Sunday, 13 April 2008


It was slightly over ten years ago that I made the move into documenting my own obsessive record collecting. I started to compile an HTML database of all the tracks on all the CDs I owned, complete with facts about the albums and personal comments about each release - it was an intensely nerdy website that happened to be offline and, in fact, still sits mouldering away in a sub-directory on my laptop, having not been updated since September 2001.

I have, however, never stopped asking myself the sort of questions that would fill a charity-shopful of Record Collector magazines. Which album has spawned the largest number of singles? It's one of those questions that can never be answered, because there is no clear definition of 'single'. I think we can all safely disagree with the view that every track on iTunes is a single by virtue of its being able to be downloaded individually - this is, in fact, my favourite worst nightmare of the future of the single.

If a single has its own individual physical product, I think it's a single. Back in the nineties I asked Steve about this, and he gave the example of Alanis Morrisette's debut album: six singles you could buy in shops. The very next year, Garbage's album "Version 2.0" was released and, over the following fifteen or so months, spawned six singles.

That is, in the UK. Britain introduced more and more convoluted and ridiculous rules for What A Single Was. By 1998 if you had more than three tracks, sir, you were no single. So the B-sides of the six British singles were found in their entirety on the B-sides of the four Australian singles (there being no rule in Australia that you couldn't have a five-track single - in fact, Towa Tei's "Private Eyes" had nine tracks, Cher's "Believe" had ten.)

However, if you develop a relationship with the music, you may find you have unconsiously extended that relationship to the cover art and the design. So while, living in Australia, I had access to all the B-sides, what I didn't have were the cover art of the missing two singles. And I somehow wanted these even though I already had all the music on them. And slowly this desire spread to other bands I liked, so that now, a good five years after the very last time I ever felt the remotest desire to listen to Garbage's music, I still retain all this information as a muscle memory.

TISM's "Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance" had six singles. Even though one of them came out two years before the album and was extensively reworked for the album version. It's a single from the album, shut up.

All this has been brought on by the release of The Spinto Band's new single, "Summer Grof", which heralds their second album, "Moonwink".
Here is the song.

When I like a band, I like to hear all their stuff, and pretend I'm some kind of archivist. I usually try to pick up the Japanese releases. The Spinto Band are American, but are signed to an English label that expended no little effort in getting them known. As the UK is still (not by much, but still) a viable singles market, the first album generated five singles in Radiant's attempt to raise Spinto awareness. (I count "Brown Boxes" distinct from "Mountains", citing the "Grass"/"Dear God" issue and assuming you will know what this means if you care about this sort of thing.)

The question I am now asking myself is: given that the Spinto-consciousness raising did not presumably have the intended effect, will the UK release of "Moonwink" have anything like the number of etched 7" singles and cavalcade of formats that heralded "Nice and Nicely Done"? I am still waiting for a band to commit commercial suicide and gain everlasting fame by releasing their entire album, mastered into one CD track, as a B-side. The band would instantly be the subject of a thousand bemused blog posts, sell seventy thousand copies of the single and watch as their stars rose and the album itself tanked spectacularly.

Maybe, Spinto Band, you will self-immolate and win my heart in this way. Then again, they could do it as "Moonwink, Acoustic Version" and it would be seen as a free music stunt worthy of Radiohead. This is a band far more cutting edge than I think anyone gives them credit for. They provided a director's commentary for one of their songs, for frig's sake. And, in fact, the cassingle could have been invented for that very purpose. Think on it, Spintos.