Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Diamond In the Rough at the Housing Works Street Fair

In the spring of 2002, the Austrialian rock band The Go-Betweens, released their first album in twelve years. That album, The Friends of Rachel Worth, reunited lead singers and songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forrester, backed by session work by the members of Sleater-Kinney (another of CSD's favorite bands), was soon in heavy rotation at the coffee shops and used record stores at which I spent so much time that spring and summer. Critics called it "pithy and almost shocking in its casual brilliance," which would sound like hyperbole if it wasn't universally recognized as a return to form by songwriters who Robert Christgau had once described as "the greatest songwriting partnership working today."

Today, The Friends of Rachel Worth is pretty difficult to find. It is out of print, so you can't find it in new record stores, or from It occasionally becomes available on eBay, but, on those sites, you can never tell who you're buying from, or what condition the CD will be in. It is available to download, but that seems like taking the easy way out; it is much better to find it in person. In 2008, I tried to find it, without success; eventually I gave in any bought it from the iTunes store. Inevitably, my computer crashed a few months later, and The Friends of Rachel Worth was lost, along with the rest of my non-backed-up files. Yesterday, at the Housing Works street fair, I found a copy for $1 in a disorganized bin that mainly contained junk - CD singles by 90's bands, albums by bands that lost the lead singer or singers that made them famous, albums by one-hit wonders that did not contain their one hit, and so on. It felt surprisingly good to find it; for some reason, finding a great CD in a rummage sale is more satisfying than finding one in a regular used record shop, which in turn is more satisfying than buying one new. I am sure that those people who have an eye for second-hand and vintage clothes get a similar kick out of it. I walked away from the Housing Works sale with two shopping bags' worth of books and music, but I enjoyed finding that single CD more than any other. I bet that dozens of other people walked away from the Housing Works sale with similarly long-sought items. It made me realize how much unnecessary clutter I accumulate in the course of a year, and some CD I never play anymore, or a book that I read in college and then forgot about by the second post-exam beer, could be sought-after by somebody else. Clean out your closets! You're not using that stuff anymore! You'll make a total stranger's day when they unexpectedly find it in a thrift store two months from now.

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