Archive for December, 2009

The Long Slow Demise Of A Favorite Band

December 29, 2009

I listen to a lot of music. I think my love of music started when I heard Slade’s “Keep Your Hands of My Power Supply”. I don’t know why but ever since then I’ve really enjoyed listening to, collecting and anything else you can do with music. There are a lot of bands I like but over the years some have held a special place in my heart: Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Depeche Mode, Stellastarr*, Echo And The Bunnymen, EMF, New Order, Leiahdorus, Anything Box, The Echoing Green and Jesus Jones to name a few.

Anything Box and Jesus Jones are two bands in particular that I have found disappointing. Anything Box started as a synthpop bad that most people would not even consider a one hit wonder but in actuality they put out several albums before proceeding in reverse order from a musical butterfly of luscious synthpop into a caterpillar of a band making horrible sounding neo-garage band dirges.

Many people get on the band’s site and lament this but they come across as whiny, especially since there are, apparently, people who enjoy their current sound. I’ve not bothered to try and poll people who claim to like them now and see if these are new fans or ones that have been with them since their synthpop days.

Another formoer favorite band of mine, one that has apparently decided to go from “good” music to nothing that anyone would listen to is Jesus Jones. I think about them a lot because I really liked their first four albums. Well Perverse (album #3) was my least favorite of the first four but still it was better than London. They went from a top notch band that blended samples and rock with the same skill that Dryers blends peppermint and ice cream for the holidays. Then they went from a bigger label to a smaller one (in the form of a Koch affiliated label MI-5 Records) and they started to put out sub-par garage music.

I’ve thought this for a while but it has been on my mind a lot lately because I picked up the live recording of Jesus Jones when they were in the US back in 2005 and was let down by their “modern” renditions of their “classic” hits. Then, to top it off, the album includes a bonus interview where the band proceeds to, in essence, indicate that things would have been very different had they had the time and education to do things they way they wished they had. What I really loved was essentially a “mistake”.

I suppose I should be grateful for what I got from the band but at this point but JJ and the band members have kept pretty close with their fans over time which makes it all the more painful for me.

Borders Has Apparently Given Up

December 27, 2009

I’m a fan of books. I buy more than I read but I love them anyway. My favorite place to buy is Costcobecause anything on sale there is barely more than 50% of the cover price. I used to love used book stores but there aren’t many in Utah (there are some in California but used book stores are apparently a dying breed) and none that are worth checking out. Amazon is nice, especially since I have a Prime account which makes 2 day shipping “free”. But at times I do enjoy going into a regular brick and mortar store to browse: not what happens to be in stock at Costco and not the virtual browsing which brings me to my dilemma.

Barnes & Noble (as I like to refer to as Banes & Chernobyl on occasion) has a really awesome selection. Their stores almost always have the item I’m looking for in stock (at least somewhere nearby if not at my preferred location, if I’m not just browsing) but I remember when B&N was Bookstar (or at least they owned Bookstar). This was a bookstore in the tradition of Crown Books that offered a discount on everything in the store. Not a discount bookstore that sold books no one really wanted anyway but nice bookstore that offered 10% off on all the books everyday. They even offered an additional 5% off if you purchased a membership card for $10/year. Crown Books didn’t offer a membership but they did offer a discount on all their books.

Since Bookstar and Crown Books are all but gone (and non-existent in Utah) there aren’t many choices. There are some nice locally owned shops (like The King’s English and Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore) but those aren’t very close to where I live. This puts me in a position where I like to shop at B&N for a number of reasons: the selection, the quality of the store, etc. But the full price of the books (so different from Bookstar) and the steep price of their annual membership ($25/year for only 10% off? Gimme a break!) means that I’d like a little competition.

Here’s where Borders enters the picture. When my wife and I were dating she had a Borders gift card she needed to use before it expired so I went with her to the Borders that used to be in downtown SLC. I was shocked at how much they were charging for CDs. At the time the only downloading of music available was on Napster so purchasing CDs was the only real legit way to get music and apparently Borders figured jacking up the prices was a good way to go. That turned me off to going there originally and explained (in my mind) why there were so few Borders locations compared to B&N.

A few years later I was in Park City and noticed the “cheap” bookstore was now a Borders Express. I decided to stop in and it changed the way I thought about Borders, for a while anyway. The store was a nice version of a discount bookstore with some interesting books (mostly crap though) at some very nice prices. Also, to boot, they had a reward program. I signed up, gave them my email and noticed that the marketing emails I received offered some pretty nice coupons.

As intended these promotions got me in the store because even Amazon doesn’t always offer 30% off a book I want which is when I started to realize that Borders has apparently give up and wants to die an ignominious retail death. The selection at Borders doesn’t hold a candle to B&N. And the coupons they send can only be applied to what they normally stock which means that even if I was willing to wait for them to order in the book I really wanted the coupon wouldn’t apply anyway. On top of that the last two times I’ve attempted to reserve an item online for in store pickup I eventually get an email back (the first time days later and today nearly 12 hours later) telling me they couldn’t find the item, even tough I had ended up in the store anyway and found more than one copy of the item I wanted.

Borders: blind employees, undesirable selection, bad prices by comparison, and on and on and on… I have read that Borders is circling the drain financially anyway but pushing coupons and other specials that get people into the store only to see they’re not offering anything even equally the competition seems to me like trying to die. I used to care but I’m realizing that they, and other people, just don’t seem to care.