The Second Coming by The Stone Roses was a real pain in the backside to put on my Ipod. Why? Because, during those five years dicking about in deepest Wales, Squire and the guys decided to fill the CD with 85 blank tracks and a glorious hidden bonus. What a wonderful idea, no-one will ever find it there!?! Except really it isn’t a wonderful idea, it’s a rubbish idea. What you end up with are 85 blank tracks, which is annoying, and what sounds like a middle school music lesson mixed with 24 cans of Stella and five bottles of vodka (two for Mani).
I don’t sleep well at the best of times, and so I quite like listening to music to get me away. Once I laid in bed listening to Mellow Gold by Beck, a fine album. The last track, “Black Hole”, was the perfect bridge from consciousness to slumber, a beautiful composition of floating guitars and dreamlike vocals. It softly closes, followed by a yawning silence that sends me spiralling into sleep, all done with that day. Or rather I would have been, if Beck hadn’t decided after 15 minutes of nothing to fill the dying moments of his album with shrill, random, and downright scary bursts of electronic noise. Suddenly my ears are filled with a blaring cacophony of crapness and my heart nearly gives way. Thank you Beck for my bonus track. Thank you VERY much.
Apparently it all began with The Beatles (those crazy guys!) who placed a random piece of music into the run-off groove in Sergeant Pepper, something my Dad used to find really annoying as he had to get up and flick the needle to switch it off. However, since the inclusion of “Endless Nameless” on Nevermind the hidden track has become rampant, with all sorts of bands rummaging through the demo box to find something they can shove on the end. I just don’t get the hidden track. And here is why:
1.They are annoying
What is the point of filling up the last track of an album with dead space. Its not so much of a problem now but I remember when I had my first MP3 player, finding it enormously frustrating how much memory those last tracks consumed. Pulp’s This is Hardcore ends with a sustained note, amusing enough on the first listen (well, about thirty seconds into it) but subsequently frustrating. It’s a fine song, but you wouldn’t want it to come up on shuffle. And forget about ever putting it on a mix CD. Also, I like to put a CD on repeat when I am reading, so when it finishes it flips back to the start and plays again. Fat chance of that happening when the last twenty odd minutes are silent. Its supposed to be a hidden TRACK. Just give it a track number of its own and cut out all that nothingness.
Most frustrating are those where you have to wind the CD back to hear what is usually a total waste of time. Soulwax did this on Much Against Everyone’s Advice (with a useless little ditty about how they are not to be confused with KC and the Sunshine Band, ho ho) which used to jam up the CD Player in my car. It was a useless joke anyway. Just play the album!
2. They are indulgent
Yes, I would love to sit and listen to the sound of Ash being sick in a bucket, boy, I wish the whole album had been like this. They could have been sick in different sized buckets to see if it changed the tone, or maybe vomit on different surfaces. That would have been SO funny. Terrovision on How to Make Friends and Influence People added an extraordinarily long piece of guff – one of the band strolling around at night with a tape-recorder capturing for posterity the “antics” that ensued. It goes on forever and is probably boring for the person who recorded it, let alone the listener. Please, by all means record stuff for pleasure, but why inflict it on me?
3. They are always crap
Yes, I would love it if Nirvana’s new album took the direction hinted at in “Endless Nameless”. Or rather I wouldn’t, as it’s a noisy piece of guff that doesn’t go anywhere and has probably only ever been listened to once by every owner of the album. If a hidden track is SO special, why are they hiding it. The answer – they never are that special, they are usually worthless messes of melody dismissed at the demo stage. They are not on the album, because they are no good. So why put them on the album?
Actually, I will make one exception. Mansun’s Attack of the Grey Lanterns includes a fantastic hidden track. Its probably one of my favourite songs on the album. Shame then that I can’t get at it and have to keep my finger pressed on the forward button to listen. And then you have the annoyance of your finger slipping and the first track coming round again (see point one).
So I just can’t see the point of a hidden track. They are rarely a bonus, rarely of any real interest past the initial listen, and just clog up the dying moments of an album. They are the audio equivalent of the outtakes in a Burt Reynolds movie or Ferris Bueller popping up at the end asking why we’re all still sat there – cheap gimmicks that serve no purpose and whilst charming at first, eventually frustrate. I just don’t get them. So prove me wrong.