One of my stock catchphrases when I re-share something on social media that I find odd or surprising is “Well, it turns out that haven’t actually seen everything yet.”
That’s how I felt, and in fact keep feeling, when I see frequent mention in my newsfeed of this artist or that either releasing new material or reissuing existing albums on cassette tape.
I’m sorry, what?
Digging deeper into this, much to my surprise this has been going on for longer than I was aware of. And frankly I don’t know what to make of it.
So then, what’s at the heart of the cassette revival?
Nostalgia? Most of the people and artists involved with this weren’t even born when cassette tapes were popular.
Is it just hipsterism run amuck? Maybe. I don’t know if I’m qualified to say.
There’s that joke about the vinyl revival, where a vinylphile tells a friend “What really drew me to vinyl records was the inconvenience and expense.”
As someone who was there the first time, it’s hard to picture anyone really enjoying the cassette tape experience now. Sure, back then we used them, and in fact spent countless hours curating and recording mixed tapes. But that’s because that’s all we had to work with.
Certainly, back in the day, even as kids we were well aware of the sonic inadequacies of cassette tape compared to vinyl, and later Compact Discs. We joked about it. Even as we duped copies of copies of copies of mixed tapes as the quality decreased, we knew cassettes sucked, but again, it was all we had.
Unlike vinyl records, I’m not seeing any evidence of manufacturers rushing to fill this perceived need, at least not yet.
That means that cassettophiles (is that a word yet?) are dependent upon vintage equipment scrounged from second hand stores or their grandparents’ basements.
We really are living in the weirdest timeline.