Brown paper packages, tied up with string…
Christmas is less than a week away, it’s the season of goodwill to all and the annual peak of epic consumerism. The city centres and suburban shops are filled with desperate shoppers and we must all do our part to keep the economy afloat. Cynicism aside, I do like Christmas, It’s a time to wind down and see friends and family, the giving and receiving of gifts is an extra that I can give or take.
The music industry has always been fond of nicely packaged gifts and as formats have evolved we’ve nearly all bought and bought again like it’s Christmas every month for the music industry. I would like to think I can discern when something is worth having or just the same old thing in a prettier package. This year several of my favourite artists have issued lavishly designed box sets, clever ways to entice us into buying something physical in a real box rather than megabytes of data packaged up in pixels.
Pet Shop Boys for me are the peak of pop, they appeared during the 1980s when pop music was at its commercial high for me and there were so many formats that it was difficult, but exciting keeping up. As time has gone on, they have continued to innovate, working with cutting edge designers, producers, directors and artists to deliver consistently high output to a consistently waning audience. With the release of their latest acclaimed album ‘Electric’ we were promised a limited edition box of delights, vinyl versions of the album in a special package that was worthy of an art gallery. I didn’t bite. What we were given was five 12″ singles in a plastic box for £500 (plus P&P) see for yourself here.
I have bought these things in the past and have enjoyed seeing their value skyrocket, but that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s always been about the music, craft and creativity – this time it was missing and I felt a taste in my mouth nastier than stale Christmas pudding. Refreshingly, there are artists out there genuinely pushing at the creative envelope without abusively pulling at the purse strings of the loyal fans. Stand up Imogen Heap and Goldfrapp.
For a lot more than half of what Pet Shop Boys wanted for their plastic box, myself and 99 others are attending a party at Imogen’s house in the countryside next year where she will personally hand me her gorgeous new album that is so complex in its creativity that there is a blog all about it, chronicling each stage of the production. This meticulous degree of detail resonates with me and it is well worth the purchase price. I am in awe of the craft exhibited and experimental desire to push the format in radical new directions. See for yourself here.
Next up we have Goldfrapp, artists who like Imogen Heap and Pet Shop Boys who have always experimented and stayed true to their creative principles. Their new album ‘Tales of us’ has been made available in a deluxe box and doesn’t disappoint, see for yourself here. The music is beautiful, contents plentiful, the design understated and elegant, and one could buy six of them for the price of one shiny plastic day-glo thing from Neil and Chris!
I will continue to be intrigued by what my pioneering musical favourites new and old will deliver and my enthusiasm for good design will never fade, so I remain excited about what the future holds but this Christmas not all the pop packages on offer quite delivered what they should.