Author: Sun Jung
A couple of days ago I went to sell my old clothing to a vintage shop in LA’s Hipsterdom…or Los Feliz. As the cashier sorted through the junk, my fifth grade yellow sweater resurfaced and inside the pocket, I found a cassette labeled “Joy Division.” The girl standing next to me – who had been glued to her iPhone most of the time – saw the gloomy, raspy object and said flatteringly, “That is swell! No one seems to value concrete music anymore.”
I looked at her disoriented, still trying to digest “swell.”
“It’s so sad that people do not collect cassettes anymore. They are starting to store everything online.”
“GOOD. For a second I almost thought we were in the fucking Great Depression.”
I responded…almost. Instead I sold “Joy Division” to her for $15, nodded about the sad fate of music preservation, and spent that money on organic, paleo, natural pancakes that tasted like shit.
Lately, hipsters have sparked a retromania movement to counter the high-speed data. As I have witnessed, they have resorted to the means of savoring songs via cassette tapes – bringing back a truly, useless crap from the 80s. For a while they gathered vinyls, but as soon as corporate America started selling those discs, they dug out the most hideous corners in the dumpster of compact music.
An article in VICE called “Cassette Tapes are Almost Cool Again” commented how tapes enforce us to listen to a whole album as opposed to skipping from one artist to another. Moreover, the fizzling noise corners us into focusing on the words better. The author, Zach Sokol, suggested that these plastic inventions could be the Adderall to the modern ADHD generation who cannot listen to an album entirely. How painfully…quixotic I find it hard to believe that listening to anything with a hissing background will get me hooked in to the artist. It will annoy me in less than 20 seconds before turning it off forever.
Sokol pinpointed that cassettes’ original popularity mostly emerged from their convenience. Nowadays, people can tag nostalgia and tangibility as justifications to own them. It is understandable for a Baby Boomer to reminisce the 80s because they ACTUALLY LIVED through those years and might feel a form of personal attachment. Creating mixtapes and gifting cassettes to your sweetheart was part of the dating ritual, not to mention how collecting them used to be in vogue. Yet despite the sentimentality associated with those objects, the Baby Boomers have moved on to the modern forms of music storage. In the end, the melody is what triggers memories and brings back the aura of the tape era when most of their youth took place. But millenials? You were either a fetus or thumb-sucking goblin with one-quarter of a brain – let’s cool off the nostalgia with baby powder and unlimited naptimes for now, please?
“But we need to support the #starvingartists!”
Several cassette-based records (i.e. Burger Records…I’m going to start French Fries Records and drive them out of business) have launched EPs and albums for obscure, independent artists whose fanbase are restricted to tape listeners. There are many ways to get a kickstart in your music career and the only one way not to do it is distributing music in third-world quality format. I hate to be the one breaking it to you, but you can’t flake the Internet when it comes to supporting your work. People spend more time staring at screens than tape store hunting. “Starving artist” actually sounds way too romantic for a tragic fate.
I generally don’t like music in physical form since it can clutter up. However, I can see how vinyls and CDs may look aesthetically mouth-watering; they resemble cakes, pizzas, donuts, pancakes, any round-shaped goodness. Most importantly, in terms of sound quality, they do not fall behind. But tapes? All the downmarket designs present in the 21st century mirror those compressed owl faces. Look no further but the back of a Prius – it was okay in ‘97 until someone smashed a flat cassette-faced trunk in 2003. We don’t hate Prius because it’s good for the environment; we hate it because it’s ugly for the environment.
After World War III, future archaeologists will be mystified to dig out 80s and 90s shoddy, hideous, electronic junks buried within the pile of Apple touchscreens and plaid shirts. They will hold national conferences debating how such inhabitants of an overpriced-rent city made their limited space even more claustrophobic by accumulating garbage dating back to Generation X. “What was so wrong with listening songs from the Internet? When did this psychotic movement start? Why are they storing trash in a one-bedroom studio apartment that they share with a roommate? WHAT IS THIS HOARDING PHENOMENON?”
Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Cassette aficionados are not carving out a new path – they’re just going backwards, leaving unnecessary debris of polyester plastic films.
But even then you cannot bring yourself to listen to music digitally because it feels noxious to your soul, then recede completely to the antiquated means of living. Stop Instagramming fixies, homemade almond milks, Victorian beards, and typewriters because we know that amidst all that ancient junk, you are just like the rest of us who spend more time fingering your iPhone. Don’t halfass between two centuries. If you do want to go backward, begin by taking simple, genuine steps that will emancipate you from the soul-crushing cyberworld:
- Don’t stalk people online.
Instead of sitting in a corner with your laptop, follow your stalkee on foot. No more Facebook filtering, Twitter scrolling, or LinkedIn viewing. “Can you make it to transcendental yoga this weekend?” “Oh I can’t! I have some all-natural, organic stalking endeavor to fulfill.” #physicallyhealthy #butmentallynot
- No more 720HD porn.
If you plan to luxuriate in 32 kbps instead of 320 kbps music, then masturbate to 2D-print instead of 720HD porn. In the olden days (pre-90s), a mangy lingerie page from a Victoria’s Secret catalogue was considered a ruby to one’s erotica box buried beneath the doghouse. Don’t be a mainstream-masturbator by locking yourself with a smartphone in Starbucks restrooms, go to a WiFi-less ethnic café with your washed out hardcopies hidden between the chapters of 1984.
- Use public phone booths.
They still exist. You might contract some unknown epidemic from the puddle of piss that the puppies, Generation Z lads, and hobos left on the pedestal, but that’s a small price to pay compared to the shackles (and monthly fees) of carrier companies. Phone booths may not be urine-free, but they are evil-free.
- Share everything through Postal Service.
All of your iTunesucking friends will wait anxiously for three to seven business days to receive a letter from you containing five b&w polaroids: selfie, sunset, your lunch, art, and your back. Because these lowbrow online listeners do not have the patience to fully ingest an album, it will be double torture to wait until next month’s brunch to learn your complete meal history…knowing your friend’s bowel movements and sodium intake has never been so crucial until today.
Don’t be a hypocrite. Either drop the tape, or touchscreen.
Author: Sun Jung. For occasional word vomits and self-promo, follow @sunofjung
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