I've spent a lot of time over the past two weeks listening to Here Come the Cars, the debut solo album by David Kilgour. It's not a new album, it was released in 1991. And it's not an album that's new to me - I wasn't on board with it as soon as it was released but I heard it in the mid-1990s and it's been a favourite for a long time, an album I always return to.
So what was special about listening to it this weekend just been?
Well, I sat and enjoyed the album - on vinyl.
There are two points here, really. first I'll fly the flag again for the idea of vinyl beyond a fetishism of collecting, beyond having the cover-artwork in large (correct) format to paw at, beyond needing the physical copy - to store and show.
I like listening to vinyl because it makes me interact with the music; makes me respect the music. I'll walk around town with an iPod, absolutely. I still review music - which arrives, mostly, on CD. So I have stacks of discs in the car and by the stereo in my office. But playing an LP happens in a room dedicated to music - and I sit and listen to the music. I'm not concerned with walking in and out of the room, with completing other tasks while listening. That can be an option, but listening to a record provides a joy that I don't get from playing an iPod, from listening to a CD.
People complaining that you need to change sides - that you need to get up and do something: the rest of your life must be so easy if this is the chore.
I'm a fan of technology - but I'm also a fan of simple joys. And sitting and listening to a record is a simple joy. So I've made some time for Here Come the Cars this weekend and last week. I'm not sure I would have given it the same time on my iPod (and I still have a copy of the album on CD and Mp3s on my computer).
And where I do like having the object - owning the thing - is in the talking point it can create. There's a procedure to playing a record. And if someone else is around they tend to be more inquisitive regarding the music if an LP is spinning. Playlists? Hey, they're great but what fresh purgatory are we assigning when we backhand-compliment it all the way to background-music status?
So, that's me. It might not be you. That's fine. I'm not making a judgment on your experience - I'm just trying to explain mine. I like sitting down with an LP. I always have. I have done since I was about four years old. Back then it was the Superman read-along book/record and a collection of fairy tales. But it was also mum and dad's Beatles albums and Paul McCartney's Ram and McCartney II and whatever else...
Anyway, that's point number one - Here Come the Cars is a lovely album to sit and enjoy in this environment, in this way. My eight-month-old son, Oscar, kicks his legs and squeals with delight when the right song plays. And for him the right songs on Here Come the Cars are You Forget and Fine. Those were most certainly his favourites - as one time I sat with Oscar, sharing the album with him and we practised our sitting up. (I did pretty good. Oscar is getting better.)
Hey, I like the whole thing - but we've established that. And this album established Kilgour's solo career away from The Clean. He's made more solo albums than band records now and though I'll always tune in to hear what Kilgour has done (The Clean, solo, collaboration, guest appearance) Here Come the Cars is a very special album. It's linked to special times, to discovery of so much music too - I was new to The Clean and had enjoyed seeing Kilgour play some solo acoustic shows, tagging in also with Barbara Manning, there was so much waiting for me; it's a catalogue of riches - there is so much there and so much of it still rewards, still feels fresh. Playing Here Come the Cars reminded me of one of the underrated mini-masterpieces that Kilgour has offered in recent years: the collaboration album where he turned Sam Hunt's poems to music. I've been really enjoying playing that album again as a result of reconnecting with his debut.
Here Come the Cars sounds fresh to me - it's a shrugged-off high-point; that commitment to excellence disguised as nonchalance that Kilgour does so well, so consistently.
And so I feel lucky to have this album to listen to now - as a record. An LP. It might become a family treasure, something for Oscar to hang on to and enjoy. His friends might be baffled by it, but he might hang on to the idea that it was one of his first musical experiences. Or not.
Anyway, that's all the first part of the story. The minutiae.
So how did I get Here Come the Cars on vinyl?
Well, I bought it, obviously. I bought it from good old Slow Boat Records, my favourite record store. But how did they get it? I mean, it was just other week that I was bitching and moaning about Flying Nun not having their act in gear, not putting up (and out) the goods.
And I copped a fair bit from that. People told me it wasn't my business. Funny that, it's a blog about music - so worrying about the state of one of my favourite music labels, and one of the most important labels in establishing a culture and sound within New Zealand music (one of lasting international impact), well that seems like it would be part of my business as someone blogging about music.
Russell Brown told me off in the comments; it seems a blog is only a blog if he's writing it. "Good grief," he said. "Might you perhaps have picked up the phone and called Flying Nun and asked some questions? Rather than simply speculating that 'it's about to come crashing down'?" He even insulted me by calling me, of all things, a journalist. He can be so cruel.
When Russell Brown blogs he has, on occasion, written about me - sure that he has the facts of the situation and yet, given his training and his strict adherence to the rules, I've never received a phone call from him. He's never picked up the phone to ask some questions. He's supposed to be a journalist after all.
So there was that. And elsewhere I was told off by people who seem to forget - or not know - that I've used Blog on the Tracks to celebrate Flying Nun's 30th Anniversary, gush about one of their new signings when the label re-launched, plug the Tally Ho compilation and I even gave Roger Shepherd a guest-post spot.
Anyway, I mention all that - because some of the Flying Nun artists seemed upset/confused about a complete lack of communication with the label, an uncertainty over their own product. David Kilgour even weighed in on the Blog on the Tracks Facebook page saying he had Here Come the Cars LPs available but had heard nothing from Flying Nun.
So - a quick call was placed, Slow Boat being on the job. Next thing they've got copies of the LP. And people, like me - like you (if you want) - are now able to go and buy the album.
That's all I wanted. To be able to get hold of this quality material that we had, in a way, been promised; that had been hinted at, talked up even.
So, whether the future of Flying Nun is certain or not it's a great relief to have Here Come the Cars on vinyl. A terrific album. An album that seems to just hang in its space, its own place. And now it hangs out with other records in my collection. I'm very happy about that. I paid the money. And I have the record. A fan, satiated.
So thank you to Slow Boat. And thank you Mr Kilgour. My recommendation for anyone who is after this wonderful album is to give the Boat a call and they'll make sure more of this precious cargo docks.
So, are you a Here Come the Cars fan? And are you interested in hearing it/having it on vinyl?
And which old album have you been newly introduced to via this old-fashioned/fangled vinyl medium?
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