I found myself listening to the new reissue of Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around the World album the other day, enjoying the unreleased tracks and the remixes. It was somewhere around the fourth or fifth track that I listened to, skipping around out of order, before it hit me: the fact that it was a 20th Anniversary Edition meant that Rings Around the World had come out two full decades earlier. Even now, that just doesn’t really feel possible.
It’s not that I feel as if music can’t have progressed since the release of what remains a perfectly wonderful, enjoyable album. (I’m amused, listening to it now, that so many of my favorite tracks today are the ones that I disliked on its initial release, and wonder what that says about me, and about aging in general; I’ve been singing “Alternate Route to Vulcan Street” for the last week.) More than that, it’s the sense that I can remember my experience of listening to the album the first time around in such detail that it feels almost impossible that this all happened 20 years earlier. Since when was my memory this good?
And yet: those memories place me in Scotland. Those memories have me still having hair, and being surrounded by piles of CDs — remember CDs? — as I sat at my iMac listening to the album. All of these things that, ironically, feel far older than happening two decades ago. The detail of the iMac alone feels roughly several lifetimes earlier; remember how modern they seemed at the time, and how, today, they feel as dated and signifiers of moments in design history as those weird bubble seats from the 1960s? (My iMac was “aquamarine,” which felt very exotic at the time. Oh, how innocent I was back then…! How little I knew…!)
Music has always felt more essential, more contemporary and now, than almost all other media, in my experience; it’s always had an easier connection to my memory and my responses, something more immediate and unavoidable. Now, thinking about it, I wonder how much of those connections are based on things that aren’t actually true, deep down.
(Rings Around the World is still a great album, and something you should all revisit, mind you.)