My next music source, accounting for the majority of my U.K. CD purchases, was discovered by accident, when I popped into Poundland to buy toilet paper. Much like our American dollar stores, the Poundland chain offers a mish-mash of items priced at £1 or £2 pounds per, or mixtures thereof (3 for £2, etc.). To my delight, the store had a fairly large wall section devoted to CD’s and DVDs in fully guaranteed “replay” condition. (Upon opening, I found them all in superb condition.)
If I were Robbie Williams, I’d be worried. The former Take That singer hardly registers a blip with American audiences, but is a stadium-filling star in the U.K. And yet, in his homeland, you can find an extensive slice of his discography –at least a half dozen titles – in the Poundland racks. I have all the Robbie Williams, I need, so I went for others. At an exchange rate close to $1.50, I bought the following over the course of two visits, restricted not by price but by the need to conserve packing space. (As it is, I left all the jewel cases at home, preserving only digi-paks and multiple disc sets):
1. The Pigeon Detectives – Emergency (PIAS/Dance to the Radio, 2008) I’d heard the name before and loved the album graphics – cartoon rocketship, spacemen with rayguns. Listening now, it’s a bright, easy pop sound. Titles like “Love You for a Day (Hate You for a Week)” and “Keep On Your Dress” give it a cheeky monkey feel.
2. Guillemots – Through the Windowpane (Polydor, 20066) Before we left the U.S., younger daughter and I were talking about music she liked back in Toronto, where she’s lived for the past five years. She mentioned liking this band, which I had no knowledge of, so buying this was a no-brainer.
3. Moshi Monsters – Music Roxy (Mind Candy, 2012) Again, the graphics got me – some kind of kids show, with a trippy anime-meets-Teletubbies vibe. From Wikipedia: “Moshi Monsters is a website aimed at children aged 6–12 with over 90 million registered users in 150 territories worldwide. Users choose from one of six virtual pet monsters…” and “once their pet has been customized, players can navigate their way around Monstro City, take daily puzzle challenges to earn ‘Rox’ (a virtual currency), play games, personalize their room and communicate with other users in a safe environment (most [sic] the time).”
Not surprisingly, the little dudes’ success has led to Moshi Monsters Magazine (“the number-one selling kids’ magazine in the UK”), a video game, books, toys, and a feature film which one Englsh critic said “will leave adults bored, stupefied, revolted and appalled.”
The music here? Very synthy, with chipmunk-y vocals on some tracks, and a few actually catchy pop/rap mixes, like “Moptop Teenybop (My Hair’s Too Long).” Kids just wanna have fun, after all. BTW, In 2011, Lady Gaga’s legal team was granted an injunction by a U.K High Court High Court to stop the Monsters’ parent company from releasing music by a character named Lady Goo Goo, including the parody “Peppy-razzi” (similar to “Paparazzi”). There’s nothing of such a parody nature to be had here
4. Sander Kleinenberg – Renaissance: Everybody (Renaissance, 2003) Again, Wikipedia: “a Dutch disc jockey, VDJ and record producer. He founded and runs Little Mountain Recordings and THIS IS Recordings. Kleinenberg is well known for his use of digital video in concerts, his “Everybody” and “THIS IS” brands of club nights and albums…” He’s also done remixes for Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Daft Punk, and Katy Perry, among others.
I knew none of this, but the double-CD compilation – still just one pound! – seemed like a good way to hear some new (to me) electronica. It’s playing as I type this and while I enjoy the genre as energizing background music, I also wonder whether some of these compilations are the musical equivalent of a bottle of wine – cost about $10-15 and, once you’ve enjoyed it, you can put the empty into the recycling.
5. David Craig – Born To Do It (Wildstar, 2000) I recall the name as a British artist of some reknown, and heard him on the radio later on the trip as if to confirm that it was a good pound spent.
6. One Night Only – Started a Fire (2008) Five young moptops walking through a hallway on the cover, and a sticker that reads, “The UK’s most perfectly crafted arena band – NME.” Coming from NME, that could be a slap and not a kiss, but I gave it a go and am enjoying the pleasantly accented pop/rock tunes which, it turns out, were produced by the credible Steve Lillywhite. Alas, the sticker promised extra downloads but they are of a previous software version that cannot be read anymore. (How many of those spiffy enhanced CDs we bought years ago have suffered the same fate?)
It seems that the band is still alive and kicking, having released an album just last year through fan funding. And I just read that the band once toured with the Pigeon Detectives, so I have a complete show!
At the £1 price point, I couldn’t resist a few discs by American artists – titles I didn’t have in the home collection, like:
7. Janet Jackson – Design of a Decade 1986-1996 (A&M) Do I have this CD already at home? May have been fooled by a cover design I don’t recognize, but where else can I get 18 hit tracks for less than 10 cents each?
8. The Killers – Sawdust. (Vertigo U.K. 2007) I didn’t realize they’d recorded with Lou Reed (opening track, Tranquilizer”) or did covers of “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (meh) and “Romeo and Juliet” (fine, but nothing beats hearing it in the studio when I went to interview Mark Knopfler during the recording of the Dire Straits original.) (Sorry, I didn’t intend to be an obvious name-dropper, but it just occurred to me, and damn he was lovely to meet!). Except for the dance remix of “Mr. Brightside,” which I already have, not sure there’s much I’d keep after running through most of it.
Chances are, if I’d been in England longer, I would have gone back to Poundland yet again. And would probably have a lot more Robbie Williams in my collection.
Next up, I finally get some NEW music, thanks to Tesco.