“Wherever you go, nobody is true. …”
Concluding Beach House’s Bloom is a pure relic from the 1990s: a hidden track.
Wherever You Go wafts into the ears of anyone still listening after about seven and a half minutes of silence following Irene. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about this. Obviously, you can’t get away with this sort of chicanery anymore, the way you could in, say, 1991—and by “get away with” I mean actually successfully hide a song from anyone at the end of a CD. On the other hand, it’s like Beach House can do no wrong. Beach House gets deference. If Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally want to bury a song at the end of their CD, ’90s style, then I’m sure there must be some greater artistic reason for doing that. Who am I to say “no”?
I remember the first time I ever found a hidden track at the end of a CD. I was listening to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 1992 CD Off the Deep End late at night, while lying in bed, in the dark. I had it spinning on my discman, or whatever, and I remember watching the timer continue to count after the conclusion of You Don’t Love Me Anymore, the last song on the album.
I had another CD like this. It didn’t stop spinning at the conclusion of the last song. I thought it was either some sort of mastering error or an incompatibility with my CD player—some sort of bug or glitch. I remember thinking, “Well, that’s kind of weird. I guess I just have to turn this one off manually.” I thought the same of Off the Deep End many times before.
But this time was different. Lying in bed, staring down that timer, I wondered, “How long does this go? I can’t go on forever. When does it time out?” I held down the fast-forward button and advanced a little further into the silent void. As I advanced, I remember thinking, “Wait a minute. This silence had to have been placed here on purpose. … What if there’s more sound after this?” No sooner had I completed that thought than I heard a short burst of sound, followed by the abrupt end of the disc.
“What the heck was that?!” I wondered, excitedly. Having fast-forwarded right past the hidden sound, I had to restart the track and fast-forward again to find it. Again I overshot, but the third time was the charm. With some careful timing, I was able to hear all six seconds of Weird Al’s comedic masterpiece, Bite Me:
I couldn’t laugh too loudly because I had brothers sleeping in the room at the time, but I must have played that back five or six times, suppressing laughter all the while. It was then that I remembered the other CD that did not stop spinning at the conclusion of its last named song. If was, of course, Nirvana’s Nevermind, which Off the Deep End parodied in cover art, as well as it’s lead single, Smells like Nirvana. Was Bite Me also a parody of a track hidden at the end of Nevermind?
There was one way to find out, and that’s how I discovered my second hidden hidden track, Nirvana’s Endless, Nameless, which the band hid some ten minutes after the conclusion of Something in the Way. I hadn’t thought to fast-forward into the void of silence on that album before because I usually listened to it on a simple CD boombox that showed only the track number and not the time. Once I was inspired to find more music after the conclusion of Something in the Way, I kind of liked what I heard. Being able to appreciate a ruckus like that would perhaps be a harbinger of my bizarre music tastes yet to come. There was a screaming part in the beginning that I didn’t quite fancy at first, but I liked the rest of it, and the parts I didn’t like at first grew on me:
Now, I had each of these albums for perhaps a year or two before sparking the curiosity I needed to discover the hidden tracks. The Internet was sort of nascent at the time; at least I wasn’t on there plugging into BBSes, or whatever, getting tips on how to find Easter eggs in my favorite CDs. More importantly, we didn’t have MP3s back then. Those wouldn’t be invented until 1993. Nobody was listening to full songs on their computers in 1992 because WAV files were huge and hard drive space was modest. Long story short: If you wanted to hear music, you put your CD in a damn CD player and spun it—and if you were going to find a hidden track on a CD, you either stumbled on it yourself or your best bud tipped you off in person, after school some day.
Fast-forward to 2012: Beach House hides a track seven and a half minutes after the conclusion of their Bloom CD. First of all, not so many people are even buying CDs nowadays. They are getting music online, from either iTunes, Amazon, or some streaming service. Second of all, even those like me, who still buy CDs for some reason, pop them right in the computer and rip them to our local music collections on our computers. This process immediately spoils the surprise. You can see right away that the last track on Bloom clocks in at 16:57. You know that’s how long you’ve got to sit through that track to hear all it has to offer. You’re not going anywhere until it’s done.
This is assuming that you don’t already know there’s a hidden track on the album. This is assuming that you haven’t read as much in an online review or interview. Effectively, Wherever You Go isn’t “hidden” so much as purposefully made inaccessible. For my own personal listening pleasure, I used Audacity to cut the silence and make Wherever You Go its own track. Apologies to the band if this has gone against their artistic vision, but as this song is quite dear to me, I gave it its own proper track.
Guitarist Alex Scally described the development and final placement of Wherever You Go, in an interview with The Phoenix New Times:
I think that was just a little song we had, and we thought it was a beautiful song but didn’t think it was the kind that asked to be well-produced or anything. We thought it was just fine the way it was. It didn’t need to become bigger. We also didn’t want it really to be part of the album. We wanted it to be like a wink at the end of the record. That’s how it ended up. It’s just sorta like, this is who we are, even though we are making a big record, this is still who we are.
I was curious as to how the track manifested in other media. Both Amazon and Spotify show Irene as a 16:57 track. I assume those on Spotify, or streaming through Amazon simply have to wait the seven minutes. The mp3 downloaded from Amazon can surely be edited with Audacity, if the listener is as inclined as I was. The vinyl release apparently employs a locked groove; the vinyl remains silent and spinning until the listener pushes the needle over to the not-so-hidden track: