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Peeek :: a taste of the irish underground

November 15, 2008

img_4334 I was in town yesterday with two good friends of mine: Mr. Æ. Stereotyping; and another who doesn’t have a web presence, so doesn’t get to be included. Æ said he wanted to have a drop-in at plug’d records to check the price of a gig. When we arrived, I indulged in my usual plugd behaviour, which is to acknowledge that I have heard of a fraction of the titles on sale, much less actually listened to them. Once my ignorance and I have prostrate ourselves, me and curiosity leave ignorance by the door and browse purposelessly through the CD rack.

This is probably as good a time as any to describe plugd records. Firstly, I’m not being lax: plugd remains lower case. Secondly, plugd is on the Grand Parade side of Washington Street, on the outskirts of the Heart, but still central. It’s part of a small, uncertain little cultural nucleus, sharing a back alley with the Triskel Arts Centre, a street with Primetime, and not so long ago, a second record shop called synthetic records. It might seem a bit ..naive to bung plugd and the Triskel together with a clothes shop and say they share cultural ground, but the truth is, they do.

Plugd is a small red door frame, with a wide clean window. The place smacks of earnest love for music. A side-window with gigs, places, prices. The shop is a long staggered room. CD’s, then vinyls, with the counter at the junction. Less space than a cheap kitchen. A “recommended” shelf made of a nailed length of wood. Posters of note. Second hand DVD’s. Stack of fliers and free (maga)zines, making a colourful model city. Genres you can’t take too seriously. The shelves are packed thick with bands you have never heard of, or only recognise because in the ten years you’ve been flitting in and out, they’ve never sold a copy.

I usualy browse for cover artwork alone, while battling alternatively with a shame of my main-stream upbringing, and a spurned idignance repeating “I can like what I bloody well want.” I listen to whatever is playing, store the name away if I like it. The guys running the place are the same as all vendors of curious culture: despite yourself, you want them to think you’re cool.

While we were browsing, and once æ had stopped trying to make the owner of the place (lovely guy called Albert) think he was cool, he spotted that this month’s issue of Analogue comes

with

a free

vinyl record!

I’ve never owned a vinyl record. Have you ever had a vinyl record? I mean, why would I? I know all the hipsters (fucking hipsters. It’s so hip to hate hipsters right now) are saying vinyl is coming back, due to a love of getting what you want for free, and getting what you love in a package bigger than a thin ham sandwich. But, Jesus, these guys are GIVING me a free vinyl if I want it. The distinction between “free” and “wanting it” are slim-to-none in my world view.

Allow me to re-iterate I have never owned a vinyl. I have never seen the need, considering that I have sparse interest in music pre-1990 (for no particular reason). But yesterday, I picked up my first vinyl, an Analogue magazine sampler. I’d never really even looked at a vinyl. The grooves seem infinitely fine, like minute pressed hair. Taking it out of the cover-sleeve into the cold November-Cork air, it struck me that i had no comparisson for the vinyl material itself. Heavy, not quite solid, as though there were some liquid inner portion. A sense of delicacy, no doubt from my own preconceptions and the fine spiral hovering on the edge of resolution. It was covering itself in a white dust already.

This morning, I asked Mum to show me how to work their old Sony record player. After searching for spare styli in the typical cluttered drawers, we found two: one already in the machine. Dad warned me not to lose them, as they were probably hard to come by. I thought the dusty turntable, a curious relic from the imaginitive parts of my childhood, would be too small, but ignoring me, Mum slid the record out of it’s sleeve, and placed it down on the notch. It has been some time since my mother explained the operation of a machine to me, and she lapsed into the patient explanative tones of a mother, faintly amused and enjoying her task.

“We used take the needles out, because some young people would snap them while messing around with the stereo.” she said with a smile. We used also used to use the CD tray to hold her old microscope, but she probably didn’t need to know that. We never broke it.”There was a whole ritual to these things” she continued. “You had to dust them, or else it would skip.” She cleaned the record with some habitual care.

She fiddled with a set of levers, controling the needle heigth and playback speed. The was a soft cough of static, then nothing. Mum tried to invoke the sounds forth, using the verbal “Music!” command, and tured up the volume. Aftr a further ten seconds, the first notes came through the speakers. I know this sounds trite, but it was a little magical.

The record is a sampler playlist, and whoever organised it must have had the genius foreknowledge that many would never have heard a vinyl. The first notes were many and low (and loud), opening strings and beats of some sub-popite track. It sounded fantastic. I sat back and folded my arms, grinning. Mum made a face, implying the music was alright, actually. Some indie boy/girl chorus told the house they did all the right drugs at all the right parties. As Mum made a semi-mock-shocked face, protesting on my little sister’s behalf, they proceded to tell the house that they swapped a line for a blow job. I laughed heartily, but Mum was far too engrossed in the cover of the vinyl to have noticed that at all.

“Wow, my first vinyl..” I said, thinking I should write all this down. Mum laughed, saying “The first vinyl I bough, no actually, it was my brother and me, was Johnny Logan.”

Now, as magical as the first time was, the fantastic sound might have been the old speakers attached to the turntable, set out in stereo. I’ll figure out which it was. I was left to mess with the settings, boosting the speed, accidentally wretching the needle from the track.

I spent a good three minutes looking for the pause button, when I realised that I am, in fact, a tool.

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