I really like it when artists do records from beginning to end. There’s such thought that goes into sequencing; on “Last Splash,” the sequencing was agonized over, and I think we nailed it. So it’s really fun to play that album from start to finish, because it was supposed to be heard like that. Kelley Deal, The Breeders.
Whenever I want to explain the miscellaneous quickly I use iTunes as an example. Albums exist as a monetised unit but we are not guided by their materiality as to what order the songs should be played. Lifting a needle on a record was easy enough, but there was a certain amount of respect that surrounded the fact that there were ‘sides’ and a track order. Cassettes, of course, were a nightmare to navigate, not only did have they sides but you couldn’t jump to a track of choice instantly. You had to fast forward or rewind it. Of course, as David Weinberger has pointed out, the primary unit of iTunes is the track, not the album. It’s a world of mix-tapes.
Last night I saw the Breeders perform their second, and then their first, albums in their entirety; track by track as they appeared on vinyl/cd. Kim Deal commented on where they were up to – “Side 2 now” – and it wasn’t lost on some that others may not even know what she meant. Of course, Cannonball and Divine Hammer brought the biggest cheers and when we realised they were serious and they were playing Pod in its entirety, as an encore, that sorted the sheep from the goats. Not surprisingly, there weren’t many goats and it was revealing of the audience’s average age: old enough to know that there’s an A Side and a B Side, and old enough to sit through two entire albums, as they were intended. The ‘album’ has perhaps become a performance artform.