Musical Guilt

We’ve got a new Radiohead album. It’s good. Everyone rejoices, very happy. Good good, what what, carry on, carry on.

By the time my fifth playthrough came about, a familiar feeling began to sink over me, a malaise of the mind, some heavy fog of guilty pleasure, knowing that I’m engorging myself like some sluggish audiophile, every beat driving my aural belly to new gluttonous heights. My ears have become noise-mouths, every moment another chew, another swallow. Over indulgence was about three or four listens back. This, this is just sick.

Or at least, these are the thoughts that start to seep through my consciousness like a syrupy venom. It’s the kind of guilt that’s warm and comforting, but only in the most sickly sweet way possible. It’s a stifling heat, not the comfortable heat of a whiskey in your stomach. No, this is a slow burn, causing damage without you really knowing what it’s doing. It’s one of my more irrational moments, but it seems to happen with an alarming regularity.

You see, I feel bad if I listen to one artist/album for too long. I feel like, to the detriment of all music, everywhere, I’m passing up all the good stuff to listen to this one good thing. I’ll leave an album on for days, I’ll listen to an artist all but non-stop for a week, and then I’ll burn out and spit them out like gum I’ve been chewing for far too long, all flavour long gone, just this sticky, habitual mess to be disposed of. Over time, the flavour comes back, but it’s not a healthy treatment, this isn’t me exercising musical moderation.

Or at least, that would be me if I didn’t exercise musical moderation. I’m getting better, I’m forcing myself to branch out when I start to feel that familiar numbness to the new music I’m listening to. King of Limbs is starting to need a break, because otherwise I’m going to ruin it for myself. This is what my LastFM page is for, really. It’s not there as a monument to the sheer amount I listen to. It’s not there for people to judge my musical tastes, and it’s not really there to show me an interesting timeline of what I liked and when. Instead, it’s there because, at the back of my mind, there’s some imaginary person that’s sitting there monitoring my page, looking at what I’m listening to, and if I start mainlining one band or another, with no deviation, they’re going to make a sound somewhere between a cough and a sigh, like they’re choking up their disgust, and they’ll turn away.

I don’t want that. So I stop myself before I’ve had my aural fill, and listen to something else. It probably means I listen to a wider variety than I would otherwise, and it certainly means I don’t get bored with music nearly as fast as I would otherwise. Music listening is a lot like resource management, y’know; you’ve got to give it some time to replenish, otherwise you’re going to drain it dry.

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About Phill Cameron

I've graduated, had a look at the world, and spat. Now I'm devoting my time to moving from 3/4 of a games journalist to 9/10ths. I figure I can get away with 9/10ths.
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