In a week or so’s time, the fourth Pavement album Brighten the Corners gets the deluxe edition treatment. Like the previous three, this promises to be a bit of a treat with 34 bonus tracks taken from singles, EPs, live shows and demos etc crammed into a package set at mid price. It’s five years since Slanted and Enchanted was given the same treatment. At the time it was a milestone in how to do a reissue properly. Unfortunately, it also opened a very unappetizing can of worms.
Walk into any record chainstore these days, and the racks (at least those not given over to DVDs and computer games) are full of these Deluxe editions. Very often retailing for two or three times the price of the bog standard issue, a closer inspection usually reveals a ragbag collection of demos and even half-finished backing tracks. The majority are just glaring examples of record company cynicism – trying to get punters to buy stuff they already have, with the minimum of thought and effort put into them.
Love’s Forever Changes was initially issued on CD in the same form as the vinyl album. In 2001, an expanded edition was issued with a couple of unissued demos, both sides of the “Laughing Stock” single and some, frankly tedious, alternate takes and backing tracks. Then that was superseded this year by a double CD which also included a different mix of the original album, plus most of the previously released extras. No doubt to be repackaged again in a 2CD plus documentary DVD super-deluxe edition in the future.
The New Order back catalogue had another facelift thus year. The bonus discs are a hodge-podge of single tracks and remixes that appear to have been thrown together randomly. The glaring omissions of things like the original vinyl mixes of “Temptation” make the project a complete pig’s ear.
It’s not just the majors – 4AD’s initial Cocteau Twins CDs often came with bonus tracks, all of which disappeared with the latest batch of reissues: no doubt scheduled to reappear in future when the double CD deluxe editions come out. The latest outing for the EMI Wire albums also suffered from the mysterious malady of the vanishing bonus track.
I’ve not even touched on the now commonplace practice of reissuing popular chart pop albums after a mere few months with a couple of added tracks, encouraging fans to shell out again. Nor have I touched on the endless anthologising (just how many Smiths comps are there now?).
Of course, you don’t have to buy any of this shit – and by and large I don’t. But it’s difficult to have sympathy for an industry continuously bleating on about how downloading is theft, when they are more than happy to fleece the gullible.