I am getting old. I turned 22 last week and ever since that, the signs have been both telltale and plentiful: I can't drink so much as I used to, I'm tired all the time and various bodily functions have been steadily degrading (a condition that my father recommended \hitting the track"" to remedy). Perhaps even more telling, just as I've finally amassed an admirable music collection, I can't hit a record store without being alerted that some of my favorite CDs are now obsolete, replaced with greatly superior rereleases. Dammit.
Some of these are a clear attempt to cash in as quickly as possible on rising stars. The Strokes' Is This It now comes packaged with a DVD of music videos and live performances, and the entire White Stripes catalogue is in the process of being remastered and rereleased, to celebrate their being spirited away from the indie label Sympathy For The Record Industry and onto Sony-owned V2. White Blood Cells will be rereleased with a DVD at the end of the month, which might be an incentive for some newcomers but I've never heard anyone complain that they couldn't hear the ""sounds behind the sounds"" of, say, ""Little Bird.""
Far more troublesome is the upcoming rerelease of Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted. The prospect of cleaning up the sonic slop of this disc is almost laughable. But the chuckling subsides when one sees the tracklist has exploded from 14 to 48, including not only the requisite demos and 7' mixes, but two separate John Peel Sessions, the entire Watery, Domestic EP and a live concert from 1992. All this, plus a little book, in an embossed slipcover for a whole $2 more than Slanted costs now. Actually, I can't get too angry about this one, because I would have easily paid $14 for all this new stuff on its own. In fact, come to think of it, this is the best thing I could ever want from a remaster'it might encourage people to check out this weird and seminal group, plus have enough to interest old fans. At the very least, buying Slanted twice will make me feel better about owning a burned copy of Terror Twilight, at least until it's rereleased with the ""The Boston Pops Play The Music Of Steven Malkmus"" split 7'.
Obviously, though, remasters are most relevant when they repackage the work of older artists, whose CD releases may well be the same versions that were released in the '80s, when labels rushed to transfer popular albums to CD in an often hasty and unimpressive process. The Rolling Stones' early albums got an unusual treatment this summer: The remasters offer no bonus tracks, but instead a dual-layered disc that can be played on both regular CD decks and Super Audio CD players, which I'll assume is completely irrelevant to all readers but the most successful drug dealers. Nevertheless, I was happily surprised at how much better the new Let It Bleed sounds, but I probably won't be replacing albums I already legitimately own.
Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are both artists in dire need of the remaster'Dylan's ""New Morning,"" while a mediocre CD all around, suffers from the worst digital transfer I've ever heard. Both artists have huge vaults of unreleased takes, and there should be no question that their fans can be as rabid as anyone, and willing to pay to hear them. Dylan's Bootleg Series is proof of that'four albums of stellar live and unreleased material that are as important as his studio albums (Volume 5 will be released in November, compiling concerts from the Rolling Thunder Revue, packaged with'you guessed it'a DVD). Should someone decide to take Bob and Bruce to task, I implore them to do a definitive job with it to avoid the debacle of Elvis Costello's albums, some of which have gone through three rereleases with increasing improvements in sound and addition of b-sides, which have served only to make old-school fans of Elvis more and more irate with Rhino Records. The point is to entice new listeners, not to punish old fans'fail to walk that line and you multiply the sales of CD burners. Keep it fair and even aging music fans like me will be inclined to meet halfway.