Friday, October 13, 2006

CDs that stink. Literally.

I go through waves of musical styles, as I assume most people do. Lately I’ve been letting the NYTimes Music Podcast guide me.
Incidentally, it really is a good podcast. They obviously have a fairly big budget, fairly good producers, and unfairly specialized reviewers. It’s very listener-friendly in that it plays snippets of the three or four albums being reviewed up top so you can decide whether or not you’ll keep listening. And the reviews are knowledgeable, if a bit overwritten (under-spontaneous).
This week the podcast featured albums by George Strait and Alan Jackson. Up until now, the only country music I’ve listened to has been somehow recommended in Roy Blount’s writings, so I listen to Roger Miller, Billy Joe Shaver, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, who all have a great way with words.
Alan Jackson, by contrast, has a very pleasant voice and a calm, easygoing style. Sometimes that’s enough. The NYTimes Podcast said something about maturity in the lyrics, but that’s superficial, written (I suppose) mostly because songs like “Firefly” contrast a young man and an old man: “I don’t love you like I used to/This old man loves you more.” But the title track, “Like Red on a Rose” has brilliancies like, “And I love you like all little children love pennies (?)/and I love you cause I know that I know that I can’t do any/thing wrong/you’re where I belong/like red on a rose.” Best not to try to figure it out.
Anyway, this is all leading into my trip to the library. See, I get quite defensive when talking about my ventures into Country Music. George Jones is a name I came across in David Sedaris’s writings (if I remember correctly, he and Hugh listen to GJ). So, when I saw a CD at the library this time around, I figures, “Can’t hurt.”
I got it, along with some others and took it home.
There’s a smell. It’s a smell familiar to many city-dwellers. The smell of the urine of an unwashed street-person. Alcohol-tinged urine. (As a parent, a former diaper-changer, my nose has become quite attuned to the relation of excreta to nutritional intake. Not that my kids drink, but certain foods and drinks taint the aroma more than others. I’m sure everyone’s experienced asparagus-pee. Everything else is on a continuum.)
Back to the CDs. Sure enough. Smells can’t really be resisted, especially bad ones, so here I am, sniffing library CDs trying to find the culprit. Any one can check them out, right? And if you have it in your bag or if you happen to be the kind of person who sleeps in one set of clothes for weeks or …
See, immediately, I’m off into stereotype-land. I’ve got no clue about the past history of the library CDs. I only know that I wash my hands after handling them. George Jones is, after all, pretty good.
And, really, I’m not sure if it’s George Jones or Navah Perlman (a pianist whose CD covers Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Prokofiev) who stinks.
If I were more of a poet and less of a doggerelist (Trillin’s term for himself), I’d write something about images of pee-stained listeners of George Jones as opposed to those of Navah Perlman. But I’m not, so you’ll just have to imagine it yourselves. We know how they smell. What kind of accents do they have? – It’s a fine line between stereotype and imagery, isn’t it?

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