06:29

(Temporary Backup) Cassettes

For me, one of the unalloyed joys of the modern age is digital music. You can download anything you want and either buy it or stream it on Spotify; you don’t have to buy a turgid album to get to the one or two songs that you like; you can arrange them in any order you chose; there are no scratches or hiss and the quality remains as good as when you first acquired it; any idiot can become a half competent DJ; you can send any song you like to anyone instantly - and you don’t have to haul around anything physical other than a smartphone and pair of headphones. What’s not to like?


Something, clearly - as there is still a market for vinyl, and extraordinarily, cassettes. Vinyl I can only sort of understand. I get the album covers and the remembered pleasure of peeling the plastic off an new purchase and the gleaming virginity of the shiny black surface. After that it was furred up needles, scratches and the slow slide downhill - particularly the last inside track that wore out faster than the outside. And I don’t miss the carrying boxes. The aficionados of vinyl insist that there is a ‘warmer’ sound. Really? Is it really worth all the downsides?


But cassettes? Cassettes? These were truly the devil’s work with only two merits - they were small and mobile. Music came to the car and on holiday. Other than that they were awful; the hiss, and the countless minutes spent rewinding or forwarding only to find you had gone the wrong way; the muddy sound and the way the the tape sooner or later jammed in the mechanism and often broke; the search for a hexagonal pencil or biro to wind the tape back in; the plastic cases where the hinge inevitably broke; and the album art reduced to an insignificant thumbnail. CDs were a joy when they arrived - but all the downsides of portability and slavery to the album remained.


But apparently cassettes are making a comeback. With whom? Surely no one with a memory would ever go back to them? It can only be the same sort of people, under the age of forty five,  who join the Hillman Imp club - filled with the odd desire to feel what the seventies were like, bad as well as good. The world is a big place filled with odd people, and surely some of the oddest must be cassette nuts.

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