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2017, THE YEAR OF THE CASSETTE TAPE

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It’s been a well known fact for a good few years now that the world, whilst still progressing in technological advancements, is also turning around in the opposite direction and looking back to the past for a more organic, more authentic and a more nostalgic approach to many different elements of life. Whether it be the fascination with vintage style and bespoke home fittings, or even adopting more traditional lifestyle methods in areas such as cooking. The big one of course is music, and this has never been illustrated better than the massive and ongoing resurgence in vinyl records, a format that stepped aside for inventions such as CD’s, mini discs (ask your dad) and eventually MP3’s and digital downloads. As vinyl records continue to enjoy their modern popularity and music collectors enthusiastically continue expanding their record collections, we’ve often stepped back to wonder exactly what it is that people enjoy so much about the format. The sound quality is one reason, with a grainier and more authentic recording sound than a clean cut, well produced download streamed from your favourite LEGAL streaming provider. Part of it may be the actual task of having to visit a local record store (ask Jim Sonic at Back to Mono) and dig through piles and piles of second hand, or new, records that have found themselves in store ready for purchase or even repurchase. Not only is it an opportunity to stumble across something incredible and new to you, but the item comes with a charm and history of its own, making the event more enjoyable than clicking a button and getting an email days later telling you that £7.99 has buggered off out of your account. In fact, perhaps its the physical aspect entirely as people have cottoned on to the idea that spending a ton of money without ever holding a product in your hand isn’t so clever, whereas with records, you can sit and enjoy them for the rest of your life if you so choose. I’m sure there may be other reasons also, but with those in mind and the success and revenue this resurgence has accumulated over the past few years, the only natural progression of course it to start releasing, trading and promoting the use of cassette tapes again. Right?

Now I may be missing something huge here, and it’s likely that the reason passed me by, as did the moment this whole idea became a thing, but are cassette tapes likely to enjoy the same resurrection that vinyl has? I mean, it is the next in line chronologically so it’s certainly an interesting place to start. Working our way back through the mediums until finally we reach 2034 and find out all over again that mini discs were shit. But could tapes be the next avenue to go down? The idea has already began it’s process and multiple artists have been getting involved. Only today it was reported that The White Stripes will be releasing their first three albums again on cassette. This means you can hear their self titled first album, 2000’s ‘De Stijl’ and of course their break through ‘White Blood Cells’ on a tape! Why it’s only these three, who knows, but why not go all in and include their latter three albums. Is this an experiment to see how it goes? Does this signify a slight lack of faith in the project? I’m not sure, but to be honest, their earlier albums do have a very organic sound, bluesy and gritty and may well translate to a cassette tape with ease. We all know Jack White enjoys the traditional approaches to life and immerses himself in many formats from a bygone era. So maybe it makes sense. However, it’s also been noted that other artists have joined the tape deck revolution such as Blondie, when they released their latest album ‘Pollinator’ earlier this year, and wouldn’t you know it, they released a cassette version as well. So this is brand new, fresh rock n roll. A very different sound. Then again, Blondie have been recording since the 70’s and it’d make sense to have a band who’s tenure saw tapes come and go the first time around. Well what about artists like MF Doom, Reverend & The Makers, Daedelus, The Weeknd & even everybody’s fave bloke Justin Bieber? Sure, the purveyors of modern day cassettes may be a small and exclusive group at the minute but it’s an eclectic bunch and a group with a lot of influence. Are we about to see some sort of boom in the music industry as more and more people jump on board? Could it rival vinyl sales? Could it even put a stop to the current popularity as tapes become the hipsters new toy of choice? 

Well let’s not forget, most homes and certainly no cars these days will have a tape deck for playing these on, if they do they’ll be hit with the stark reminder of what an arduous and tedious effort it is to rewind your tapes every time, and taking an hour to find the beginning of your favourite song, only to then get it all chewed up and having to bin it and inevitably going onto iTunes to download the bloody thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a 90’s (well late 80’s) kid and I LOVED cassette tapes, but without doubt, my favourite tape I ever owned was the blank one from Poundland that came in a pack of six and I recorded the charts on it every week. If music in the charts these days wasn’t so shit, I’d probably be more excited about the whole thing.

Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)

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