Every Record I Own - Day 336: Darkthrone The Underground Resistance
This 2013 album finds Darkthrone shedding almost all of their black metal traits for more traditional metal styles, but even their most campy NWOBHM moments here rage with such genuine passion that I can’t imagine any purists grumbling that it’s not a retread of their early ‘90s sound.
I’ve probably listened to this record on streaming services several dozen times, and I’ve probably listened to the isolated track “Lesser Men” even more, but even though I bought my copy of The Underground Resistance back in October I haven’t actually put this record on the turntable yet. This has happened with a lot of my vinyl purchases in the last two or three years because the cross-country move, living in a furnished apartment with all my stereo equipment in storage, and my hectic touring schedule have reduced my access to spinning records at home. At times the act of buying records seems almost a bit foolish since I know it might be days, weeks, or months before I actually tear the cellophane wrap off an LP. Why buy a physical copy of The Underground Resistance if 95% of the time I’m going to listen to the album on a streaming service?
There are several reasons. First off, I just love buying records. Always have. Maybe it’s just a carry-over from childhood, but record stores are my happy place. Even in junior high when most of my friends just dubbed cassettes off of each other, I would save up my allowance to buy the actual tape. I realize that taking joy in being a consumer is a strange admission, but I enjoyed the act of being a patron. Maybe that’s because my money was going to underground labels and bands, and I felt like I was giving back to a community that had given so much to me. But more than that, I think I just liked having an official version of the albums.
I realize this is an extremely unfashionable opinion, but I much prefer the streaming era to the file-sharing era. The paradigm of the ‘00s seemed to be “fuck the industry, grab what you can for free, and let the suckers foot the bill.” To me, that mindset reeks of elitism. Sure, major labels were rotten, but did we really wanna say “fuck the industry” when we were talking about hobby labels run out of home offices? And yeah, Radiohead doesn’t care if Capitol Records loses money off OK Computer sales—the record cost so much money to make it was probably expected to barely recoup costs anyways. And sure, the new band that’s just trying to get their name out doesn’t care if you hear their music for free. But what about the artists in between?
I watched a lot of cool labels, distributors, and recording studios close in that time period, including a lot of the outlets we worked with: Touch & Go and Mordam/Lumberjack being the most devastating losses. In the meantime, I watched as glitchy, out-of-sequence mp3 files of records I’d made leak online weeks before their proper release date. I remember one guy giving me attitude after I asked him to pull down an advance copy of the last These Arms Are Snakes album from his blogspot because he thought he was doing us a favor by giving away our record without our consent. And this was not an uncommon attitude.
The industry is still struggling in the streaming age, but at least there is more accountability now. And weirdly enough, that shitty “why pay money for music” attitude that was so present in the ‘00s seems to have decreased. I know more and more people building record collections based on stuff they discovered online. I realize not everyone cares about physical formats, but I’m glad people aren’t listening to our albums as shitty-sounding low-grade rips they found on The Pirate Bay. I’m glad people outside the U.S. can hear our records without having to pay crazy shipping and import prices. I’m glad that broke folks can still investigate our catalog. But I also think of all the albums I gave cursory listens to on Spotify in 2018, and how many of ‘em I turned off before the first song was through. This stands in stark contrast to records like Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime which I bought, disliked, and forced myself to listen to over and over again because I’d spent money on it, and now consider one of my favorite albums of all time. I wonder if I’d have given Minutemen more than five minutes of my attention if I was investigating them on YouTube through my shitty laptop speakers between 5 second advertisement blasts.
Now I’m rambling. Long story short, The Underground Resistance rules, and I’m glad I bought a copy of it even if I haven’t played the actual record yet.