Rodriguez – Cold Fact
Light in the Attic, 2008 (Originally released on Sussex, 1970)
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
One of my favorite feelings in the world is the "How have I lived this long without listening to this album 100 times? I feel like an idiot for not loving this all along!" feeling. Right now, that strong emotion is coursing through my veins in response to Rodriguez's Cold Fact. It's not like I was unaware that it was a cool thing when Light in the Attic rereleased it in 2008. I'm fairly certain it was all over KJHK although that whole period is a blur. I knew some folks who were way into Rodriguez. The MP3s were in my iTunes and for some reason the only one I ever played or put on mixes for myself was "Rich Folks Hoax,” which I liked but almost exclusively as a curiosity. I had gotten really into Bob Dylan and sort of flirted with the folk music of the 60s and 70s but never really gave too much of a shit to absorb complete discographies. It was a period of musical parasitism.
I feel like I’ve been living in a golden age of music appreciation since I left college. Not that working at KJHK was a bad thing, because if I could work there forever I would work there forever no question. It was my dream job, it still is my dream job. The problem was when I was 24 and 25 I tried to listen to too much music. It all got blended together and I could never really stick on one thing for too long. If I did, it most likely made one of my expansive year-end lists (and even then, the back half of those were albums I listened to a few times, really liked, and added to make the lists longer). I was lucky enough to get to this copy of Cold Fact before the rest of my record-vulture brethren at HPB St. Paul. Seeing Searching for Sugar Man a month or two ago, I was reminded that “Oh yeah, Rodriguez exists,” listened a few times on iTunes and basically said to the universe “Man, I wish I had this album on vinyl. Can you make that happen World Turtle?” And there you go. It’s a big, think, beautiful slab of wax. I know vinyl collecting is half fetishism, but having grown up on cassette tapes, CDs, and ultimately MP3s, it’s the only way I like to buy music. I can’t justify spending “$15 on a shiny piece of plastic” (quote: the hidden track on Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other, which I bought on compact disc when I was thirteen). Having Rodriguez on vinyl is total fetish though. My heart started beating faster when I saw it on the new arrivals shelf. And the more I listen to it, the more I am thankful that he didn’t become a superstar. He’s a brilliant songwriter, and his knife for social commentary is sharper and more believable than Bob Dylan’s. But in Searching for Sugar Man Rodriguez seems happy just to learn that he’s appreciated in places as remote as South Africa and Australia. Which of course makes him that much more legit. Someone who (at least in the film) gives all his money away. Someone content to just work construction and play music for himself. I feel like there’s some myth making at work in Searching for Sugar Man, but I still came away from it feeling like Rodriguez was kind of mythical. Which was awesome because so many people try to come across as mythical or enigmatic and they’re really just pretending, but since Rodriguez has no success to hang any fakery on, and considering that he still lives in a shit hole in Detroit, it seemed real. I’ll buy that myth any day.
The music on Cold Fact is just fucking awesome. So fucking awesome. Unbelievably fucking awesome and diverse and full of lines that just make you want to tear out your hair they’re so good and relevant and timeless and smart. It sort of reinforces the fact that people make great music all over the place and YOU ARE MISSING IT. I have always loathed that idea that you have to move to New York or Los Angeles to make it in the music industry. Yeah sure you can be some neo-cock rock band or some soulless hype machine oiler, but honestly you can do this shit anywhere if your songs are good enough. And sure you might be forgotten, but if you have any talent and are willing to sell out whatever talent you might have for a Coke commercial you might as well just give up on anyone taking you seriously. I digress. The thing with Cold Fact is that this record is 43 years old and sounds fresher than any folk record that has come out in the past year. If you can even call it a folk record. It almost feels outside the realm of description. It reminds me a lot of Love’s Forever Changes, in that it does something familiar but in a wholly unfamiliar way and is thus seen as a sort of curiosity until years and years later when everyone realizes that Love and Rodriguez were haplessly playing the long game. The “They’ll only appreciate me when I’m dead” game, which is a noble game to play but a goddamn frustrating one to the bands who have to play it.
You can conveniently listen to Cold Fact in its entirety right here. Whether you've never heard it before or heard it a hundred times, I feel like this one is always a treat.