It was kinda cool back in college when I absently left Nevermind playing and after eight-or-so minutes of silence, during which I'd thought the CD has spun to a stop, "discovered" its hidden noise track. As far as I knew, I was the only person in the world smart enough to accidentally leave the CD playing. I was filled with an sense of excitement and achievement, which I can only describe as being akin to how Ponce de Leon must have felt when he landed his ship on the coast of Florida. It wasn't the greatest Nivana song ever, but it was secret and it was mine. But, you know, that was fourteen years ago.
Much like the zoom lens of '70s cinema, the hanging ending of so much post-Carver short fiction, and Paris Hilton, hidden tracks were interesting little novelties that had their place, got boring and then got totally overused to the point of being obnoxious. They're not cool anymore. They don't fool anybody. They're just annoying.
a. I don't enjoy fast-forwarding through increasingly numerous minutes of silence just to hear a three-minute song.
b. It really messes up the flow if you're listening to several CDs or many songs in a random playlist.
c. I hate having to manually edit a song's wav file, just so I can stick it on my iPod.
d. Please stop.
Now, for some reason, Will Oldham (whose music is very close to my heart) seems to be one of the biggest breachers of etiquette in this concern. Just off the top of my head, I can tell you that on the last track of Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music, the last track has about ten minutes of silence leading to nothing, followed by a three-second track of also nothing. On Guarapero: Lost Blues 2, an alternative version of "Apocalypse, No!" is (rather ingeniously) hidden in the negative time of the first song, so you have to put the CD on and rewind to find the song. (I couldn't find it for the longest time, and it drove me insane.) And on Amalgamated Sons of Rest, an EP he released with Jason Molina and Alasdair Roberts, the very best song on the album won't be found until approximately twenty or so minutes past the last official track. There's almost as much silence as there is album.
I don't suspect for a moment that Oldham is doing this because he thinks it's cool. I think he's doing it because he knows it's annoying. I suspect that, like changing his stage name eight or nine times, he's attempting to alienate his audience. Why? I can't say. Probably to stave off celebrity. But I won't be alienated.
For the general well-being of the rest of the world, I offer to you the hidden from Amalgamated Sons of Rest. Whereas the rest of the album is Oldham, Molina and Roberts fill in harmonies and instrumentation for each other's tracks, "I Will Be Good" seems to be a real collaboration, with each singer taking a verse and then all coming together for the harmonies. It's really worth listening to so long as you can just push "play."
mp3: Amalgamated Sons of Rest - I Will Be Good