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Buy your twisted memories here

2008-09-04 13:21
Now of course, this has become true. People actually consider themselves musicians - artists, even
- if they know how to drop a stylus
onto a spinning plastic disc while
simultaneously wearing a hat. And
to make things even easier, you
don’t even have to be wearing the
hat properly. In fact, this might even
count against you. Nobody likes a smart aleck.

Vinyl has managed to stick around for a number of reasons. For one thing, the CD format has never really lived up to its promises. They were supposed to be unbreakable, un-damageable, noise-free storage units that were such user-friendly little miracles they only stopped short of asking you how you liked your eggs done on a Sunday morning before going down on you.

But as it turned out, CDs came with a whole new litany of suckage. Where scratched records sometimes skipped a groove or two, damaged CDs skipped entire albums, or simply refused to play at all. CD artwork was a mere thumbnail of its former 12 inches of glory, and the cheap-ass jewel cases they came in ensured that your living room floor would be littered with transparent plastic hinges at the end of every social occasion.

Then there are the pretentious, artless DJs and crazy religious nuts, who both require the backwards-spinning capabilities of records to remind us that the banality of evil is still very much with us, but let’s not forget the vinyl nerds. These are the audiophile freaks who insist that everything sounds better if they spend half an hour spraying, dusting, weighing, measuring and adjusting their precious turntables so they can play you a single side of what you soon realise is a post-Peter Gabriel Genesis album, and you have to pretend you got a phone call informing you that your first born just got hit by a bus so they’ll allow you to leave with your sanity intact.

Audiophiles have terrible taste in music, and it’s best to avoid eye contact with them unless you want to end up in an hour-long conversation about how bi-wiring really brings out the best in the Grateful Dead’s studio work. Believe me, you don’t want to go there.

But the appeal of vinyl obviously extends beyond the nutjob market, because record shops are alive and well and doing a roaring trade, despite the fact that they all seem to be run by bearded hippies who smell like toenails. If you live in a city, there’s probably one near you, and if you don’t, I suggest you seek one out next time you’re in town to stock up on bullets and pornography. Check it out, and you’ll soon see why vinyl is popular. The format is heaving with nostalgia; sentimental for the old and ironic for the young.

In a record shop your memories become a tangible reality where entire years are encapsulated in a single three-and-a-half minute song. Holding a slightly soiled but still playable copy of The Hurting by Tears for Fears, you can relapse into your very own ‘80s, of moments sublime with intervals hilarious. It’s history conveniently whittled down to cheesy hits and drunken memories.

But yes, I have to admit, some of that old music was not nearly as disposable as I might once have thought, and perhaps deserves its nostalgia status. Soft Cell, for example, released their horrible cover of Tainted Love 27 years ago. But who will even know what I’m talking about – let alone get offended - when I call that mallrat Jody Williams’ Just Gonna Be Me an embarrassing waste of plastic in 2035?

- Chris McEvoy

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