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wshaffer
Someone explain this to me? 
27th-Jul-2013 10:47 pm
calm, metal
A musical trend that I've noticed lately: the resurgence of the cassette tape.

Increasingly, I've been noticing bands releasing music on cassette. Initially, it seemed to be smaller acts wanting to establish an indie/D.I.Y. vibe, but I've just seen a photo on Facebook of a cassette edition of Carcass's forthcoming Surgical Steel, which bids fair to be the extreme metal event of the year.

I was a child of the Walkman era, and if anyone ought to feel nostalgia for the era of the cassette, it'd be me. I had hundreds of the things. I don't get it. The enduring affection for LP records, I can understand, even if I don't share it - vinyl can sound better (especially when compared with CDs that are mastered for maximum loudness at the expense of dynamic range), is durable when cared for properly, and gives you nice full-sized cover art to look at. Cassettes don't have a particular sound quality advantage, the things wear out if you play them too much, and the cover art is teeny and usually ends up being cropped to fit a rectangular rather than square form factor. Not to mention that annoying thing you'd get when one side of an album was longer than the other, and you'd have to fast forward through a couple minutes of silence to get back to the beginning again.

I do recall that when I first changed from cassettes to digital music, my listening habits changed in a way that I regretted a bit. CDs (and then MP3s) made skipping from song to song so easy that there was a period in which I rarely listened to full albums any longer, instead skipping from song to song at will. This was a transient thing, though - as soon as I noticed that I was missing the experience of sitting and listening to a full album, with all its high and low points, I started listening to full albums again. It certainly didn't drive me back to cassettes.

So, am I missing something? Does the cassette have charms that I'm overlooking?
Comments 
28th-Jul-2013 06:55 am (UTC)
Um. It fits in your pocket? It "holds your place" for you, even in the middle of a song? It doesn't skip? The player actually clips to your belt? Those are things I kinda miss, now that I think about it.
28th-Jul-2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
Fitting in the pocket, not skipping, and in some cases clipping to your belt are all virtues offered by mp3 players, too.

I'm with Wendy; I just don't get it.
29th-Jul-2013 12:55 am (UTC)
Right. I forgot mp3 players existed because I never bothered to get one. In that case, I got nothin'.
28th-Jul-2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Cassettes do have it all over CDs in those respects, and I held on to a lot of cassettes well into the CD era (and dubbed a lot of CDs onto cassettes) for those reasons. I recently came across this unwieldy fanny-pack sort of thing that i used to have for carrying my Discman and some CDs around - it was ridiculous. But a good MP3 player will do all that and hold a couple orders of magnitude more songs.

I will be rather surprised if the CD ever becomes a "nostalgia" format. I still buy a reasonable number of CDs, because record labels have an irritating habit of putting out extra songs that are only available on the physical disc, and I'm a terrible completist. But I basically only play CDs in my car.
28th-Jul-2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
...is durable when cared for properly...

Ah ha ha, oh god. While this is technically true, I guess I never quite got the hang of caring for them properly, despite sometimes painful attention to do so. I was overjoyed when cassettes became popular, but not as happy as when CD's did. A format that didn't wear out simply by playing it? Man.

And vinyl does, of course. Wear out by playing it, I mean. You're dragging a metal needle across softer plastic. Of course it wears out. Not as quickly as cassette tape, though, granted.

CD's are nigh-indestructible compared to the formats that they replaced. Discs I bought 15 years ago still sound exactly as good* as when I first played them. And I wonder if they'll physically outlast magnetic digital storage.

*That is, my ears have degraded faster than compact discs have.
29th-Jul-2013 12:31 am (UTC)
That's a fair point - I've owned only a small handful of vinyl records in my life, and never managed to wear any of them out, but I was in perpetual terror of them getting scratched.

I just googled to check, and it appears that, apart from some very early CDs, a manufactured CD (as opposed to a burned CD-R, which has a much shorter shelf life) has a lifespan of decades to centuries. So, yes, they will physically outlast most things.
29th-Jul-2013 09:46 am (UTC)
So, yes, they will physically outlast most things.

Including the drives we play them on. :-P
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