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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Materiality

Fifteen years ago, at the time of the release of "Harvest Moon", I interviewed Neil Young. At the time I didn't think I'd got much out of him but in retrospect he said a great deal, albeit in very simple terms. He's the one who said to me that songs were "just thoughts", which is still the best definition I've ever heard. Anyway, he was in the midst of his anti-digital period and he said "CDs just don't make you feel good like vinyl does. The highs are too high and the lows too low."
Nick Lowe was talking about the same thing the other day. "These days there's a loud knob and everybody's reached for it."
This afternoon I cleared the piles of CDs off the top of the deck and played a load of vinyl: "Doctor John Plays Mac Rebbenack", "Shirley Collins and the Albion Band", Albert Collins's "Love Can Be Found Everywhere (Even In A Guitar)" and the first Joy Division and Pet Shop Boys albums.
I'm not a sound engineer so I can't explain why it should be so but I'm sure Neil Young's right. There's something sensual and forgiving about analogue and vinyl, no matter how high you crank it up.
The real revelation is Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express". You would have thought that the more mechanical the reproduction the better here. You'd be wrong.
The opening track "Europe Endless" is affecting on vinyl in a way it can never be on CD. In fact it breaks your heart.