Tuesday, July 21, 2020

It's more or less the other way...


By 1999 we had Napster and dial-up (“We’re gonna party like it’s…”). Any song we wanted took just five to eleven minutes to download – what a world!  Then they started calling it piracy. Back in the 70s we’d save our allowance, buy an LP and a six-pack of cassettes - I bought Relayer, Beck got Houses of the Holy, and Buick got Ziggy Stardust; it was virtual actual peer to peer. Not once did we hear the term piracy. Today, with iTunes exceeding $25 billion through 2013, and websites like Spotify and Pandora, piracy isn’t the hot button it was; still you’d be hard pressed to throw a rock and not hit someone who’s downloaded something illegally. My mother, maybe.

For me, I miss the tactile sense of things. I want to hold it before I hear it, to open it and find the secret message on the inner band; and with the resurgence of vinyl, it seems I’m not alone. Still there are those who covet the digital ideology, who want everything, and for free. There’s a pervasive sense of entitlement or validation: “I bought Sgt. Pepper on vinyl, then in stereo; I had the cassette and got the CD through a record club – I’m not paying for it on iTunes!”

Yet funny things happen on Miro and Pirate Bay. On July 9, 2014, what was purportedly Pink Floyd’s The Endless River was leaked through many a torrent. While the specifics of the album were under wraps, it was general knowledge that the Floyd offering would contain re-workings of songs that Gilmour and Mason completed with Rick Wright during The Division Bell sessions. Instead what was leaked was inconsequential noise, a few minutes of flatulence and what was obviously not Pink Floyd.

Less obviously, and utilizing the German band Velveteen as its ruse (with “I Will Possess Your Heart” the only legitimate DCfC track), Narrow Stairs was leaked on April Fool’s Day 2008. Everyone bought into it; Velveteen so seamlessly fitting into the Death Cab mold. Quickly, though, the reality became apparent as several terrorist cells or notorious torrent managers claimed responsibility. Still the ruse persevered.  Even upon the official release of Narrow Stairs on May 8th, many were still listening to their cherished pirated copies, having pulled something over once again on the RIAA. Beware all ye who enter here: the last song on the pirated album remains the incorrect track on many of today's torrents.  What should be “The Ice is Getting Thinner” is actually Velveteen’s equally eloquent “The Big Layoff,” though the song title on the torrent remains the former. That’s right, you may very well be listening to the wrong, albeit climactic, final song.

 
"The Big Layoff" is plenty Death Cabby, and of itself a tribute to a band that Velveteen admit as a major influence. One of the indicators is vocalist Carsten Scheauff, whose hushed voice is a dead ringer for Ben Gibbard’s, circa The Photo Album. His lyrics employ the occasional picaresque reality as well. In the lo-fi opening track to Velveteen's Home Waters ("Prologue: Plastic Cups"), Scheauff softly re-counts: "I held your hair while you threw up/ and dragged you down the stairs./ And outside we cracked plastic cups/ and I drank from your can." It’s simplistic and familiar, something we can all picture in our minds, something straight out of the Death Cab playbook; nonetheless, it’s “The Big Layoff” that still masquerades on Narrow Stairs. So go, right now, listen again. If the lyrics to your version of "The Ice is Getting Thinner" are those you find below, you’ve been duped, my pirate friend. Aargh.

All the summer's passed
Memberships apply
So here comes your time
Happiness required

It's more or less the other way

It's more or less the other way

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