Thursday, March 15, 2012

No. 812 – Shallow

Performer: Porcupine Tree
Songwriter: Steven Wilson
Original Release: Deadwing
Year: 2005
Definitive Version: None

You up for a little rant today? Good.

Now we’re almost to present day, because Porcupine Tree is my latest find. It’s too early to say they’re also my greatest, but I can’t say I’ve heard an album that grabbed me start to finish the way Deadwing has since for sure Lateralus by Tool, whom I liken to Porcupine Tree too (albeit a bit less heavy) and maybe not since Ten by You Know Who. It’s that solid all the way through, and this song was the one that convinced me that I had really stumbled onto something great.

But if it were up to the Recording Industry Assholes Association, Porcupine Tree and Deadwing likely would have gone forever undiscovered by me.

Yes, dear reader, just as sure as I am writing this, I’m sure that the RIAA sucks rocks. You know them from their fine work of forcing us to buy $18 CDs instead of $7 vinyl albums for questionable quality benefits (and pocketing the extra profits) and their excellent public-relations move of suing their customers. Of course, the RIAA’s rich tradition of promoting crap and stealing from the recording artists that they’re supposedly supporting is well-known and well-established.

OK, so it’s not entirely accurate to put this all at the feet of the RIAA. The RIAA is simply the mouthpiece of the recording industry, which is almost all now run by suits who couldn’t give two craps for the music they put out save for how much revenue it can generate.

In my opinion, every single one of those suits who couldn’t find their butts with both hands if you drew them a roadmap should pay homage to Steve Jobs every day of their pathetic lives for saving them from their own blockheadedness. When Napster blew up the Internet and music “piracy” was rampant, the industry was so dim that instead of just saying, well, why don’t we just make all this music available and charge folks a nominal amount—say, a quarter—to listen in, they instead tried to hold back the digital wave like the oncoming tide with your hands—and with the same lack of success.

Fortunately for them, Jobs saw an opportunity to make some serious dough for himself and brought forth iTunes, dragging the recording industry kicking and screaming into the modern day—while continuing to make overcharging for music acceptable practice.

OK, you know all this already, but I had to lay the groundwork for how this song made it onto my list. The truth is that it had nothing to do with either the RIAA or iTunes, other than the fact that I play the song on iTunes and downloaded it onto my computer from a CD that I bought, and from which I’m sure the RIAA pocketed most of the money that should have gone to Steven Wilson & Co.

Sometime in the past 10 years, my buddy Doug mentioned Porcupine Tree as a group that fit my musical tastes towards long-winded, pretentious prog rock and that I should check them out. I promptly pushed it to the back of my mind as I had other things on my plate. But I didn’t forget it.

A few years ago, I was in something of a rut with my music. All my favorite bands had more or less stopped putting out anything, and I was looking for something new. I recalled Doug’s recommendation and went to the Napster of the Tens—YouTube.

I typed in Porcupine Tree—knowing nothing about them besides the name of the band—and a list of bootleg live videos popped up. One song in particular caught my attention—Arriving Somewhere, Not Here, because it was 12 minutes long. Well, if these guys are prog, it should stand to reason that I should sample the longest song first.

I liked it right away—enough to check it out again a few days later. I sampled a couple other tunes, and they were OK, but I liked Arriving Somewhere the best. I wanted to listen to it more—not just when I was sitting at my computer.

So, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I made an audio recording of the video and copied it—after some effort—to my iTunes library and then onto my workout iPod. Of course, to the RIAA, I had just STOLEN music—and therefore money from Porcupine Tree’s pocket.

But … not really. Look at the situation: I didn’t really know anything about the band. iTunes doesn’t sell individual tracks that are longer than 10 minutes, so if I wanted just the song, I had to buy the whole album. I wasn’t going to do that. And there was no “official” recording of the live version that I found anyway.

In other words, I stole nothing out of anyone’s pocket, because no one was selling what I wanted and therefore was going to get my money anyway. All my recording was was a tryout.

And a funny thing happened. I really got into the song and decided I wanted to hear more than was readily available online. I bought The Incident, which was the band’s latest album (2009). It’s good, not great, although it’s meant to be heard in one 55-minute chunk, so I should give it another shot.

But then I turned to the album that spawned Arriving Somewhere—Deadwing. It was no longer sound unheard, because I knew three songs and one that I really liked. I bought it, and you know the rest of the story.

The bottom line: I’ve bought two Porcupine Tree albums (spending $30) and will buy more, and I will go see them if they tour in this country again—money that goes directly to the artists themselves—all because I got something for free that the RIAA didn’t want me to have. You call it stealing? I call it taking advantage of the biggest idiots in the history of business.

And I’m confident I can prove that in court.

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