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AudioPhyles, Part 3: Blasphony

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In my last AudioPhyles article:

… I provided some links to playlists that slightly modified each of Bjork’s later albums.

And in my opinion, these were improved versions of each album.

I have my complaints about the MP3 and streaming eras, some of which I’ve written about before:

But I must admit that I LOVE having the ability to edit and retool albums so effortlessly. It’s a freedom and a power that I never thought would be possible. Until it was.

For the stereotypical music fan, the album is a sacred thing.

It is canon. Its track listing is sacrosanct. Not something to be tampered with.

And for much of my life I agreed with this sentiment. But once computers became the primary domain for music management, I began to see things differently.

I’m not quite sure what the first album I tampered with was. I believe it was Arcade Fire’s Funeral.

Listening to the CD, I was frustrated by the jumping back and forth between energetic songs and slower songs. I felt the momentum was ruined a bit, so I tweaked the track sequence to help the flow.

And I removed “Crown of Love” from the album altogether. Because even in the golden days of Arcade Fire, I could only stand so much of Win Butler’s moping.

This Funeral is a more welcoming affair!

And then came The Knife’s Silent Shout.

Now, I adore this album, but the placement of one particular song bothered me. So I bumped it up a little earlier in the track list. Just a subtle little tweak, but it turned an already magical album into a perfect one!

And then eventually I went full throttle on alternative versions. Not just minor tweaks, but sometimes total revamps.

Sometimes I made alternative versions merely to help me absorb an album.

For instance, David Bowie’s 1. Outside, which is riddled with weird theatrical segue pieces.

Once I digested everything properly, I could go back to the originally released version.

But other times, I stuck with my version as the new canon. These enduring replacements are my blasphonies, if you will.

Here are some that I’m most proud of:


Nirvana:

Bleach
Too Many Humans

When my friend first lent me their copy of Nirvana’s Bleach, I couldn’t really get into it. I loved Nevermind, but this debut album sounded rough, murky, stiff, and dour. I like it a lot more now, but that’s thanks to my remix helping me get into the songs.

My version is a lot punchier. It keeps most of the songs, but they’re drastically re-ordered, and supplemented with a few other songs from the same recording sessions. The result sounds like a proper precursor to Nevermind. Loud, edgy, catchy, dark…and fun.


Daft Punk:

Random Access Memories
Bettering RAM

Random Access Memories has a great sound to it, and some killer songs. But some of its sequencing is suspect. A slow and ponderous song placed as Track 2? Randomly-accessed, perhaps.

Not to mention, the album is hella bloated. It’s kind of ironic that Daft Punk made an album calling back to the pop geniuses of the 70s and 80s, yet their album runs for 74 minutes!

My original goal for a revised version was to stick to a classic 40-minute runtime, but I ended up relaxing that rule. The final result is 47 minutes, but it’s all killer/no filler. Moreover, it accentuates the human touch that really distinguishes the project from earlier DP releases.


Lady Gaga:

ARTPOP
SMARTPOP

It took me a while to get into Lady Gaga’s third album. Partly because the songs are so loud, dense, and absolutely all over the place. It’s a lot to take in!

But also because it’s way overstuffed. What is it with albums these days?

(… he says about an album released more than 10 years ago…)

Anyway, my abridged version of ARTPOP is still loud, dense, and absolutely all over the place. But now it feels like a proper amusement park ride: a thrillingly insane rush, then it’s over. It’s now my favorite Gaga album, critically underrated.


And then, there’s Radiohead:

One of my favorite bands of the 90s and beyond. I have tampered with no less than three of their albums.

Fight me!

The first shouldn’t be controversial at all: Hail to the Thief was a bit bloated, so I trimmed the fat. And the results are lovely.

On the opposite end: The King of Limbs left many fans feeling underwhelmed with what they got. So I put some meat on those bones, from all of the great B-sides that they released around the same time. I much prefer this version.

Of course, fans will probably hate what I did to Amnesiac. But I switched out some tracks in favor of b-sides I preferred, and made what I felt was a more thoroughly fleshed out album. It will never match the majesty of Kid A, but it feels like a worthier contender.

Maybe you disagree? Almost certainly.

The beauty of our current media environment is that if someone’s alternative version of an album offends you, well, there’s always the original to go back to.

Even if I edit my music files to create some new composite album, I can always edit them back to their original states.

So my practice of blasphony is rather harmless, all told. But even if it’s just for one listen, it’s fun to shake out of the canonical structures of beloved albums.

If anything, you get a new perspective. Sometimes you even get a richer experience.

Now if you’ll excuse me…

I must run for the hills to avoid execution by the Amnesiac fans…

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Phylum of Alexandria

Committed music junkie. Recovering academic. Nerd for life.

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LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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June 20, 2024 6:57 am

I am totally on board with this. There is value to digesting an album in the order the artist intended, but in the end, it’s your album, why shouldn’t you be allowed to listen to it the way you want? Back in the cassette tape days, I remember recording some albums in various states of rearrangement for my liking. The only one that really comes to mind now is Chicago V. I always thought that side 1 should be side 2 and vice-versa. Much better presentation of the material for me.

In the digital era The Police have Ghost in the Machine on streaming services with an alternate tracking order. I guess it’s the order that Sting had originally wanted? I still have trouble not liking the original order from the album, though.

Last edited 23 days ago by LinkCrawford
Virgindog
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June 20, 2024 9:34 am

Fun stuff! At least it’s fun for us music geeks.

I think most of us Beatles fans have tinkered with the White Album, trying to whittle a meandering double album into a single disk. “Revolution 9” is usually the first one to go.

Likewise, combining Lennon’s stuff from Lennon/Ono’s last two albums, Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey makes one great collection. And the Ono stuff makes a good Yoko album, too.

Fans of The Who have always wondered what the aborted Lifehouse album would’ve been like. A lot of it was released as Who’s Next but based on the known story line and their other songs of the period, people have put together playlists that work as a rock opera. Here’s a good one:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLeRytRPhZKYvRzCK5nS_TSREAJAj6JKAz

Virgindog
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June 20, 2024 4:47 pm

I’d give you my list but it will be different by next week. And again the week after that.

LinkCrawford
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June 20, 2024 9:32 pm

Any time I think of omitting songs from The White Album, I am reminded that it is beautiful because of how strange and extreme it is. So I resist the urge to delete “…Bungalo Bill”, “Rocky Raccoon”, and “Helter Skelter”. But I’ll still delete “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” because it’s terrible.

LinkCrawford
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June 21, 2024 8:34 am

Do we all have a list of things like that in life? The list called “Why Doesn’t Everyone Dislike This As Much As I Do?” list?

It also contains eating cold fruit, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, black siding on houses, and stories with vampires in them.

cappiethedog
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June 25, 2024 9:10 pm

Somebody answered my White Album post. He panned “Wild Honey Pie” and “Ob-La-Di…” In your unofficial list, where does “Ob-La-Di…” land? My Robert Smith-said-that-writing-a-song-with-dumb-lyrics-is-harder did not prove to be a good defense for Paul McCartney.

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 20, 2024 11:34 am

Nevermind Amnesiac, you’ve exorcised Drunken Punch Up At A Wedding from Hail To The Thief but kept The Gloaming.

Why would you do such a thing?

But you have got rid of We Suck Young Blood (subtitle We Suck The Life Out Of This Record) which is entirely appropriate.

I also like the idea of extending King Of Limbs.

I’ve got an alternative track list for Pablo Honey;

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Skips straight to The Bends.

Maybe a bit harsh, there’s a few ok songs on it but it was rendered largely irrelevant by what came next. OK, so there’s Creep but I’ve heard it enough now.

Pauly Steyreen
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June 20, 2024 12:12 pm

Queensryche’s first full length studio album, The Warning, was jacked up from the beginning. The band hated it because the production was “not heavy metal” in the band’s opinion and the record label messed with the track sequencing. What was supposed to be a concept album was diluted by this unapproved change in song order.

I now only listen to the album with the band’s preferred sequencing and it is indeed a more coherent artistic statement.

https://youtu.be/OgeJilyRpfw?si=YMqFTxPaktpdpZtq

blu_cheez
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June 20, 2024 2:09 pm

Every Tool album is better when you cut out all the “spooky sound effects” tracks & just leave in the actual songs. Nine Inch Nails “The Fragile” is the same.

Pauly Steyreen
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June 21, 2024 2:13 am

This is why The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill can’t possibly be as great as it’s made out to be on critics’ lists. The momentum of all these great songs is killed time and time again by pointless skits.

cstolliver
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June 21, 2024 5:36 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

You may be right, but I always skip them, so …

mjevon6296
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June 21, 2024 2:33 pm

Thanks for the piece – very interesting.

Because I am such a late bloomer, just last year I bought the CD and discovered The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. (My album of 2023!)

But then the dilemma…this CD has both the European 15 track listing of mono songs AND the American 12 track listing of stereo songs too. But I want to hear all 17 original songs with no repeats. For the first few months, I would listen to the 12 stereo songs and then piecemeal the other remaining five mono songs to get the 17 song experience.

Sure, I could rip this album to a laptop OR purchase it and edit the track listing, but I am old fashioned and will not make that much of an effort. My solution? I just listen to the mono 15 track listing and follow it with the stereo 12 track listing. I get 27 songs plus a bonus mono song at the end. Sure, lots of repeats, but I like the album so much now I just do not care anymore!

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