Armagideon Time

Thanks to the current wave of reissues or general lack of interest in the older material that I’ve been seeking out, I’ve had pretty decent luck with assembling a library of favorite and personally significant albums that somehow escaped me in LP form. Even indie label oddities (such as King Missile’s early albums) or formerly pricey comps (such as the Atlantic R&B series) have managed to turn up in decent condition for under a tenner.

Barring a handful of always-in-demand favorites which tend to command premium asking prices (the US version of the first Clash LP, Floodland, Boston’s debut album), the only real chokepoint I’ve experienced has been with material from the tail end of the Eighties and early Nineties. No big surprise there, as it coincides with the major labels pulling back from records releases in favor of cassette and compact disc formats. What did get issued on vinyl tended to be of limited pressing runs or exclusive to overseas markets, and the folks willing to buy that stuff were also the type who’d hold on to it despite the march of technological progress.

Unfortunately for me, this era just happens to overlap one of the richest sweet spots in my music listening history. The bulk of my fandom may have been rooted in the not-so-distant past during those years, but what contemporary acts I did listen to, I truly adored. That was not reflected in my record purchases, which were limited to otherwise unavailable material or cheap retro material. For newer releases, I stuck with more Walkman-friendly or less fiddly formats.

Some of the material was otherwise available on recent greatest hits comps (Lush) or perfectly timed re-releases (Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting). Others popped up on eBay or Amazon to become the stuff of occasional self-indulgence. Eventually, however, I hit a place where “really wanting that thing” collides with “no way am I spending THAT MUCH for it” — and that’s providing a copy was even available for sale.

After a few months of desperate yearning (because I did indeed desire these overpriced treasures), I turned to the Discogs Marketplace. I held off as long as I did because I really didn’t want to create another account I’d have to keep track of, especially one that might tempt me into a slew of impulse purchases. Plus, the whole peer-to-peer retail model makes me a little anxious when there’s no overarching arbiter involved.

Other record collecting friends spoke highly of it, though, and any remaining trepidations were washed away when I saw the top two items on my wishlist available for a fraction of what eBay and Amazon sellers were demanding. And because Discogs is an audiophile/collector venue, the fussiness about grading meant there was less chance of ending up with something that sounded like it had been stored in a sandpaper inner sleeve.

The first of my two initial purchases was 1992: The Love Album by Carter USM, the duo’s third full-length release which also happens to include three of my favorite tracks of theirs.

It was the biggest album in my world for a few months after it dropped and marked the peak of my college era Carter fandom. By the time The Love Album‘s (underwhelming) follow up hit the shelves, my tastes had drifted into the realms of postpunk and goth music, with Alien Sex Fiend taking over for the band on the electro-punk front.

The other longstanding “must have” I scored on my initial Discogs foray was King by Belly. Frankly, I was astonished it had even gotten a vinyl release, albeit a very limited import one. The band avoided the dreader sophomore slump by taking their creepy-dreamy strain of indie pop into a slightly heavier direction.

The results were utterly sublime, yet couldn’t escape the shadow cast by their first album’s massive success or the fickle volatility of the ever-mutating Nineties’ alt-rock scene. The band zigged, the zeitgeist zagged, and an incredible album got lost in the shuffle.

The vinyl versions of both these albums had been Holy Grails since I started buying records again. The average eBay asking price for either ran upwards of a hundred bucks. Thanks to Discogs, I acquired both for fifty dollars, total.

I basked in the glorious sense of closure for about a week, upon which my restless thoughts turned toward future conquests.

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