Last Friday brought a good surprise to my front door, and that was the delivery of my gatefold vinyl of the TV Mania album. I ordered the album with very little in the way of expectations – I just knew that I wanted something besides an mp3 of their effort, and while I would have loved the boxed limited edition, I felt that I needed to be more conscious of my household budget. (You can also read that as “If I would have made such a purchase, my husband would have had a fit.” It’s true.) So I chose the regular vinyl.
With that in mind, when I opened the package – I was pleasantly surprised. To begin with, and this is just a silly thing I suppose – I LOVE the finish on the album cover. It’s a soft matte finish as opposed to a slick and shiny cardboard. It’s just unique that way, and I like it. The cover is of course exactly what they have shown us on Twitter – and upon closer examination I discovered that Sassy is perched up on one of my dining room chairs, or at least a copy thereof, along with all of the items I would find strewn in my oldest daughter’s bedroom on any given day. Scissors, fabric, a pen cup…thread… and it’s a complete mess. Vaguely familiar, I’d say.
The inside photo of the gatefold is an older one of Nick and Warren – definitely from the same period that the album was originally conceived. What is interesting to me about this is not the strange mask of beads that Nick seems to be wearing, or the hat that Warren has on his head, but the fact that it is a reminder that this album has been sitting in a drawer somewhere since the mid-90’s. Without that visual reminder, I am not sure I would have ever remembered.
The records contained are in fact the full album on two 12″ records, and then a 7″ remix of Beautiful clothes that I wasn’t expecting. I love surprises like that. Another lovely surprise was that my album arrived with a plastic protector – I am OCD about that with my albums, they all have plastic protectors, so I was thrilled that this one came that way straight from the store. Thank you, Vinyl Factory.
Lastly, and most importantly for my purposes here, the album comes with a large 12″ booklet that I find positively exquisite. To begin with, Nick painstakingly outlines the story. From an explanation of the family as Test Group 101 through to the explanation of the wayward son who never leaves his bedroom and video game world, there are certainly parts of this family that I believe can be found in nearly any family, including my own. From there, a bio of each character can be found on the opposing page. That leads into eight pages of photography, and upon examination, it would appear to me that the photographs are grouped by character designated for Ray, Cathy, Sassy and Snoop.
The photos themselves are images we might have seen before on Twitter (if you followed @TV ManiaMusic). I especially love the plastic covered rotary telephone – there was one similar in my house back in the 70s. I also like the Second Life avatar of Snoop…and the demonic image on the very last page – it’s so pixelated up close, yet when you stand back it’s much clearer. I can’t help but chuckle, because isn’t that the way life is anyway? Sometimes the most obvious answers can’t be seen until you back away from the problem at hand a bit.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – I think the work is genius, and there is something to be gained here for DD’s future use. This is a project where the sum of all the parts add up to something much greater than each individual mechanism. I know many DD fans don’t like the music, they don’t understand the visual aspects of the art, and they can’t imagine why Nick and Warren would have bothered with a storyline. My advice to those people is to take a giant step back, and rather than looking at each individual element, try to see it all as a whole. Try playing the music as you read the storyline and character biographies and looking at the pictures. Yes, the music is experimental and sure – it’s delightfully weird at times. So what? It’s not meant to be a pop album. I think the real tragedy would be if Nick and Warren were trying to tell us it was pop – THEN I would have something to complain about – but this isn’t the case at all. It’s art and as such it is meant to cause a reaction. As my dear friend Amanda reminded me last week – some of the best art is never understood or appreciated.
What I find most interesting is that if you think about all of it – storyline, imagery, music, etc – in a lot of ways this project is a bit of a mirror held up in front of ourselves. As I said, I can see definite parallels between this family and my own. I have a son who is FAR more comfortable in front of his computer than he is with real people, and yes – he loves video games. I have a daughter who wants to get into the entertainment industry (although at the moment she isn’t sure if that place is in front of the camera, on the stage, or behind the camera and behind the scenes)…and my husband? Well, he’s far more conservative than I am, rest assured. Me? I’m on the computer, although my obsessive behavior has a little more to do with writing and getting a certain blog done…and aside from a glass of red wine or a good vodka tonic every now and then, there are no drugs here. I’m too much of a control freak, can’t you tell?
And lastly….just what IS it with those barcodes?? Anyone? I wish I had a barcode reader…they all seem different, so what do they say?