human frequency response

I recently came across a fileshared version of Human Sexual Response’s second album In a Roman Mood. I don’t think this has ever been released on CD or in any other digital format; at any rate, the copy I found is a fairly clean vinyl rip…but one way I can tell that it’s from vinyl is certain characteristics of its sound that always seemed to typify the shortcomings of vinyl for me. I have never understood the enthusiasm of vinyl maniacs: all this talk of “warmth” and “depth” when, first of all, unless you safeguard your records and equipment like a nun in a jailhouse, all that warmth and depth will be overrun by crackles, scratches, and static. And who cares if a $25,000 turntable can reproduce godlike nuances from the recording: who can afford a $25,000 turntable? For $25,000, I’ll pay to sit in on a recording session, thanks. Or hire the band to play in my living room.

Anyway, here’s one of the better songs from In a Roman Mood, “12345678910” (which really should have been covered by Midnight Oil on 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Overall, the album isn’t as strong as the band’s debut: much of the latter half is dirgey numbers and painfully undergraduate pseudo-intellectual musings. But its best songs, including the should-been-a-huge-hit “Andy Fell,” are brilliant things.

But as I listen, I hear a certain vagueness in the soundstage, a certain disintegration among the subtler frequencies, and that irritating sibilance on “s” sounds and cymbals (this is very different from the artifacts you hear at low-resolution mp3 encodings): all flaws I remember from the years when vinyl was my primary listening format. Sorry, vinyl fans: I just don’t get it. (I should note that it’s because of that experience that I know what I’m hearing is inherent in the source LP, not in the mp3 rip – which is 192 kbps – not ideal, but not horrible either. By this point, I know the difference.)

Human Sexual Response “12345678910” (In a Roman Mood, 1981)



Filed under grump, noise

4 responses to “human frequency response

  1. As you may recall, this is one of my favorite albums. I won’t defend “House of Atreus,” but every other song is great, yes, including “Land of the Glass Pinecones.” And “Public Alley 909” is, as far as I know, the first appearance of the gated reverb snare sound that Phil Collins was later to make notorious–it works much better in the HSR song, because the snare is only hit once every thirty seconds or so.

    I like “Figure 15” a lot as well, but would definitely take this one over it.

  2. Oh, and I’m 100% with you on the vinyl thing. You didn’t mention the way the sound gets gradually shittier and shittier as the side goes on and the effective resolution drops.

    It’s a matter of taste, of course, and people should listen to whichever format they prefer, but liking vinyl doesn’t make you a connoisseur, it makes you someone who likes ketchup on his steak.

  3. I kinda like “Land of the Glass Pinecones,” but I’d like it better if it were slightly shorter – I sort of felt that it said what it needed to say and then kept saying it. Except “House of Atreus” (which is indeed the “painfully undergraduate” song I had in mind…), the songs are that bad…just seems like the second side’s a bit of a letdown for me. Could be a pacing/sequence problem: I’ll listen to some of those tracks on their own.

    As for the gated snare thing: I think Bowie gets the nod there – the drum sound on “Sound and Vision” is fairly close. “Public Alley 909” isn’t it – if only because “In the Air Tonight” (sorry to bring it up) was released in January 1981…

  4. “Pinecones” is all about the build for me, so I wouldn’t want it any shorter.

    It is a little weird to end the album with three moody slow songs. But be sure to re-examine “Blow-Up”–there’s a lot happening in that two minutes.

    Thanks for the correction–for some reason I thought the Collins song was a few years later than that. And a good point about “Sound and Vision.”

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