Top 10 Things I Hate About CDs
Ds are ace, aren’t they? Little silver slivers of joy packed with music. They’re indestructible! Allegedly. (I microwaved my copy of The Others’ debut album and that destroyed it well enough, believe me.) And they refract light into pretty patterns just like the cover of that Pink Floyd album. And you can use them as bird-scares if you tie ‘em to trees. AND they’ve got a greater dynamic range than vinyl, so stick that. Bloody fantastic.
So why do so many artists and record companies screw them up? Why are we, after more than twenty years of practice, still absolutely bloody rubbish at making the most of all the fabulous opportunities that CDs offer us? Badly designed artwork and packaging, thoughtlessness in pagination of booklets: the fuck-ups people make with CDs are legion. Here are a few that really piss me off.
10. Outer sleeves
I do not like card outer-sleeves on albums with normal jewel cases—what’s the point? They scuff, they rip, sometimes they’re so bloody tight it’s a mammoth struggle to even get the sodding CD out and play it. I take them off and keep them all in a drawer somewhere.
Stickers on a jewel case indicating an album’s title when the title is not on the actual cover are bad, wrong, and should not be allowed. If the album title was MEANT to be on the cover, they'd have put it there. See: Out Of Nothing by Embrace, Emergency & I by Dismemberment Plan, lots of others.
I don’t know how Americans deal with all the goddamn security stickers they put along the edges of a jewel case. They’re designed to rip but they stay stuck if you try and pull them off. Is this only on import CDs that I get from the US, or is it on EVERY DAMN ONE in every record shop over there? Hideousness. I’ve bought the CD, please let me open it!
Albums with essential stickers on the jewel case, like Idiology by Mouse On Mars, where the “cover” is a sticker. What if the case breaks?! To be fair, that particular album supplied a spare. Which I had to use straight away.
Actually ANY stickers on cover (with those handy quotes from places like NME that say things like “The Shins will change your life,” for instance, or shop-specific barcodes or price tags) that have glue which is not easy to peel-off are wrong. I won’t ever listen to No Code by Pearl Jam again because the cover of the card sleeve (argh) got ripped (ARGH) when I had to peel the barcode off. Why was the barcode on a sticker? Because Pearl Jam are about the music and not the sales, maaaaan, and therefore didn’t have one in the first place—hence the album title. Bastards.
08. Bad / unimaginative graphic design
People should be FORCED to include the track number next to the track name in the track listing, especially if there are more than 10 tracks. I hate having to count to find out what number a song is. I feel like I’m being persecuted for having a bad memory.
CD covers with boring layouts annoy me—the title on the front and the tracklisting on the back; how unimaginative is that? Try putting the tracklisting on the front like people used to do in the 60s for a change!
I remember spending twenty minutes trying to find the tracklisting for Orbital's Middle Of Nowhere when I first got it. I was with a mate and neither of us could find it. Not on the back, the front, the card outer sleeve (argh), not anywhere in the booklet. Where is it? In tiny fucking letters on the spine. Arseholes.
(As for unimaginative designs on the CDs themselves, I know they're either in a case on the shelf or else spinning in a CD player, but a bit of thought and creativity shows you care, doesn't it? For a while I had a glass-fronted, vertical-load CD player where you could see the CD spinning (it sounded like shit, so I sold it). Mind you, at 5,000rpm, everything’s a blur. Still, it’d be nice.)
07. CD tray pins
CD trays where the little pins to hold the CD in place doesn’t hold the CD tightly enough (causing it to spin around annoyingly when you pick it up) nearly drive me to kill. But it’s even worse when they break, and you need to replace the tray. Of course you can’t do that with digipaks at all. Damn it.
06. Inconsistent spine writing
I hate when spine text is written in a stupid direction so you have to turn your head 180 degress when browsing your collection. What is that? Bloody-mindedness? “MY CDs are special, and will face the other way to EVERYONE else’s.” One notable exception is All Hail West Texas by Mountain Goats, where the text reads downwards. I recall John Darnielle saying at one point that he wished he’d specified this for all his albums.
Talk Talk and The The are bastards though. Why? Line up the remasters of their classic 80s albums on your shelves. The Talk Talk ones say “Talk” at the top and bottom of each spine, thus “Talk Talk” when two are next to each other. This means that unless you have all four of the EMI albums it says “Talk Talk Talk,” and that’s just stupid. Ditto for Matt Johnson. I own three The The albums and thus my shelves say “The The The” at me. Tauntingly. Bastard.
But the worst thing is when a record company gets the font wrong on the spine, and after a string of aesthetically consistent, pleasing spine labels in, say, Ariel Bold, you get one in bold Ariel and the fury and the itching builds up inside you and you can’t take it anymore.
I really, really hate it when the jewel case cover has those sharp little nipples to keep the booklet in rather than either the round nipples or the vertical slats, because the sharp nipples crease and rip the booklet. Then you have to buy a new one and get a new case. And spend ages in the shop hunting through racks of seemingly identical (to the ignorant bystander) CDs just to find one with no nipple-damage. And then the assistant manager throws you out of the shop for fondling the CDs again because he thinks you’re a pervert. I’m not a pervert! The bastard who invented the slatty-nipple is a pervert! Getting perverse joy from MY suffering! Bastard!
04. Free DVDs
I don’t want a free DVD of some shitty live footage or some embarrassing fans or the band being “creative” in the studio. I want a record. Tossed-off freebie DVDs dreamt-up by wankers in the marketing department of a record company are not “added value,” they’re a drain on resources.
I hate that “added value” point-of-sale bullshit anyway. You wouldn’t need to “add value” if the songs were good enough in the first place. It’s the Happy Meal-isation of culture: “our actual product is total shit and bad for you and will kill you but LOOK, A TOY” and people fall for it. More than fall for it. They fucking love it. It’s shite.
03. Huge booklets
My copy of Voodoo by D’Angelo has little rips at the corner of the booklet ‘cos it’s so fucking huge and thick. Ditto Maxinquaye by Tricky, with its weird-ass folding booklet that’s double the normal width. I became so distraught with my D’Angelo booklet that after I’d inadvertently trashed it, I bought my mate a copy of the album and switched them.
02. Hidden tracks
Hidden tracks are shit. Why hide a song? Worse, why hide 2 minutes of aimless ambient wankery? Wankers. Super Furry Animals hid a track at the end of Guerilla, a brief yelp after a few minutes of silence, presumably designed to give narcoleptic listeners heart attacks, the bastards.
But even worse than that, they hid a track BEFORE THE START OF THE ALBUM, TOO. Why? Why would you do that? You have to rewind the CD back from the start of the first track. These de-indexed songs before the album “proper” can’t even be played on all CD players; mine won’t play them. Bastards. And that particular one is quite a good song.
On a related matter, I’ve come across two different pressings of the Kyuss album Welcome to Sky Valley, one with 11 tracks (ten listed plus a hidden track; surprise surprise, THEY’RE NOT SO HIDDEN WHEN YOU PUT THE BLOODY CD IN THE PLAYER, ARE THEY?), and one with four, where the tracks run together as, oh I dunno, “suites” or “movements” or something. Annoying as all hell if you just wanna rock out to “Super Scoopa and Mighty Scoop”
I do like it when people do creative things with the gaps between tracks though, either running/mixing tracks together into a single piece (lots of dance music, Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, others), having negative seconds with incidental music in between—music that is lost forever to people who just rip an album straight to their MP3 players and never play the CD (You Forgot It in People), or having odd length gaps or weird negative countdowns. Possibly the oddest example of this is “You've Only Got to Stop to Get Better” by Embrace, the last twelve or so seconds of which counts backwards. Wtf?
The mother of all irritants. Digipaks. All of them. Not just digipaks, but any card sleeve. Arcade Fire, most recent Warp releases, the remaster of One Nation Under a Groove (more on that later); anything in cardboard. Once these break, you're fucked. Jewel cases can be replaced. Break a digipak, buy the whole CD again. Unless it’s rare, because then it’s either too expensive or else impossible. Who wants to play a CD with a ripped or broken case? Not anally-retentive OCD sufferers like me, that’s for sure.
That goes double if the cardboard case is larger than a normal jewel case, and thus doesn’t fit in your rack. Sigur Ros, I’m looking at you. I’ve actually taken to keeping anything not in a standard jewel case on a different shelf. Well, shelves.
Takk is quite tame though. Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space by Spiritualized originally came in a cardboard box (argh) within which was a foil-sealed blister pack that you had to “pop” the CD out of, like a prescription medicine. My brother worked for Vital in distribution when it was released, and Dedicated produced a limited-edition version composed of twelve 3-inch CDs, one for each song, packaged in two foil blister pack trays of six, like a big packet of pills. He nearly won one for me in a raffle. (But only nearly; I have never forgiven him.) He did, however, get me a jewel case version of the sleeve, so I could keep the card sleeve safe. Other stupid Spiritualized packaging gimmicks include a glow-in-the-dark case (Pure Phase) and a daft moulded vacuum-plastic case (Let It Come Down).
Don’t even think about Metal Box.
As for Funkadelic, well… the remaster of One Nation Under a Groove is in a card sleeve, which is bad enough, but the CD itself is in a little fabric bag inside that. It doesn’t fit. It folds. It bunches. It creases. WHY GOD WHY?!