During a recent quest for used books and albums, I found myself in that greatest of pop-culture equalizers, the second-hand shop.
At Goodwill Industries on Tunnel Road, N’Sync consorts with Rush, and Beethoven with The B-52s. The store’s makeshift shelves — little more than neatly arranged plastic tubs — aren’t stocked by the organized prejudices of a local rock snob. No, this is a musical experiment in egalitarianism.
In the Goodwill staff’s eyes, all CDs are created equal. Each, regardless of the talent it contains, costs a mere $3.
And here, in the throbbing center of it all — amid the jetsam of discarded C&C Music Factory singles, Dan Fogelberg collections and seemingly endless heavy-metal records evidencing astoundingly bad art direction — I spy something truly disturbing to a follower of the Asheville music scene.
Stuff by local bands. Lots of stuff.
This week, Random Acts brings you a handful of reviews — not of hot new discs, but of those that other listeners before you have already seen fit to dismiss.
• Album: under the sun, Unscathed (Independent Records, 2003)
Condition: Good. A little worn from the constant shuffling of CDs in its bin, but otherwise in fine shape.
Possible reasons for abandonment: In-fighting. The local metal scene is often a fractious and splintered thing, and all it takes is a slight snub at a show or a mean-spirited chat-room posting for a diehard fan to turn traitor.
Even with well-regarded regional metal master Jamie King at the production boards, Unscathed didn’t exactly break fresh ground with this nu-metal-meets-God-rock release — a fact their fans and foes alike have yet to let them forget.
Worth rummaging for?: Not unless you’re really hard up for a post-post-post grunge-metal fix.
• Album: demo, SunTribe (SunTribe, 2002)
Condition: Poor. Heavy surface damage to the disc, with multiple deep scratches and lots of wear on the label. No inner packaging, just a battered jewel case.
Possible reasons for abandonment: Physically unplayable. This five-song album has seen an awful lot of use. Either that, or it’s been run over a few times with a power sander.
My best guess is that it was deeply enjoyed by someone — or else it was so bad it compelled its owner to batter the CD on any rough surface that presented itself along the way to the Goodwill drop-off box. Sadly, there’s no way to tell.
Worth rummaging for?: Almost certainly not.
• Album: Fallen Angels, Dan Reiser (Dan Reiser, 2002)
Condition: Very good. Only a few slight scuffle marks mar the surface of the CD case.
Possible reasons for abandonment: Boredom. The songs sound basically the same — a mixture of love-life regrets and reluctant religious callings perched atop noodling keyboards that carry no-surprise melodies.
After about three songs filled with distractingly non-rhyming lyrics sung in a strongly impassive voice, you get the message, but you don’t much care.
Worth rummaging for?: The lyrics to the title track heavily imply that aliens are actually fallen angels who’ve been sent here to take over the Earth — and who have even kidnapped our narrator on multiple occasions. On novelty alone, it might be worth three bucks.
• Album: Ghost Tracks, Valorie Miller (Redhead Records, 2001)
Condition: Near mint. Still in the original shrink-wrap, and seemingly in excellent shape.
Possible reasons for abandonment: A spurned admirer? A mistakenly deposited donation from a record store? A $10 (cheap!) tax write-off from Valorie herself? I’ll never know. Still, I was totally prepared to slap down $3 for this seemingly unused album — but it was not meant to be.
I strayed briefly from the bin, and another patron snagged the CD.
Having never heard this particular Valorie offering, I was a little disappointed. Here, ripped from my hands by fate, was a potential masterpiece by a local musician whose voice sounds like Victoria and Lucinda had an all-night screaming match over who should get to be the one-and-only alt-country Williams woman, and they finally settled the whole thing by seeing who could drink more bourbon out of an industrial-sized ashtray.
Worth rummaging for?: Too late, chum. A woman with a huge smile and a head of curly hair (no, it wasn’t Valorie) beat us both to it.