Best Buy

#457: Making the Best Buy (Or, making lemonade from lemons)

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GETTING MORE TALE #457: Making the Best Buy
(Or, making lemonade from lemons)

In Getting More Tale #326, we lamented that the once-mighty retail chain Best Buy isn’t what it used to be.  This time, we’ll take a look back at the store’s history.

Who doesn’t love those fact-filled Uncle John’s books and calendars?  Here’s the entry for December 2 2015.  Before reading this I had no idea, nor did I really care how Best Buy started.  Uncle John changed my tune:

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Scan from the Uncle John’s 2015 desk calendar.

Back at the Record Store days in the early 2000’s, the Boss was bracing for a new Best Buy store to open nearby.  He figured that we’d probably feel some short term pain, but in the long term the store should draw more customers to the area and we’d benefit from their presence.  He also strongly encouraged us not to shop there, a big US chain edging into our turf.

I tried to avoid shopping there at first, but the convenience was too much to resist.  When I needed printer ink, computer supplies, or a new movie release, they were right there, and they usually had everything I came in for.  That made it hard to avoid.  I still tried to shop locally — I remember making special trips to Steve’s TV in Frederick Mall to buy the Star Wars trilogy on DVD.  Between big items like TV sets, and small ones like candy, I know I have easily spent thousands of dollars at our local Best Buy stores.   They also had hard to find items, such as the rare ZZ Top box set that came in a little box shaped like a barbecue shack (Chrome, Smoke & BBQ).  The guilt felt for shopping a big US conglomerate was tempered by the savings and convenience.

That was then.  As mentioned in chapter #326, Best Buy took a serious dump a few years ago.  Still, a few weeks back, I had the chance to stop by one with my friend and sometimes contributor, Thussy.  We had an hour to kill before a work dinner, so we popped into Best Buy, prepared to spend money if they had something we wanted.  We spent an hour in the store, but no dollars.

The one thing I would have bought would have been the new Adele CD, 25, for my mom.  (Yes, it’s for my mom.)  I know Best Buy pretty much cut audio CDs from their stores completely, but hey, it’s Adele.  Worth a try, right?  Even my grocery store has the new Adele.  Best Buy did not have the new Adele.  I wasn’t really surprised.

We were tempted by some of their blu-ray deals.  We saw a reissue of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I have already bought thrice, no more no less, over the years: VHS, DVD, and special edition DVD.  This new version was a blu-ray, with the same features as the DVD, but a neat little castle set and plastic animals to catapult over it.  Very tempting indeed.  But both of us said no.  We survived their $7.99 cheapie blu-ray bin without spending a penny.   The only thing that was almost a serious temptation was that new remote controlled Star Wars Sphero BB-8 toy. It was $180, and it is definitely a neat little toy. But what the hell was I going to do with it? With a big record shopping excursion in Toronto on my horizon, the $180 would be better saved.

It was a pleasant trip to Best Buy, and we marvelled at all the new televisions and gadgets.  We were asked by one pleasant employee if we needed any help, and only once, which is exactly how you want it.

Best Buy, what happened to you?  Obviously, their story didn’t end with opening 1000 superstores.  They continued to grow, by acquiring other electronics and music retail chains, such as Sam Goody.  Their presence in Canada was felt in 2001, when they bought out our own, similar chain:  Future Shop.  That’s when they began horning in on our territory, and freaking out the Boss.  They continued to expand and acquire, and their services such as the Geek Squad became household names.  It seems this is where Best Buy and I parted ways, as they focused more and more on electronics, and less on the media that I often came in for.  They bought mobile phone stores and services, and became the first non-Apple distributor of the iPhone in 2008.   Phones, game consoles and tech support took over the spaces once designated for music.  Meanwhile online, Best Buy’s on-demand movies, improved web sales services, and quick delivery began to dominate.  I bought my laptop online, and it was at my door to me a few days later in the post.  Around 2010 however their sales began to dip, but Best Buy shed some weight in order to continue to survive.

It just hasn’t happened with much of my help.

This year, Best Buy’s Canadian acquisition Future Shop bit the dust.  I hadn’t done much shopping there lately either, for the same reasons as above.  The two stores were all but identical, and sometimes existed side by side!  It was no wonder they shut their doors.  Others re-opened under the Best Buy banner, but it was a major hit for the company.

I think Best Buy will continue to exist, but as online ordering and home delivery becomes the norm, I think the stores will be able to shrink in size and survive.  Large items like televisions might remain in-store for customers to try out, or to pick up after ordering online.  Small items like movies might be phased out altogether, since Amazon’s own home delivery is the king of convenience.

I will continue to watch Best Buy, and sure, I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.  I would very much like to buy something cool at a great price from them again, some day.

 

SEAN BEAN MEME

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Speed of Light” (2015 single/T-shirt bundle)

For Superdeke‘s review of the new Maiden single, click here!

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Scan_20150825IRON MAIDEN – “Speed of Light” (2015 BMG single/T-shirt bundle – Best Buy exclusive)

“Only at Best Buy — the words chill me to the bones.

I don’t know what the deal is with Best Buy exclusives in Canada.  When Tenacious D’s movie Pick of Destiny came out, I found the Best Buy edition no problem, just up the street.  Bonus disc and all, easy peasy.  Didn’t even know such a thing existed until I found it at Best Buy.

Only a few years later, it became impossible to find Best Buy exclusives at Best Buy.  Using Tenacious D as the example again, the Best Buy edition of Rize of the Fenix has two bonus tracks.  I had to buy it on eBay, so you know it was an inflated price.  Same thing with the last Black Sabbath album.  Best Buy had a bonus track called “Naïveté in Black” which happened to be one of the best songs.  Had to buy it on eBay.  Paid too much.

A few weeks ago, Best Buy announced they were getting an exclusive on the new Iron Maiden single “Speed of Light” from the forthcoming double album The Book of Souls.  It came with a T-shirt.  But I wanted the single just as much.  That’s where Stone from Metal Odyssey came in!

First of all, I’m gonna tell you to follow Stone in some way, shape, or form.  (WordPress/Twitter)  He read my plight regarding Best Buy items here and took pity.  I called my closest Best Buy — all CDs have been removed from their inventory.  So Stone bought two copies and sent me one, asking nothing in return.  (I will return the favour — just name it man!)  To say I appreciate this gesture is am understatement, which is why I’m being more long winded than usual for a one track CD single!

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“Speed of Light”, written by the duo of Dickinson/Smith, is true to Iron Maiden, and it sounds fucking brilliant.  We know all about the new double album, with plenty of long bombers.  “Speed of Light” is just a hair over five minutes, a very concise song for any Maiden album.  When Adrian and Bruce write together, you can count on a catchy riff and hooks.  “Speed of Light” delivers, and Bruce’s singing is just as powerful as ever, cancer be damned.  His voice is virtually unchanged since Brave New World, 15 years ago.  The air raid siren is intact.  And this album will be the fifth with this Maiden lineup, the longest lived in its history.  Impressive.

Most impressive.

A highlight of “Speed of Light” has to be Adrian’s solo.  The three Maiden guitarists (Janick Gers and Dave Murray being the other two) all have their own distinct styles, which is a major boon to a band like Maiden.  Adrian is the one who thoughtfully composes his solos, and then lets them rip.  This one is brief but has his stamp all over it.

Sometimes Maiden take on a 70’s vibe.  “The Angel and the Gambler” is one such moment, but I think “Speed of Light” also has one foot in the 70’s.  Just a hint, an insinuation, at the beginning.  Otherwise, “Speed of Light” is purely a modern Maiden metal moment.  It would have fit comfortably on The Final Frontier, although I would caution against inferring the sound of the new album from just one single.  It is probably one of the more straightforward moments on The Books of Souls, but we’ll find out for sure on September 4.

One last comment:  fuck you, cancer!  You just got beat by Bruce Dickinson!

4.5/5 stars

#326: Not the Best Buy (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#326: Not the Best Buy

I don’t shop in the big corporate record stores that often anymore. Hell, I don’t even really shop in stores anymore! I used to, even at the big stores. When I started working in Cambridge, my buddy Chris and I would go to Future Shop once a week at lunch time to check out the new releases. I would typically buy a new movie and a new CD release at least once a week, sometimes more.  I’d stock up on blank CDs, or just impulsively buy a guitar there.  It happens!

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We would do the circuit around the store. We’d start with the new releases up front, then head to the movie section. I would detour over to CDs while Chris would look at electronics and computer games. We’d meet up at the bargain bin as we left. It’s there that Chris and I acquired two copies of Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield on DVD for $4.99 each. The girl at the front counter was jealous and asked if there were any left! She always knew us as the “Tuesday new release guys”. We sometimes wondered if she thought we were a gay couple since we rarely went in without the other!

Sometime in the last few years, both Future Shop and Best Buy (which are the same company) really started to change. They moved the music and movie section to the very back of the stores, providing more room for cell phones and tablets. It was a sign that things were getting worse for people like myself who enjoy owning physical product. Chris is similar to me. He likes to own “whole collections” of movie or TV series. Some of us are just like that.  He always likes to own the ones he really loves. (Such as the Police Academy series. Yes Chris I just outed you.)

So, we stopped going to Future Shop at lunch. In fact we haven’t been in ages.  Same went for Best Buy.  Strangely enough, a Best Buy soon opened in Cambridge, right next to the Future Shop.  Even the new Best Buy store didn’t have much in the way of music and movies, so we just stopped spending our money at lunch time.

IMG_20141004_123453I can tell you exactly what CD it was that I purchased the last time I bought one at Best Buy. It was the 2 CD/1 Blu-ray/1 DVD version of Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day (2012) which was a brand new release.  And even a release that monumental was hard to find at Best Buy!

I walked into the store a few days after the initial release.  I saw that all they had on the front “new release” display was the DVD combo sets. I went over to the Zeppelin section in music – nothing there. I checked the same in the movies.  Nada.  Then I found a Zeppelin display at the side of one of the aisles. All they had there was CD and DVD; none of the 2 CD/1 Blu/1 DVD.

I found a customer service person that wasn’t chatting up her co-workers, and asked her where they kept the brand new Zeppelin Blu-rays?

In the back room, apparently! She found one for me and I purchased it, a little confused why a Led Zeppelin new release on the hot newest format would be in their back room.

So I bought the package; the very last CD set I have purchased at Best Buy. Best Buy have really abandoned the physical music releases, and that’s too bad. I used to enjoy buying music and movies at that store due to the prices, two nearby convenient locations, and the fact that I could usually find everything I was looking for. No longer. Sorry Best Buy: you and I are no longer besties!


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REVIEW: Black Sabbath – 13 (deluxe, Best Buy, all 5 bonus tracks)

BLACK SABBATH – 13 (2013 Universal deluxe, Best Buy, and Spotify editions)

Last year, Uncle Meat gave us his detailed review of Black Sabbath’s 13.  (His rating:  3.25/5 stars.  Check out his full review for the scoop on the first CD of this metal monolith.)  Having had almost a year to live with it myself, I think it’s time I got around to reviewing the songs he didn’t:  the bonus tracks!

The deluxe and Best Buy editions have “Methademic,” “Peace of Mind,” and “Pariah.”  “Methademic” is cool for being a fast-paced heavy rocker, something I associate more with a Dio kind of sound.  It’s a good track, good enough that Sabbath play it live.  Geezer’s got a serious groove going on with the bass part, and Brad Wilk is playing with furious drive.  You wouldn’t consider this song to be as good as any on the first CD of 13, but it’s a great bonus track.

“Peace of Mind” is of equal quality to “Methademic.”  This time Sabbath have gone back to doomy, but Ozzy’s vocal melody takes it to a special place.   All it’s missing is that looseness that only Bill Ward could provide.  It sounds so authentically Black Sabbath, but if you concentrate on the beat, you can hear that the loose swing of old is not there.  Having said that I enjoy “Peace of Mind” very much, especially when it picks up after the 2:15 mark.

My favourite of this trio of songs is “Pariah.”  It occupies a mid-paced groove which chugs along nicely.  Tony has a couple cool riffs in it, but once again Ozzy’s vocal seals the deal.  Tony’s guitar solo is icing on the cake.  I love when he has a chance to slow down and play bluesy, as he does here.

Japanese fans, and Best Buy shoppers have their own exclusive bonus track, and it’s the one with the best title:  “Naïveté in Black.”  You have to love that.  This smoker is similar to “Time Machine,” from Dehumanizer.  I don’t know why a song this good was left to Best Buy, because it’s better than the other three.  It’s definitely unique among the 13 songs for sounding more like Dio-Sabbath than Ozzy-Sabbath; perhaps that’s the primary reason.  Count me as a big fan of “Naïveté in Black.”

Finally even Spotify have a bonus track, which is “Dirty Women,” live.  This is with Tommy Clueftos on drums, from the same show as the recent Gathered In Their Masses live DVD (but not the CD).  I am fortunate enough to have an excellent quality copy of the song burned to a CD, the perfect final bonus track to 13.

But that’s not all folks.  With the deluxe box set edition, there’s a DVD as well.  There is a brief documentary about the reunion and recording of the new album.  There are quite a few humorous moments, but I do not consider this to be much of a bonus.  All this stuff is available for free on youtube.  I don’t value a physical copy of something like this as much as I value a physical copy of a song.

Best moment:

Fan – “I came all the way from Croatia!”

Ozzy – “Where the fuck is that?”

The deluxe set is large and very nice to look at, but I considered it sparse in terms of worthwhile goodies.  There are lots of large glossy photos, but they’re not up to handling repeatedly.  There’s a print of the “God Is Dead?” single art, a 2 CD set (minus “Naïveté in Black”), and 13 on double 180 gram vinyl LPs.  Everything is lovely and fragile.  There’s also far too much room in the box itself for everything, so things move around inside.  That’s a bit of a design flaw just to save on some extra cardboard packaging.

The Best Buy set came with a T-shirt, which I have kept in-package.  You can find pictures of both versions below.

4.5/5 stars (for 13 as a whole)

Best Buy:

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Deluxe:

 

 

 

REVIEW: ZZ Top – La Futura (Best Buy edition, 2 bonus tracks)

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ZZ TOP – La Futura (2012 Best Buy edition, 2 bonus tracks, American Recordings)

Unfortunately I didn’t get this album until January of 2013.  As such, it didn’t make my Top Five of 2012 list.  If I had got it sooner, would it have made the list?  Probably.  It did make lots of lists.  It made Every Record’s top 10 of 2012, and regular LeBrain reader Deke’s list for example.

I love this album.  I’ve played it every day since I got it!  From mournful ZZ blues (“Over You”) to skunky funky ZZ blues (“I Gotsta Get Paid”) to trademark anthemic ZZ rock (“Flyin’ High”), this album has pretty much everything I love from ZZ Top!

I first heard the single, the aforementioned “I Gotsta Get Paid” (a rewrite of a rap song called “25 Lighters” by somebody named DJ DMD) on the Mandy Grant Show, on 107.5 Dave FM.  I fell for it immediately, but I was wary of buying the album at first.  After all, most ZZ discs since Eliminator and even Afterburner didn’t do too much for me, even though they all have tunes worth putting on a road tape.  Maybe the difference is that, on La Futura, ZZ Top are working with Rick Rubin?  Or maybe it’s that they haven’t recorded a studio album in almost a decade?  I don’t know, except to say that ZZ Top absolutely nail it on La Futura.

The overall sound is both slick and dirty at once, a balance that they haven’t always hit in the past.  Frank Beard’s drums sound absolutely perfect, the way you want a real drum kit to sound, no goofy samples here!  Of course, the Reverend Billy F. Gibbons’ guitars are always greasy goodness, and full of dirty soul.  What sets this album apart is a rediscovered ability to write memorable, catchy blues rock songs.  “I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose, You” is a perfect example of the kind of rock tune that ZZ Top are known for, groovy and instantly memorable.  “Chartreuse” and “Consumption” are the same, just awesomely great Top tunes as memorable as some of their best from the days of yore.  “It’s Too Easy Mañana” is a perfectly bluesy mess of guitars, bass and drums, while “Big Shiny Nine” is another trademark upbeat Top rocker.

My favourite song, that I keep coming back to, and can’t get out of my head, is “Flyin’ High”.  It’s just an awesome song, melodic as hell, and worthy of single status.  That’s my pick for second single right there.  What a riff, what a song!  Back in ’83, this would have been a smash hit.

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I shelled out for the US Best Buy edition, which has two bonus tracks.  Shipping and taxes all-in, I paid $35 for “Threshold of a Breakdown” and “Drive By Lover”.  Both are great tunes, but it’s especially worth having “Drive By Lover” because it’s the only song on which bassist Dusty Hill takes the lead vocal.  I’ve always been a fan of bands that have two lead singers, and I’ve always liked Dusty’s voice.

My only beef is the packaging.  What you see is what you get:  A simple cardboard case, no booklet.  You get liner notes but no lyrics or anything else particularly special for buying a physical edition.  Too bad.

4.5/5 stars

Note:  The first four tracks were previous released on the iTunes only Texicali EP.  But if you prefer physical product, like I do, this is a no-brainer way to go!