I have been working a lot of extra hours the past few months. Those extra hours have come with a few extra dollars attached and I have dutifully spent them… mostly on music.
I will spare you all the details but it seems those extra [paid] hours are about to be a thing of the past. So will the extra dollars. I will be returning to my usual, and by no means meager, music budget. I drove to Nashville (2 hours) after work to drop the last of my overtime money on music.
This excellent installment (and the conversation it sparked) of Sir Brewster's Bootleg Country series revealed I had a certain hole in my music collection.
One of the first purchases I made was R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction. I am listening to it now. I knew several of these songs (from their inclusion on Eponymous and having hung out with more than one R.E.M. fan over the years).
I was not on the ground floor of the whole R.E.M. thing. I was 10-years old when Murmur was released (sorry, Sir Saleski, but it is true) and my parents had strict rules about the kind of music we were allowed to hear. Besides, I am not sure the band had reached small, middle-class Iowan elementary schools. I began asserting my musical independence around the time of their commercial peak, but when other kids were buying Document, I was buying Girls, Girls, Girls. Fortunately, I grew out of it.
The point of that story is to explain how I could have gotten so many of R.E.M.'s albums without owning Fables of the Reconstruction until last night. I picked up the band's trail beginning with Automatic for the People – which remains the best thing the band has ever or will ever record. I tried to move forward with the releases that followed while at the same time catching up with what they had done before. What can I say? I got most of it. I like most of it (and love plenty of it). Somehow, I managed to miss this one.
Actually, I have a pretty good idea how I missed this one. One of the flaws in the way I consume music is I get a lot and I go through it fast. Some albums and some artists get careful study. Some only get cursory listens. A day like today, when I find myself listening to a very good album I missed out on, reminds me there are times to savor rather than gulp.
I breezed through R.E.M.'s back catalog. Some of it stuck, some of it never registered. I went through it all so fast I had trouble distinguishing one jangle record from another. I thought I already had Fables- I knew some of the major songs and just assumed I had already bought it. Ooops. I was wrong. When I realized I was wrong, I told myself to be on the lookout for it but I am easily distracted and I forgot about it. Brewster's piece and the conversation that followed have sent me into a major R.E.M. phase and I pulled the trigger last night.
I mentioned Fables as being one of the first purchases. There were others. This is the part where the dollar:sense ratio goes out of whack. Some of you will be inclined to laugh at me when you read the following. Know only these two things:
1) You're right and I can't argue with you.
2) I don't care. I don't care that you're right. I don't care that you're laughing.
Rhino released deluxe editions of all of R.E.M.'s Warner Brothers releases (Orange, Out of Time, Automatic for the People, Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Up, Reveal, and Around the Sun). I already owned the deluxe Automatic and last night I purchased Monster, New Adventures, and Up.
What's so funny about that? I already owned those albums! There is, to my knowledge, nothing different about the CDs I bought from the ones I already had. I thought Automatic and the rest of the albums in this series had at least been re-mastered when I purchased it. It turns out I was wrong. Yet, for some reason, I bought an additional three deluxe versions.
If the albums are the same, what did I get for my money besides duplicate copies of an album? Each set comes with a bonus DVD. The bonus DVD contains a surround sound version of the album playable on any DVD player, a DVD-Audio version of the album which can only be heard on DVD players capable of reading that layer, and a few other meaningless trinkets.
I cannot explain why I wanted these fucking things. I spent a lot of money re-buying these albums- more than it cost to buy them a first time. I could have done wise things with that money. I almost said wiser, but there is nothing wise about what I did. I wanted the deluxe editions and bought them.
Here is where things get funnier. My mind is not often a great place to be but every once in awhile it tries to bail me out. I listened to my original copy of Monster on the way to Nashville to buy these fancy versions. I could swear the new version sounded better than the old version. It cannot and I am sure it does not. It's the same fucking CD. How can one sound better than the other? It is not possible. My mind is playing tricks on me to try to save face and I am content to go along with the hoax. Ignorance is bliss. It is also expensive.
I wouldn't have it any other way.