The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Friday, August 01, 2003
CHURCH OF ME CONSUMERS’ GUIDE
The first of a VERY occasional series

THE ALBUM CHART: WHAT YOU SHOULD BE PAYING
It’s all very well the RIAA suing millions of song swappers, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that one of the fundamental, if not the most fundamental of, problems with the record industry today is that it’s asking us, the consumers, to pay a uniform standard price for CDs which are, qualitatively, not of a uniform standard. This seems to ignore one of the central tenets of the supply-and-demand principle; people will only pay for produce what they consider is a fair and reasonable price – otherwise they will simply not buy it, or buy a less ostentatious but far more rewarding, and cheaper, alternative.

This field study was prompted by the sighting, during one of my perhaps too frequent tours of the music sections of South London charity shops, of a pristine copy of Blur’s Think Tank - complete with “limited edition” red cloth cover and booklet – for £3. This seemed to me an eminently fair price, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that I, as a “music journalist,” had already had a copy sent to me free of charge, I would definitely have snapped it up. And the difference is more than psychological. At the standard price of £15 you are, if not a stalwart Blur fan, immediately conditioned into thinking “oh Gawd not another angsty Albarn ersatz-World Music assemblage of outpourings,” whereas at £3 one thinks: “well, I might give it a listen.” And after listening to it in a £3 mood, rather than a £15 mood, I find myself feeling somewhat more charitable towards it than I did at the time of its release, and am even prepared to concede that the forlorn circuitous climax of “On The Way To The Club” is remarkably poignant. Perhaps if I’d continued to listen to it in a £15 mood, I might never have spotted that, amongst other things.

I therefore feel it incumbent upon me to provide one of The Church Of Me’s occasional forays into public service, not to mention some light relief which may come as a welcome antidote to the exceptional intensity of recent postings. So herein I present my guide to What You Should Actually Be Paying For Albums, based on this week’s UK Top 40 album chart. Were you to venture out and purchase all 40 albums at standard full price, you wouldn’t be left with much change out of £600, and even at HMV/Virgin Chart Album prices you’d still be paying well over £500. And you would be entitled to feel somewhat peeved.

Within this modest proposal, I have carefully scrutinised the contents of all 40 albums and have set realistic prices for each. These are based on a variety of factors: the general quality of the album, obviously, in proportion to any fluctuation of quality within the album, and also the kind of prices which you might reasonably expect to pay for each albums, or albums of their kind, in South London charity shops, or splendid discount shops such as Mister CD in Berwick Street, Soho. The fact that some of the senior residents of the chart can now be borrowed from your local library has also been taken into consideration, as does the relative frequency of appearance of certain albums in the bargain basement of the Music and Video Exchange. Scientifically, mathematically and morally, I consider that you should pay no more for each album than the price which I have set; if you are charged more, either argue loudly or seek to purchase the album elsewhere. Or perhaps just go and buy a far more worthwhile “non-chart” album; for example, the new album by Cat Power, which may well provide you with far more aesthetic adventure and comfort than anything in this list.

1. BEYONC? Dangerously In Love
Well, this is an easy starter. A killer four-track EP – five tracks if you count last year’s admittedly ace single “Work It Out” which has been grudgingly tacked onto the end of the UK issue of this album – comprising perhaps the best four tracks recorded by any artist this year (i.e. its first four tracks), subsequently drowned out by a dozen gloopy, aural chloroform ballads.
Recommended Price: £5 – the same as you’d pay for MBV’s You Made Me Realise EP

2. DANIEL BEDINGFIELD Gotta Get Thru This
A great album it remains, but really this is cynical marketing gone haywire – the fourth distinct cover I have seen on this album, and the loathsome trick of adding on the new (and rather unremarkable) single as a “bonus track,” therefore forcing stalwart fans to fork out another £15, is, er, loathsome.
Recommended Price: £7 – as obtainable from Mister CD, with less picturesque but equally functional album cover

3. DELTA GOODREM Innocent Eyes
On a personal level, I am extremely glad that Ms Goodrem has recovered from her cancer. On a musical level I cannot realistically suggest that a third of a week’s dole money be invested in this doubtless sincere but severely sagging feast of overly pianistic angst. Part of the problem with pop at present is that the Holly Vallance album bombed, whereas this “truth” seems to have prospered.
Recommended Price: 50p – and likely to be priced as such in second-hand shops in about six months’ time

4. SUPER FURRY ANIMALS Phantom Power
Now, here’s a perfect example of the Think Tank dilemma. Another highly reasonable but ultimately forgettable SFA album – too much midtempo maundering, virtually no genuine mischief. You know the situation of the tentative debut album – set out your pitch, let us know what you’re about, the second or third album will be the real killer – well, the problem with SFA is that every one of their records sounds like a tentative debut album. They never quite break into their second album phase, if I know what you mean; and Gruff Rhys’ (to me) unlovable voice compounds the problem (cf. Clare Grogan pre-Bite). And yet, were I to encounter this for £3 in a South London charity shop, I’d be tempted to dig deeper into it – to concede, perhaps, that the segue from the Wendy and Bonnie darkness/suicide sample to Gruff Rhys’ “Hello sunshine” at the album’s opening is actually rather stunning. Need to be Sexy Future Androids, really.
Recommended Price: £3

5. STEREOPHONICS You Gotta Go There To Come Back
Qualitatively, of course, one has to admit that some artefacts are beyond price. This is not the same thing as being “priceless.”
Recommended Price: you should charge them £15 to give you a copy. Otherwise, if you really need it, £1

6. KINGS OF LEON Youth And Young Manhood
Did I miss something? Really, did I miss something? I suppose that if you took Creedence Clearwater Revival and systematically denuded them of John Fogerty’s composing and arranging genius and instrumental skills, installing the lead singer of, say, Pond in their place, you might end up with something like the Kings of Leon. Because you came to boogie, but can you really boogie to this plod of a record? I suppose that if you never lived through Dread Zeppelin, you might find something of value in the Kinds of Locust, but why do 35-year-old lapsed Clash fans pine so avidly for the Zimmer frame (See perhaps also Solid Silver by Mike Silver, which in 2-3 months’ time will be immovable from the Top 10)?
Recommended Price: £2 – but you could get a mint copy of Cosmo’s Factory from that stall off Goodge Street for the same cost

7. GEORGE BENSON The Greatest Hits Of/The Very Best Of
Two titles, just like Fables Of The Reconstruction, which, normally enough, this is just like in an abnormal way. And it has to be confessed that I listen to this record rather more avidly than you might expect (because if you didn’t, you’d miss the importance of “Turn Your Love Around” to the pop of November 1981, or “Never Give Up On A Good Thing” to the Glasgow-Dundee (via Gleneagles and Perth) train on a freezing, snowbound Wednesday morning in February 1982). Bah humbug, however, as all Benson compilations fearlessly exclude “Supership” (Or how, in an unfunny way, “Inside Love (So Personal)” is the unspoken B-side to “This Charming Man” in a November 1983 sense).
Recommended Price: £10 – really, it’s worth it, but remember to spare £7 for your copy of Miles In The Sky, on which Benson also appears to far more disorientating effect

8. THE DARKNESS Permission To Land
Something quite endears me about The Darkness. As with The Cult in 1987, they believe so fervently in their doomed mission to revive 1974 that, in a perpendicular way, the mission is no longer doomed, and 1974 funnily matters again. But would your admiration for their undimmed assumption that Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack is the dark secret upon which all pop and rock converges stretch to forking out £15 for that post-“Catherine Wheel” falsetto?
Recommended Price: £5.49 – the same price you would have paid for The Cult’s Electric in 1987

9. KYM MARSH Standing Tall
Ah, Kym, Kym, Jack-less, group-less Kym. You could have got the Neptunes, or at least Jus’ Blaze, if you’d asked nicely. But, like Robbie Williams, she mistakenly believes that “sincere” post-Cold Feet “rock/pop” will open your hearts for her. 50 minutes to describe How She Will Survive. Some of us just get on with surviving, in an infinitely more entertaining and infinitely less joyless way.
Recommended Price: 50p – a likely regular companion of Mark Owen’s Green Man in British Heart Foundation shops everywhere. Possibly from the third week of release

10. EVANESCENCE Fallen
The single plus support acts? Not particularly Christian, either. Not particularly great, either; though I recognise that just two or three minute degrees separate this from Buffy: The Musical. Moral: it only takes a minute degree to fall in love.
Recommended Price: £2.50, as recently seen in Oxfam, Tooting High Road

11. BARRY WHITE The Collection
Of course, if I were a purist I would say, save your pennies until Universal get it together to assemble a proper and scholarly-annotated box set of this visionary’s work. But then to be a purist would, by definition, deny that Barry White ever existed. His art depended upon the listener being impure. And really, this by-the-book compilation is where you need to start. Just make sure you don’t finish with it.
Recommended Price: £7, as always seen in Mister CD, slipcase included

12. THE THRILLS So Much For The City
So damned agreeable. This is why the singles chart remains more important than the album chart – there, you can see, through Lumidee, that someone has finally got ESG; whereas here you can see, through The Thrills, that someone has finally got Microdisney. Whereas I would suggest that you find a copy of The Apartments’ The Evening Visits… for a suggestion of a better and more interesting 1985. Otherwise, as evidenced by the never-more-ironically titled The Thrills (precisely because they’re not being ironic), it eventually folds back on itself and turns into 1973.
Recommended Price: £1.50 – and how many times will you actually play it after, say, October?

13. CHRISTINA AGUILERA Stripped
Grotesque and self-pregnant this/she may be, but at least it’s of an approximate “now.” An astuter Aguilera would of course have recorded an entire album with The Strokes. Still, for “Dirrrty” (yes, I remember Hard Corps, even if Christina can’t)…
Recommended Price: £2.99 – the price of the “Dirrrty” CD single. You are “Beautiful” only because you say so

14. JANE’S ADDICTION Strays
Dunno. Would I have liked this better if it had come out in 1992? Would it have changed anything? Or haven’t the Red Hots lapped them several thousand times in the interim? It’s there, but can anyone find any use for it?
Recommended Price: £4 – the same price as a mint copy of Rituel De Lo Habituel as recently seen in MVE, Notting Hill Gate. Which still, and not uncoincidentally, sounds mindblowing

15. 50 CENT Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
Another essentially unlovable record, but the difference is that it is weirdly and compellingly so. The Bill Withers of rap returns to the sound of Dr Dre’s post-Badalamenti, post-“Buffalo Stance” laments. Not as hard as, or harder than, he looks.
Recommended Price: £7 – Mister CD again. Two videos do not a legitimate “second CD” make

16. BUSTED Busted
The instruments play their own instruments, but ultimately this is, in its indisputably own way, as conservative and trapped as Kings of Leon. And again, too many ballads! Don’t ask the family!
Recommended Price: £2

17. DOLLY PARTON The Ultimate Dolly Parton
Is this compilation any different from previous Parton compilations? Has she been on Graham Norton again recently? Did I miss something? Still, if you must have a Dolly album, then this is probably the second one you need, the first being her 1983 masterpiece Burlap And Satin - the latter available for a fiver, if you know where I look.
Recommended Price: £11 – fair’s fair! It’s worth it!

18. MORCHEEBA Part Of The Process
Apparently they had some hits. Apparently Fortysomething was supposed to be a comedy drama. And to think you could have had Portishead. Or, for what matters, Cibo Matto. Shame on you thirtysomethings, all.
Recommended Price: if you want it, you’ll either pay £12 or nothing at all. I know my demographics

19. SEAN PAUL Dutty Rock
Have to agree with Simon that’s there’s something eerily underwhelming about SP’s success. Especially when Beenie Man’s immeasurably superior Tropical Storm languishes unbought. Are we that easy to forget?
Recommended Price: £2, based on the fact that Streatham Library had it in stock for a good six months before it charted, during which time it was taken out a grand total of twice, once by the author

20. THE OSMONDS The Ultimate Collection
Not to be confused with the US Osmond-Mania! compilation which I recently reviewed for Uncut - that was only a single CD, and this is a double, but nonetheless it was musically far more interesting (especially the astonishing juvenile psychosis of the early Donny stuff – “I can’t EXIST without you!”) and cut out all the Little Jimmy nonsense. Still, the 1996 Very Best Of… sat untouched in the Westgate Library, Oxford, for almost four years before being put in the sale rack for £2, whereupon Laura promptly purchased it. And with two CDs, there really was no excuse for not featuring more tracks from 1973’s proto-Polyphonic Spree masterpiece The Plan. Is anyone under 40 buying this record?
Recommended Price: £2, for reasons stated above

21. AVRIL LAVIGNE Let Go
We now enter into the languishing midriff of the charts, wherein its elder residents dwell and hang on to life. The problem with April Lavage is that she cannot actually understand the concept of letting go. It’s not the same as “rocking out.” She perhaps isn’t even speaking to herself. It is the non-smile of a confirmed robot.
Recommended Price: £2.50, as seen in Cash Converters, Camberwell

22. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE Justified
Ah, if only Uncut had trusted me six months ago, put Justin on their cover and made Justified their album of the month, they would now by default be the coolest magazine in WH Smith’s. For of course it’s indisputable that Justified is the Off The Wall of our times; sexy, brilliant and blank.
Recommended Price: £7, as seen in Mister CD. As you will have noticed, prices are not always directly proportional to aesthetic quality. The notion that Fay Ripley, or Anna Chancellor, is prepared to pay £12 for the Morcheeba album does not make it a greater work of art than Justified.

23. COLDPLAY A Rush Of Blood To The Head
oh i don’t like radiohead they’re just hippy dippy art crap pink floyd avant-garde self-indulgent do songs like fake plastic trees do ok computer 2 no tunes and this is what you end up with ergo LESS THAN NOTHING
Recommended Price: £2 – appearing in greater quantities in Trinity Hospice shops all over South-West London

24. NORAH JONES Come Away With Me
You want some “jazz” records of “now”?
How about:
Derek Bailey, Ballads?
Lunge, Strong Language?
Keith Rowe/John Tilbury, Duos For Doris?
Maggie Nicols, The Gathering?
Dave Douglas, Witness?
Alan Tomlinson/Steve Beresford/Roger Turner, Jump Street?
Spring Heel Jack, Masses?
Or do you consider Escapology by Robbie Williams to be a jazz “record”?
Recommended Price: £2 – especially with cynical “bonus CD”

25. S CLUB 7 Best – The Greatest Hits Of…
Sometimes very touching in its blankness, heartbreakingly happy are their smiles as their souls and bodies slowly get ripped apart; if there had only been a little more sex, we’d be talking The Partridge Family. Jo O’Meara’s final “goodbye” is as suicidally moving as Po’s performance of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Teletubbies.
Recommended Price: £10 – if you still believe in pop, you’d be very pleased to purchase, or better still be given, this

26. THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS By The Way
Very proficient, obviously enduring, but has it got us anywhere? Or did it just fill an ill-defined gap?
Recommended Price: £4, as recently seen in the FANA charity shop, Clapham Junction

27. ASHANTI Chapter II
And to think you could have had Tweet. Shame on you twentysomethings, all.
Recommended Price: £5, as will be seen in Mister CD in, say, six weeks’ time

28. SIMPLY RED Home
Fake cool image is clearly not over. Just because Hugh Laurie probably considers this the greatest album ever made doesn’t mean that it’s better than, say, A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnite Maurauders.
Recommended Price: £3, as seen in Beanos, Croydon

29. JIM REEVES Gentleman Jim – The Definitive Collection
In 1975, Reeves’ 40 Golden Greats - with a virtually identical tracklisting – topped the charts. So great was the outcry that it might have provided one of the tributary approach roads towards punk. Isn’t Prefab Sprout’s version of “He’ll Have To Go” a thing of generously regretful genius?
Recommended Price: £10, because your mum will be happy to own it

30. EMINEM The Eminem Show
Mathers’ This Is Hardcore, but infinitely funnier and scarier; a deserved long-runner.
Recommended Price: £10, you can’t complain, precisely because he does

31. MIS-TEEQ Eye Candy
What a disaster this record is after the elegant roughness of their debut. Yes, they’ve made the classic mistake – go American, go “mainstream,” go “global,” go boring, go anonymous. And to think that Alesha Dixon was the potential successor to Ari Up. A terrible error.
Recommended Price: £7, as seen in Mister CD in its second week of release

32. THE WHITE STRIPES Elephant
Well, Jim Reeves is in there, isn’t he?
Recommended Price: 19s 11d – if you want it to be 1963, charge 1963 prices!

33. UB40 Labour Of Love I, II And III
An economy-sized multipack. How thoughtful. You could buy the Don Letts Trojan 2CD compilation for the same price.
Recommended Price: £2 – the total amount it would cost you to purchase each volume, separately, in the MVE bargain basement, which boasts plenty of copies

34. THE DRIFTERS The Definitive Drifters
Now here’s a thing. 50 tracks over 2 CDs; everything they did which was remotely interesting, from the revolutionary “There Goes My Baby” to the lovably naff “There Goes My First Love”; intelligent sleevenotes. I would have no problem with paying proper money for this, that is if I hadn’t already been sent a copy ahem.
Recommended Price: £9.99, as seen in Reckless Records, Soho

35. SHANIA TWAIN Up
I’m wondering, you know. I’m wondering whether this isn’t the best album in the Top 40 this week. I’m walking steadily towards the characteristically articulate and enticing arguments in its favour from Glenn the Silence Warmonger; quietly adventurous, sexy, astute and very danceable. And I have to descend (or ascend) several rungs and admit that the twinkle in Shania Twain’s eyes, or that inadvertent curl of a friendly growl when she tries to scale an octave too quickly, frankly turns me on something chronic. And this admission may be an adjacent centrepiece to The Church Of Me; why shouldn’t it? Sex was always adjacent to Stanley Spencer’s centre. An album chart without sex would be…what? “Down”?
Recommended Price: oh just pay the £15. You know you want it

36. GOOD CHARLOTTE The Young And The Hopeless
As I was saying, an album chart without sex would be…
Recommended Price: £1 – let’s face it, you could get the collected works of Kingmaker for that price

37. SUZANNE VEGA Retrospective – The Best Of…
Is there a point where Dolly Parton, Shania Twain and Suzanne Vega all meet? Not the first Vega compilation, but frankly I want to have it, and frankly I actually do have it. In some moods I am ready to admit that any record which includes “Caramel” is by default the greatest of records. And “Small Blue Thing”…
Recommended Price: £9, but make sure you have £12 spare for The Essential Leonard Cohen

38. FLIP AND FILL Floor Fillas
Scooter without the humour, the punctum, the tunes and, indeed, the point. Joy is less with this music, the kind which forces Top Of The Pops “presenters” to be confined to wearing dark clothes so that they don’t overwhelm the spurious “coolness” of the programme. For those who consider Kelly Llorenna more important than Billie Holiday. Or Diamanda Galas.
Recommended Price: 50p, the same price as the Grace album which you will find adjacent to it in the Crusaid charity shop in Pimlico, and which is much, much better. I mean, “Not Over Yet”!

39. ATHLETE Vehicles And Animals
Incuriously enough, this is the second album in this week’s Top 40 to owe a considerable debt to the works of the underloved 1980s group Microdisney. And to think you could have had The High Llamas instead. Shame on you Nick Hornby, all.
Recommended Price: £2.50 – give it time, it’ll be there in the Notting Hill Housing Trust charity shop in Tooting, right next to Sleeper’s The It Girl and Menswear’s Nuisance

40. DIZZEE RASCAL Boy In Da Corner
Well, well, well. You knew this is where everything else was leading to. This is a hard finisher. But it’s the only logical end. There it is, a future being howled out for you at the extreme fringe, where the blueness of the sky turns into the blueness of the glue holding the jigsaw together. How appropriate that this, of all records, should be propping up all the others. Dizzee Rascal bears the entire weight of pop music on his uncertain shoulders. And what difference would it have made if this list had been reversed, with Dizzee standing on everyone else’s assured shoulders? How apposite that we should begin with a mirage of what pop is, which gradually de-colourises until we end up with the stark, rancid yellow of the cover of the Dizzee Rascal album. From Beyoncé, who stares at us endlessly, to Dizzee, who does everything to avoid staring at us. What a story this turned out to be. A history of pop music only because the people who bought it said it was.
Recommended Price: go by Sister Ray; give the man a tenner and a couple of quid extra, just in case


posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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BASIL KIRCHIN: POSTSCRIPT

Monday’s piece was written before I had seen David Toop’s review of Quantum in the new Wire, to which curious readers are directed for further information. I had quite forgotten that Kirchin had scored several horror films in the early ‘70s, including The Abominable Dr Phibes, and also that he had travelled to the Ramakrishna Temple in India some years ahead of the Beatles. The childlike voice (“Something special will come from me”) heard at the beginning and end of the album does, as I suspected, belong to his wife Esther; and if a “rock guitarist” does appear halfway through side two to “strangle” the “singer,” it isn’t Ray Russell but could well be Bailey – I replayed Guitar, Drums ‘n Bass and reminded myself that he was/is capable of “rock,” even if it’s the rock of Henry Moore rather than the rock of Kings of Leon.


posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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