A Turn Too Far – The Curse of the 2xLP

The other weekend I found myself in a familiar trance. I was perusing the wares of HMV — the unheralded vinyl king of Nottingham — looking for bargains to pad out the slither of space left in my Ikea Kallax shelving unit. I picked up some overlooked essentials as a matter of protocol (Disintegration, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots) before plucking for a wild card that I hadn’t gotten round to listening to: You’re Dead!, the latest release from Californian hip-jazz experimentalist Flying Lotus. I suppose as a long-time fan of Ellison’s work it wasn’t that big of a risk, and the prospect of removing the mint plastic covering of a beautiful double gatefold record — adorned with the vibrant illustrations of renown Japanese comic artist Shintaro Kago no less — was too much to pass on.

you-re_dead-The problems didn’t start until I clocked the paltry 37 minute running time and divided it by the number of sides. A quick glance at the vast amounts of empty wax on two of them and my suspicions were confirmed: I was going to have to flip this fucker every 5 minutes or so. No joke — two of the sides looked looked like the last flip of Geogaddi, only without the justification. Now let me fall back a minute to allay any concerns here — I have no inherent problem with short albums, nor with double LPs, and You’re Dead! is a very enlightening album, but I do not take too kindly to a records’ natural flow being sacrificed to facilitate a fetish for artistic embellishment.

So, what’s the problem here? I thought turning over the record was part of the charm? Hint: not when you spend more time doing it than listening to the actual music (each side needs wiping down with the old anti-static cloth and the stylus needs a soft cleaning, remember). To the chagrin of turntable high-hats — I’ve always found it an annoyance that detracts from the overall enjoyment. But I digress, the problem is when you take a look at the math — as a 180 gram vinyl spinning at the standard 33rpm, You’re Dead! would fit on one piece of wax with room to rotate to a comforting silence. No problem, and at the appropriate high fidelity for audiophiles (for which I am one — my speaker cables cost more than my suit.)

What are the possible reasons for this decision, then? It’d be foolish to discard the possibility that it’s because a 2xLP gives collectors and fans a husband’s bulge — it’s one of the reasons I picked it up in the first place, remember. But what baffles me most is that the gatefold artwork wouldn’t even need to be sacrificed if You’re Dead! were just the single unit; just stick a poster or something in the other half and allow the scattershot nature of the record fill out an appropriate runtime before you have to sigh and get up. Ellison’s songs here are deft, sporadic and fleeting, which demands sustained attention to make sense of. Being forced to switch sides — just as you’re getting to grips with the dynamism of these mercurial ear-worms — is a mind-boggling travesty, not least because it’s wholly avoidable.

Being forced to switch sides — just as you’re getting to grips with the dynamism of these mercurial ear-worms — is a mind-boggling travesty.

Maybe I’m just getting old. Either way, the musical value of You’re Dead! is watered down in this stretched, pretentious format. This is not The River orQuadrophenia in scale (even with 19 listed tracks), and pretending it is ends up being at the expense of integrity rather than in service of it. Do yourself a favour and listen to the album on iTunes, and buy the record only to support the artist and to gaze at the simply wonderful artistic etchings on each cover.

Isaac Powell
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Isaac Powell

Isaac is Editor-in-Chief of Noted, and prefers his music loud and steaks rare. Lives and writes in Nottingham, England.
Isaac Powell
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