words are as over used as "brilliant" is on those tv ads ("buy the brilliant new album by So and So featuring the brilliant single ..."). I have to admit though, for bands I'm into, I've been suckered into buying more than my fair share of these releases.

Today, "special edition," "deluxe edition," or "limited edition" is attached to loads of releases, and reissues that really don't warrant it. A lot of the time these releases can be hit and miss, depending on what you're looking for.

Personally, I long for the rarities - stuff from the vaults, missing b-sides, single mixes, etc. Stuff I've known about but have never heard. Plying bonus discs with shoddy live tracks (I'm talking about you Joy Division) or demos (hello Cure!) is the easy and lazy way out in my books. I 'm also a sucker for a decent booklet, stuffed with photos, discographies, lyrics, liner notes etc.

A lot of these releases are aimed squarely at fans, and many are from older bands that still have a CD buying fanbase. I would say, hands down, some of the best reissue to date are from Depeche Mode. Not only do they cram their releases with some tasty extras, the discs have also been remastered as multi-channel SACDs. On last count, a reissue like Violator contained the multi-channel SACD version, two-channel SACD version, the CD version, the 5.1 DVD version, the DTS DVD version and the PCM Stereo DVD version on the two discs (that's six versions). There's also a specially shot video on the DVD about the time around the release of Violator. The collection is rounded out by a booklet with liner notes, and lyrics to the album tracks and bonus tracks. Wow!

04 March 2009


I've always loved music. It's what kept me going through my teenage years, and for a while there I was spending upwards of £100 a week in Berwick Street on the latest and greatest promos and CDs. Now my addiction has a new master and it's a lot cheaper than £100. I call him Spotify.

There have been LOADS of online music sites that have tried to sate a person's appetite for all things rhythmic, but most of the ones I've used have always had that little thing lacking. The other option has always been wholesale "piracy" which is always a double edged sword as it gets my goat that we have to pay over and over again for the same song (moving from vinyl to CD or buying a best of album).

Anyway, in the last few years I've been using Last.FM as my port of call for online music. Their player allows you to play tag radio. So if you want to listen to 80s music, you enter 80s as a tag, or ambient or synth pop. As long as there's enough material tagged accordingly you'll get a decent radio listen. If there's not, you can tag artists, songs and albums.

Spotify, however allows you to go one step further and listen to albums and singles by bands with seemingly no restrictions, apart from an audio ad every 20 minutes. The service is still in beta, so there's all sorts of things they could add, but what they have in place right now is amazing. The audio quality is pretty decent, the songs start right away and they have a playlist feature that allows you to collaborate with other Spotifiers to create "Now That's What I call a Playlist" (or similar).

Don't get me wrong, I still use Last.FM as it's been storing my music habits since 2003. Spotify even taps into that by allowing you to track or "scrobble" the tracks you listen to on Last.FM.

There's rumour an API will surface when the service is out of beta, and you can be rest assured that it'll explode just like Twitter did. My only concern is how the hell are they making money? I can't imagine one audio ad every 20 minutes is cutting it. They do have a paid service, but the only benefit seems to be cutting out the audio ad.

Since using Spotify, I've seriously begun questioning the need for a CD collection, something I never thought I'd contemplate. It's a decent piece of software that can make you do a complete 180 of your beliefs and perceptions. Good on ya Spotify!