I remember when I saved up to buy my first CDs. It was the mid-nineties and there weren’t many cheap CDs around. Big W was wonderful because it sold the top 30 for $25; five weeks pocket money, and that’s five weeks of no chocolates or books or comics.
So I didn’t have many CDs.
Me and my brother got a secondhand copy of U2’s The Fly single with our first CD player from the pawnshop. We played it to death, and then Bush’s Glycerine single. I think the first album I bought was Metallica’s Load, maybe followed by Ash’s 1977. I got to know every single song so well. I’ve got this theory that if you listen to a decent CD enough times with enough desire to like it, you will like it eventually. (Am I saying Load is a decent album? I don’t know! It certainly suited who I was at the time.)
Fast forward to today, where there’s a whole CD shop full of great albums for $10, which with inflation is something like $5 in the mid-nineties. I can borrow eight great CDs from my local public library and battle to play them all through once in three weeks. (Back in 1996, my local library only had classical CDs.) I have a very modest 2800 songs on my I-tunes, which would still take me 8 days to play and about 200 CDs mouldering away in racks, 200 LPs inherited or bought at opshops in noughties and at least 50 tapes.
Consequently, there’s not many albums I know really well any more. Not in the way I knew Bush’s Glycerine single with it’s two B-sides ‘Solomon’s Bones’ and ‘Alien’. I think a mindset of acquisition is a dangerous one. If only I had this CD and that one, then I’d be happy, then I wouldn’t need any more.
Imagine a situation similar to the one in Borges’ story “The Library of Babel”, except with songs, not books. You have every single song ever released. But instead of bringing you happiness, it brings you dissatisfaction, because every time you hit random, you get yet another song you have no affinity with. Just the task of scrolling through your album titles is an odious one. It’s too hard to find what you want. You sound like a radio station.
Sometimes more isn’t better.