You’ve got this friend who’s got this problem with music. She can’t be satisfied with just the songs; she needs to live the band: books, videos and auctioned undershirt. For the severely afflicted, we bring a list of music gifts that go beyond studio releases and B-sides to offer a multidimensional musical experience.
Old Concerts on DVD
If history has taught us anything, it’s to cut the mullet. Unfortunately, history had yet to deliver the message to Bono in 1983, as evidenced on U2: Live at Red Rocks ($15). Regardless of fashion, there’s nothing embarrassing about the tightly strung set the band delivers. Similarly, the single DVD/3-CD 30th anniversary boxed set Cheap Trick at Budokan! ($30)—offering the first-ever video release for this power-pop band’s famous 1978 Tokyo show—shows a band whose sartorial contrast of slouchy and slick may once again be hip and whose music is timeless. They want you to want it; they need you to need it.
Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping Collection
Not sure what to get for the black transsexual R&B singer trapped inside your boyfriend’s skinny white body? Well, this polyphonic, polysexual Athens, Ga. pop sextet has you covered. Head over to the Polyvinyl Records store and for $90 you get not only a CD that’s made many Best of 2008 lists, but you also get a T-shirt, tote bag, wall decals, sticker set and paper lantern (each item available separately, as well). They throw in the sexually charged electro-funk exorcism—where Kevin Barnes helps you find your own funky black man alter ego—for free.
Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell
They say you can be judged by the company you keep. If so, then Arthur Russell—a cellist and composer (of everything from avant-garde minimalism to mutant disco to “Buddhist bubblegum,” according to Allen Ginsberg)—would be held in very high esteem by the critical courts just by association. A lynchpin of the Lower East Side arts community of the late 1970s (through the early ‘90s), Russell was a contemporary of everyone from Philip Glass to David Mancuso. But Russell’s sensually disembodied presence holds its own sway, as shown in this documentary ($22).
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains
A cult classic shot in 1981 and starring 15-year-old Diane Lane, this just-now officially released flick ($15) is pretty literal in its portrayal of punk’s decline and New Wave’s filling of the (De)void. Do it your own way, it screams, most directly in the all-girl DIY trio’s introduction of a skunk-striped hairdo. Eventually, the style gets co-opted, accusations of sellout are leveled and disillusionment sinks in. That’s hardcore, you know the score. But as a period piece and feminist conversation piece, Fabulous Stains brings a lot to love. And, chauvinist or not, that Lane is a stone fox.
Music Apps on the iPhone
Finally, the iPhone offers something even better than takin’ music, and that’s makin’ music. For anywhere from $4.99 to $19.99, programs such as iDrum, FourTrack and BeatMaker offer surprisingly full-featured sequencers and digital audio workstation functionality on the go. So while everyone else on the train is reading The Onion, you’re training to be the next Girl Talk.