As a founder member of Devon Record Club, I read with interest the comments by one Nick Southall. I felt they deserved a response so that, and indeed this, is what they’re getting.
I too love Devon Record Club, and I too worry whether its format is liberating or problematic, or both. I think there are problems with it, but not the ones that Nick is stroking his chin over.
Every record has a first listening, and the ones we grow to love reveal something, or prehaps fail to hide something, that brings us back again. Several of the records I love the most have repelled me at first listen, at least one to the extent that I put it away for about 9 months, actually scared of it. Devon Record Club has given me a start with at least 3 or 4 records and artists which I never would have taken the time to otherwise. Why check out Alexander Spence when three quarters of the records on your shelf haven’t really had the time they deserve? As for Patrick Wolf! He’s that theatrical Elton meets St Julian chap, isn’t he? What’s that? He sounds completely different? Balderdash.
As Nick rightly says, records change their contours as the years wash over them. But that’s fine for the Record Club too. At the moment we’re trying to surprise and delight each other with our choices, but it would be rather wonderful to be brought established ‘classics’ to listen to properly and discuss all over again. There are always new lights to be cast and new caves to find.
Assigning homework would take much of the spontaneity out of the evenings, and instead of listening to four or five albums and worrying about which one to take along for the others, we’d be listening over and over again the same two and worrying that we weren’t going to have the correct opinion about them. What’s more, if Nick had set me British Sea Power as homework, I wouldn’t have turned up. I’ve tried it Nick, it’s boring.
The other wonderful thing about the Club is that we’ve each found ourselves listening back through our collections with greater intensity. The idea of getting together was to set aside some time just to listen properly to music. In fact i’m listening to much more than I was before we stated meeting. Having to think about why I want to introduce a particular album has been worrisome and delicious and has energised my listening once again. In this respect it’s like Fight Club, but far less punchy and far, far, far less sexy.
There are problems though, for me at least. Both Tom and Nick claim that lyrics are relatively unimportant to them. They are to me, and I realise how many of my favourite records need to be listened to carefully. Strip away the words and you’ve got another bunch of boys with guitars, another snarling M.C. just like all the others. In this sense, of course, we’re back worrying away at whether one can get a record at a single listen. It turned out you couldn’t when it came to McCarthy. I reckon the same will happen if I rock up with most of the records on my current list.
Secondly, i’m not sure it’ll cope well with noise. At some stage i’ll be bringing Big Black along, and I have no idea whether chatting over Steve Albini is possible, let alone acceptable. Even tougher is how to bring a record that you think might well cause offence? I’ve been listening to Tyler, The Creator and various bits of OFWGKTA and whilst there’s enough in there for a whole symposium of debate, I can’t begin to think how to introduce it to two people who may well order it switched off once dark stuff starts coming. How do you play records which you don’t yet know how to justify?
I love Devon Record Club.