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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"So, what should I buy?"

I've just had an email from a chap who heard me going on about The Decemberists on Simon Mayo's Radio Five programme a month or so back, decided to look into them, bought The Crane Wife, loved it, went to see them in concert and is now delighted to find that there's a "youngish" band that he quite likes. Funny business, this recommendation thing. It only works if it's done sparingly. In a few cases over the last year I've gone into print with a comment that is frankly aching to be plucked out and used on an ad. I said that Keren Ann's "Nolita" was "pretty much perfect"; in the case of "The Crane Wife" I said "you should buy this" and with Willie Nile's "Streets Of New York", I went so far as to say that if people bought it and didn't like it I'd give them their money back. Nobody made such a request. In fact a few people said how much they'd loved it. Because I once worked in a record shop I have never forgotten the fact that there's a huge difference between the good record you personally love and the good record that it's safe to recommend to nine out of ten cats. I think most people would take to "The Crane Wife" and The Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible" but not everyone would feel the same about, say, Tinariwen's "Aman Iman". What is it that Jack Black says in "High Fidelity"? "I shall now sell three copies of the Beta Band." It's true. There's a certain category of records that people just like. All they need is to be exposed to them in the appropriate circumstances.