Well, it happened again. I went out and spent 55 bucks on three new CDs-and got screwed! I bought the new Stereolab album, Margerine Eclipse, because they are usually great. I bought the Best of Iggy Pop to sate a nagging Stooges jones I've had lately. And I also procured Get Born, the debut album by Jet, because “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” is a kick-ass rock song.
I was very excited. The minute I got home, inserted the Get Born disc into the player, turned up the volume, was all ready to rock out with my socks out-only to be slammed in the face with the Pickaxe of Mediocrity.
Ditto Stereolab. Ditto Iggy.
You know what irks me most about being an audiophile? Music CDs are the only product I know that you can't return when they're broken. Now, by “broken” I don't mean it skips or something. Of course they let you return CDs for that. I mean the other definition of broken.
If you're like me, you buy new music because you're looking for that certain, special feeling when you listen to them. An internal response that is greater than the sum of its musical parts. Such as the first time you heard Zach De La Rocha blaring “Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!” and you felt like you just got whacked in the head with a bat so hard that blood ran under your fingernails; and your heart, and your lungs, and your guts, and every cell, every vein, every single pore in your body shut down, causing you to fall on your back and gasp and convulse on the living room floor. That's what a new CD is supposed to do. If it doesn't, then as far as I'm concerned, it's broken.
Fifty-five bucks and not one of these CDs worked properly. Not the Stereolab (which was as stale as a Bill Clinton zipper joke). Not the Stooges (which was obviously mixed and mastered by a team of lobotomized baboons). And certainly not the Jet album (which was just brutally average rock music). Nothing against Jet, I suppose. Being average is what most of us are anyway. But then again, I'm not paying 20 bucks for averageness. Nor am I paying 20 bucks for cover art, or liner notes, or shrink-wrap, or crappy plastic jewel cases.
I'm paying 20 bucks to be stabbed in the stomach and left for dead.
So I decided it was time to fight the power. The next day I went back to the music store, walked right up to the cashier, set the disc and receipt on the counter and said, “I'd like to return this CD please.”
“What's wrong with it,” asked the clerk
“It's broken,” I said.
“You mean it skips?”
“No, I mean it doesn't work.”
“It doesn't work how?” he asked.
“OK, well, you know when you first play a new rock 'n' roll CD, and this guitar thing starts grinding out your speakers, and the bass thunders in, and the drummer goes slam bang boom bang, and then, out of nowhere, some ghoul from the bowels of hell starts shrieking-and the whole thing is rocking so hard you have no choice but to slice off your legs with a sickle and swing them bloody around your head grunting like an aboriginal in a sacrificial ritual? Well this CD doesn't do that.”
“You mean you don't like it?” he snipped.
“No, I like it just fine,” I said. “But I didn't pay 20 bucks to like it.”
“I can't help you sir,” he said.
You know how the rest goes: Harsh words were exchanged, and once again my dignified insurgence against the powers that be was mistaken for a psychosis of some sort and was escorted off the premises by the manager's gentle hand on my elbow, saying in his contemptible, patronizing, shitty-little-record-store-manager's tone, “Yes, sir, we understand your frustration, but this is an issue you have to take up with the record company.”
And then me snapping back, “But you lie in the same grub-infested bed as them!” as he gently closed door in my face and waved goodbye through the plate glass windows which, too my shame, I considered putting a bench through.
Where are you, Chuck D., when I need you most!?
You know, I don't think the record companies take into account the buyer's risk when they price CDs. If they're selling their product “as is,” then the price needs to drop considerably. Maybe, if the record companies hadn't sold out their customers' interests for the bottomless bottom line, they might not be losing their asses to Kazaa and Morpheus right now. Because not only did they not nurture us as customers-we who paid for their palaces and Hummers-but they also blatantly gouged us and short-changed us, and when things weren't going so well for them, they even sued our broke asses.
Anyway, I came home and placed my three new discs into The Stack. The Stack is a pile of unlistenable CDs that I have set aside to resell. When The Stack is big enough, say 20 discs or so, I'll bring them to Cow Records on Newport Avenue. The clerk will thumb through to see which ones he wants to purchase and, if I'm lucky, I'll make enough money to buy this pack of gum I've had my eyes on for a while. Or maybe I'll buy a handkerchief for all the tears I'm about to shed for the poor, ravaged record industry. ©
E-mail email@example.com and editor@SD citybeat.com.