Barenaked Ladies' greatest hits album was on heavy rotation this past weekend when we were packing up all of the mismatched Tupperware in our Old Apartment and singing "Welcome to the O-hold Apartment/This is where we used to live." It was my idea to spin us some Cannuck love. I wanted to listen to a complete album. And by that I mean that I wanted to listen to an album that was good in its entirety.
Seems there are so few good Complete Albums being cut these days. In this age of the Hot Little MP3, purchased individually, beamed up instantaneously into our singular iPods, we only care about the isolated tracks which will weave well into a digital playlist. It's almost like we're regressing to the '50s when our parents bought single albums. (Or in my father's case, his brother bought him the Bread album...without the vinyl inside...just the album cover...because it was groovy). One Hit Wonder was not necessarily a derogatory.
Nowadays, I'm usually disappointed with the incompleteness of the albums I buy. There's just no cohesion, or certain tracks are just filler throw-aways. I usually test-drive them on El Napstero and am glad for this, porque la gente esta serviendo el crapo, comprende? I really like Guster's newer "Satellite" song, but the album in its entirety is weak. Weak. The rest of the tracks were like some garage band rehearsal through which even the neighbors probably had happy naps and watched "Wheel of Fortune" and didn't even notice there was a rockin' band practice next door.
There's just something about buying a brand new album, removing the shrink wrap, pulling that pristine CD out for the first time and watching it refract the light. Every teenager has pulled out the album insert to learn the words to the song that everyone will be singing in a week, or was already singing last week and she missed the memo that Van Halen was hot again.
The first album that I really loved in its entirety was the Cocktail soundtrack, which I suppose is still more of a mix, but I wore that tape right out, listening to "Wild Again" and lip-syncing to "DWBH" every night on my Walkman. Later, in high school, I would click the play button on that same Walkman and fall asleep to Tori Amos' "Little Earthquakes." It's core curriculum for every teenage girl who can cry her weight in salt tears over bygone grade school tauntings and fears about the future.
My more recent favorite complete albums are Deb Talan's "Sincerely," Tori Amos' "Scarlet's Walk," India Arie's "Acoustic Soul" and pretty much everything that Stevie Wonder has ever contributed to the musical stratosphere.
I am sure the day will come when my own children (whom I imagine will love music, and will probably be very snobbish like their papa is about music), will find these CDs and think it's cool how they come with the lyrics and strange pictures of Bruce Springstein's back jean pocket and I will tell them about way back when, when you couldn't download music from your computer, but actually had to go to the Sam Goody at the mall, where you could listen to individual tracks, but where you could also ask the punk rock dude behind the counter what he thought of an album, whether it was a good album, the whole thing, or whether you should just go home and tape record - using a casette tape - "The Sign" by Ace of Base off the radio, and keep taping it until you have a whole cassette tape of the same song that you can listen to on repeat a la Brenda Walsh with "Losing My Religion" and sulk in your room like every good teenager does. And when you grow up, you can have the pleasure of listening to that song on your iPod. You can play it again and again and not have to worry about it unraveling or scratching. But you will have to worry about it getting old.