The perils of buying old records, for the fun of it, is that you’re bound to buy some shit ironically. It’s why Urban Outfitters sells vinyl record frames, and why Molly Hatchet records are impossible to come by in the wild. If you have a turntable, you are eventually going to buy or take something from a relative because the idea makes you LULZ IRL. This is how I have a copy of Phil Collins’ Face Value, which I bought at Half-Priced Books about two years ago. It had “In the Air Tonight,” and it cost $2. If nothing else, it wasn’t the worst $2 I’ve ever spent.
But here’s the thing: Buying ironically ignores the fact that the albums you’re buying as a joke weren’t made as a joke. It’s not like buying a Flight of the Conchords album, you know?
The reason this feels like important stuff to think about is that I don’t think I’ve ever even listened to this album until now, and I was totally surprised how dark it is. It was recorded right after Collins went through a divorce, and the specter of a broken relationship hangs heavy over the album. This is the sound of a rich man wondering why, even though he has everything, he feels so shitty about his wife leaving him. It’s a pretty big bummer of an album, an album that is way more serious that just laughing at the fact that I own a record by one of the corniest dudes ever (or at least that’s what we’re told).
And here’s the thing: I don’t think I’ve ever even really listened to what “In The Air Tonight” is about. It’s a really dark song; It’s a song directed at his ex-wife, and Collins calls her a liar, says she doesn’t know who he is, and says he wouldn’t save her if she’s drowning. Drake has made a career trying to convey this exact sentiment, and he hasn’t even gotten close to this song. It’s arguably the most heart-wrenching song about a divorce, and it was used as a joke in the Hangover. Think how unfortunate that is.
So, I guess I’m saying you should actually listen to the records you buy ironically. It can lead you to sitting on your sofa half-drunk on a weeknight, thinking to yourself about how dark Phil Collins was on Face Value, wondering what would have happened if people realized that Phil Collins was making darker music than the punk bands in 1981. I can’t fully endorse Collins—he made the soundtrack to Tarzan, after all— but imagine what would have happened if people could have seen past the goofy haircut and the horrible Genesis albums, and recognized that Face Value was an emotionally serious album.