Missing the Forest for the Trees

While I admire both of your EP lists, I don’t buy enough EP’s in a year to comment intelligently (though that rarely stops me, heyamirite?!?!?). Instead, I want to talk about something I just discovered on a trip to my local record store. First, though, a bit of background.

As a junior in high school, I discovered the music of Elvis Costello. I came to his discography right as it was being reissued (for the second time in less than ten years) by Rhino. Each CD reissue included a full bonus CD of material (singles, b-sides and demos, mostly) and a booklet of notes about the process of making each record by Costello himself. I devoted all my spare cash during this period to acquiring these reissued and spent hours poring over the essays included to get an idea of what these records were about and trace the development of his sound. (This probably goes without saying, but I didn’t date much in high school).

One night during the winter of my senior year I found myself in a Best Buy, charged with buying a TV as a birthday gift for a friend. I took the opportunity to also pick up The Soft Bulletin by the Flaming Lips and the reissue of Imperial Bedroom, Elvis Costello’s 1982 orchestral pop confessional masterpiece. I listened to it five times that night. It’s been my favorite album ever since then. While I have numerous thoughts about Bedroom, that’s not the focus of this post.

In the liner notes that accompanied the record, Costello detailed the influences on the album’s recording sessions. While most of these were classical or jazz artists, EC noted that he’d spend a lot of time listening to a collection by a band called the Left Banke. I’d never heard of those guys but once I got my own PC for college that fall, I spent a lot of time downloading music and I checked out a few Left Banke songs. I was immediately taken by the theatricality and scope of the songs. I added their collection There’s Gonna Be A Storm to my list of things to always check for in record stores. As it was in print for less than a year, though, it was impossibly difficult to find.

This past Sunday, I discovered that the band’s two 1960’s LP’s had been reissued this summer. They’re remembered today for being one of the first baroque pop bands and for one semi-hit, the maudlin (in a good way) ballad “Walk Away Renee.” That song, written by keyboardist Michael Brown about bandmate Tom Finn’s girlfriend, is sampled in the Jens Lekman song “Maple Leaves. ” (Another tenuous connection!) It’s a lush, orchestral piece about unrequited love that is a pretty good example of what Brian Wilson called “Teenage Symphonies to God.” I think they’re among the most underrated bands of the late 60’s and I’m happy to finally have physical copies of their two records.

All of this brings up two questions. First, how did I miss that these records were getting reissued??? I spend all my free time surfing the internet reading boring, nerdular music websites looking for this kind of thing and I somehow missed it for nearly half a year. Secondly, though, this made me curious about the current reissue craze. Every time I read anything about the music industry, all that I hear is that nobody buys CDs anymore. Pitchfork commented in their review of the Beatles box two years ago that its release marked the end of the album era. If that’s the case, then why would anyone bother reissuing the two (mostly) forgotten records of an obscure 60’s band that nobody cares about? Especially if the only song 99.9% of humans would want to hear by that band plays with some regularity on oldies radio? Does anyone have any ideas?



1 Comment

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One response to “Missing the Forest for the Trees

  1. Nicholas

    Sweet video.

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