The pop-culture Circle of Life – the Lion King’s got nothing on it. Viewed from enough distance, the square stuff seems charming and one generation’s rebellion looks kinda cute.
But the good stuff always holds up. For instance, one thing that I won’t dismiss is the resurgence of vinyl records. As convenient as streaming mp3s might be, it’s nice to have a thing. And there’s no better thing than the old LPs. They’ve got the sound (if you’ve got the system) and the artwork is frame-worthy from the start. Even my kid got into it, with a suitcase-sized turntable and a few platters showing up under the Christmas tree.
That being said, I’m not sure I’m all-in on the attempt to bring back the cassette. It’s cheap, it’s easy to dub, but there’s not much to recommend the format. Back in my salad days, cassettes were the utilitarian tool of choice. Portable, not prone to skipping or scratching. LPs were finicky, CDs were fancy, but you could pop a tape in your jeans-jacket pocket and head out the door.
If you too strapped on your first pair of Doc Martens around the time that “alternative” got a chance to swim on the pop charts, you’ll appreciate the DIY aesthetic that Sleater-Kinney brought to their new album, Live In Paris. The LP and CD covers look like an ad pulled from a ‘zine. The CD itself mirrors a home-burn. And the cassette? Well, it looks just like a cassette, like one of the dozen other crusty boyfriend mixes stuck to the seat of your sister’s trans-am.
I’m not sure how many of these tapes will actually get played, but as some sort of anachronistic artifact, or a fully-functional piece of schwag, they’re right on.