My brother instilled in me proper care for the media I owned. He did so by being incredibly territorial about his.
In a household of six people, resources can get scarce. Space and privacy were two such resources.
Understandably, my brother was loathe to share anything with his younger siblings, especially given how poorly they treated them. In my case, I really tore my album covers up to shreds. You should the condition of The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack in my collection.
As such, he forbade anyone from handling his album. That meant the only time we got to hear them is when he played them.
He scooped me in acquiring Paul Simon’s Graceland and Sting’s … Nothing Like the Sun. He also possessed the only boombox with a phonograph connection, so he could dub his albums on cassette. Naturally, he would never let me borrow his boombox to make my own dubs of his albums.
My dad also owned a boombox, one without phonograph connections. But it did have RCA connections for line in and line out. I also got my hands on the owner’s manual of the family stereo, where I discovered similar RCA connections with different labels: tape in, tape out.
Did I finally find a loophole in my brother’s prohibition? The only way to find out was to get a spare RCA cord and connect the family stereo to the boombox.
On a day when my brother was out of the house, I put his copy of Graceland on the record player, connected my dad’s boombox to the receiver, put in a cassette tape and started to make a dub.
I played back the results and reveled in victory. If it hadn’t succeeded, the remaining alternative was to put the boombox next to the stereo speaker and hit record. This method did not produce quality sound.
On that same afternoon, I made a dub of … Nothing Like the Sun as well. My brother wasn’t pleased to learn I had succeeded in bootlegging his albums.
Learning how to connect pieces of audio equipment together would manifest into building a home recording studio roughly 15 years later. Along the way, there were mixed tapes to be created.
One new song out of a 52-track career retrospective? I think I’m fine.
The Replacements, Dead Man’s Pop, Sept. 27
Don’t Tell a Soul was the first album I bought from the Replacements, so I’m interested to hear this period of the band’s history expanded on this boxed set.
Cocco, Star Shank, Oct. 2
Three years is pretty much the average gap between Cocco albums these days, now that she’s diversified into fashion, films, stage acting and literature. So she’s right on schedule.
Explosions in the Sky, The Rescue, Aug. 16 Explosions in the Sky, How Strange Innocence, Aug. 16
Explosions in the Sky wrote and recorded The Rescue in two weeks, and it’s a surprisingly tight album given its self-imposed constraints. Previously available only at the band’s shows, it gets a vinyl reissue for the band’s 20th anniversary.
Pinback, Summer in Abaddon (15th Anniversary Edition), Sept. 27
During my days as a record store employee, I got the impression Pinback was a fairly mellow band. So when I found this album at the thrift store, I was taken aback by how boisterous it was.
NUMBER GIRL, Kanden no Kioku, Nov. 3 NUMBER GIRL, DESTRUCTION BABY, Nov. 3
Just as Universal was starting to neglect NUMBER GIRL’s albums, the band reunites and gives the label a reason to dig into the archives. Oh, thank goodness.
Midnight Oil, Breathe Tour 97, Nov. 29
I’m unclear about whether this album was actually released on Record Store Day 2019. It showed up on the list, only to disappear as the April date approached. But it’s up on Discogs, so … where was it available? And is this reissue vaporware?
What is the memory you most associate with this title?
I jumped on the bandwagon of shopping for music on the Internet really early. How early? Amazon hadn’t even launched when I was sending checks to complete strangers on the rec.music.marketplace group on USENET.
CD Connection had a TELNET interface where you could buy albums at warehouse prices. Interstate taxation hadn’t yet become an issue, although the markup to ship to Hawaii was obscene.
As terrific as Tower Records was, they couldn’t fit everything in the store, and they couldn’t cater to someone with tastes as esoteric as mine.
I bought Halfrack on the Internet, most likely from CD Connection. I knew it would take Tower weeks, if not months, to stock it, so I cut out the middle man and got it myself.
What was happening in your life when it was released?
In May 1993, I was preparing to move back to Honolulu after spending two semesters in New York City on the National Student Exchange Program.
This program allowed students to attend another university in the country while paying either the in-state tuition of the host school, or the in-state tuition of the visitor’s school.
I had wanted to go to the Mainland for college like a number of my high school friends, but my family couldn’t afford it. My parents’ combined income put us out of reach of financial aid, unless I opted to take out loans, which my mom insisted not happen.
I didn’t appreciate the gesture at the time, but I’m glad for it now. I have no student debt, and I’m sure I would be in a worse financial position now had I saddle myself with it.
What was happening in your life when you bought it?
The Internet wasn’t just the World Wide Web. Before the web gave the internet a graphical user interface, there were mailing lists, newsgroups, talk daemons and IRC.
And I was exploring anything music-related through these command-line interfaces. I sold and bought CDs on USENET. I developed friendships with people I would never meet through a shared love of Duran Duran. I chatted with high school friends if the finger command revealed they were online many time zones away.
I also started to shift my academic focus away from music and onto journalism. I wrote a few reviews for the Hunter College newspaper when I lived in New York, and I liked the experience so much, I kept writing for the paper at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The seeds of this web site were pretty much being sown right around the time I picked up this album.
What do you think of it now?
I have to admit I didn’t listen to Halfrack as much as I could have at the time. V as in Victim followed shortly afterward and quickly monopolized my listening time.
Halfrack set the tone for what would follow, including moments of tenderness next to controlled chaos. At five tracks, it whetted the appetite for more, and even 25+ year later, it’s an astonishing piece of work to behold.
The influence of Naked City is inescapable, which means it will always be a perpetual favorite.
Seattle Symphony performed this piece as part of its [untitled] series, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Sonic Youth, Confusion Is Sex / Kill Yr. Idols
I’ve read a number of record guides, and very few of them recommend this album. They are wrong. Confusion Is Sex is probably the closest Sonic Youth has gotten to its modern classical roots, and I like it a lot.
On Facebook, I posted this controversial stance: Duffy > Adele. Maybe I like Rockferry because it’s not piped into every restaurant and waiting room.
Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around
I scored when I found a copy of this album with a DVD of the video for “Hurt” at the thrift store. Then I heard the rest of it, and … wow.
This album entered the Favorite Edition list on pretty much the first listen.
Various Artists, Living In Oblivion, Vol. 1
I had a copy of this album, but the booklet got water damaged in a refrigerator leak. So I gave it away. Welcome back.
Washed Out, Within and Without
Part of me wishes the cover of the album were homoerotic, but the music on it is great.
Anderson .Paak, Ventura
I’ve heard of Anderson .Paak but not from Anderson .Paak, so a $2 copy of this album at Goodwill, unopened, seemed like a low-risk way to find out who he is. I’m impressed.