Friday, May 19, 2006

Derrick May, "Innovator"

I used to accost people in person or in writing if they hadn't heard this album. I told them until they heard "Innovator", they shouldn't use the word "techno" in a sentence. In recent years I've softened my stance, but not because it's any less essential. It's still the blueprint, the Rosetta Stone for Detroit techno, and still sounds remarkably fresh and other-worldly considering that most of it is nearly twenty years old. The problem is this: I never feel like listening to it anymore.

I usually ignored its many problems (some worthwhile discussion) -- first and foremost its many edits, ranging from the confusing to the inexplicable -- and stressed the album's importance. Eventually I realized that I admired "Innovator" more than I loved it. It's one of those classic albums that remains a classic because everybody proclaims it to be so. It's famous for being famous. A bit like Paris Hilton. No, ew, I didn't mean that.

It's better to think of it like the first Velvet Underground album. Any thinking fan (casual or otherwise) will recommend it as the starting point, even if they prefer one of the their other albums (a lot of people do, including me). Or Led Zeppelin IV -- sure, you have to own it because it's got "When the Levee Breaks", but it also has "Four Sticks", which was practically invisible until Page and Plant reunited and started playing it for some puzzling reason. I obviously recognize and appreciate "Stairway to Heaven"'s gigantic status in the history of classic rock (particularly as a radio staple) but I could happily go through life without ever hearing it again.

The preceding paragraphs were brought to you by Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures". Unlike the other albums mentioned here, it brings out my dual feelings of love and admiration, and has done so consistently for over fifteen years. I had to throw on the vinyl (do NOT listen to this album on CD, I'm warning you (except if you have it on the box set) because the mastering and CD transfer is complete shit, this is one of the ultimate "must-hear on vinyl" albums, even if your copy is becoming warn out from billions of plays, like mine) because Thursday was the 26th anniversary of Ian Curtis' suicide (NEVER FORGET, er, I guess, etc.).

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