We recently wrote a news piece on ex Red Hot Chilli Pepper member John Frusciante’s new single. While the reviews have been on the positive side, one thing in particular struck us more than the release itself. Along with releasing the LP digitally, on vinyl and on CD, Frusciante decided to release it on cassette tape.
Last year in some awkward attempt to stay relevant and cement their anti-everything attitude Dinosaur Jnr. released a trilogy of their top three albums on cassette. Polyester Records also have a cassette tape section on their website (though admittedly, at present moment there are only two titles on offer). We have beef with this.
Why the resurgence? Why are people jumping back on the cassette tape wagon when they should know better than to be purchasing something that will assuredly produce a crappy sound?
A lot of it has to do with rarity. Cassettes aren’t part of the mainstream anymore and with the ever-growing popularity of vinyl, it isn’t surprising that people need a new nostalgic medium to cling to. But as nostalgic as tapes may be, they aren’t the least bit logical.
There’s a reason musicians stopped putting out their music on tapes: the sound is terrible. Tapes hiss, distort and are an all-round pain in the ass. They became redundant for a reason. In fact, they’ve become so irrelevant, that the Oxford English Dictionary is planning on removing the term ‘cassette player’ from its concise dictionary, (don’t worry though, bootylicious is still in there).
Enter hipsters or, more precisely, anyone who thinks being ahead of the curve means liking purposely shitty things before anyone else does (these are the same people who grow ugly mustaches and wear fanny packs). The perceived irony of purchasing something that you know is going to sound shitty when a better medium is available is nothing except stupid. Where are these idiots even getting tape players? We can’t imagine why any person would miss the hiss.
A big part of this revival, apart from the perceived irony, is the idea of the mixtape. Yes, it’s called a mixtape. That doesn’t mean it’s exclusive to tape. Let’s not be so literal.
But we get it. Cassettes are cute and a little kitsch and remind us of a simpler time. And hell, there’s nothing romantic about giving someone a USB full of music in place of a mixtape. Cassettes were groundbreaking for their time. After all, they were the first real portable music medium that could be listened to in cars and on the run. But technology has moved on, and its time everyone else did too. So please, let’s all stop being contrary for the sake of it and ditch the hiss.