What Actual Record Store Clerks Think of Hulu's 'High Fidelity' Reboot

VICE asked LA record store clerks for their review of the Zoë Kravitz-led reboot of the beloved 90s film about love and music snobbery.
March 6, 2020, 4:29pm
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In the show Friends, which first aired over 25 years ago in a New York much more livable than today, the writers were already looking for explanations as to how young people could afford to live in such nice apartments. Monica is said to have inherited the rent-controlled lease for the apartment she and Rachel live in from her grandmother. As for Chandler and Joey—well, Chandler works in tech or something. But in the new Hulu adaptation of High Fidelity, which takes place in the Crown Heights neighborhood of modern-day Brooklyn, an explanation of how Rob (Zoë Kravitz) has such a beautiful apartment—or, perhaps more crucially, how she owns (!) a palatial record store with two (!!) full-time employees—is never given.

Yes, it's just a TV show. And it's not really a bad one, either (there are worse ways to spend five hours of your life), but it is a major missed opportunity for a program to consider the past, present, and future of its principal setting and vocation. During the quarter-century since Nick Hornby released the novel the show is based on, the entire infrastructure of music has been almost completely rebuilt. Streaming now accounts for 80 percent of industry revenue, and scores of beloved institutions, from mom-and-pop places to powerhouse chains, have shuttered. It's not outrageous to suggest that, in another 25 years, record stores as we know them may cease to exist.

Thankfully they're still around—and, somewhat promisingly, they've actually been doing better over the last few years, relatively speaking, as vinyl starts to become the primary source of non-digital music consumption. Regardless of how tenuous the situation may or may not be, anyway, record stores in 2020 continue to be a very real place of employment for very real people, some of whom still like to chat with anyone who walks in, particularly when they walk in asking what they think of a mainstream depiction of a lifestyle they know all too well.

That consideration led me into as many record stores as I could get to around the Los Angeles area, where I found, in classic record-store-clerk style, a high level of fashionable disinterest in watching the new High Fidelity altogether. But even if they hadn't seen it, most clerks were still glad to talk about it—and about the state of record stores in general—all the same.

Jon: Counterpoint Records & Books, Franklin Village

I've done 75 episodes of television, I sold a script to Miramax and they hired me to write Jackie Brown based on Tarantino's movie, and I still work here on Friday nights to pay my utility bill to live in a house I don't own in [the Larchmont neighborhood] that I really shouldn't be living in. So if this is a High Fidelity half-hour comedy about how fun it is to work at a record store, they should spend a night with me here—we can share a bottle of booze as we get through my shift. I'll watch the pilot with you and weep.

I thank [my friends] for coming in here so that we can talk about our favorite subject or have a dull conversation, but to see people like the one woman who came in here and walked through the aisles naked, completely dirty, not knowing what to do… What do you do when a naked woman just walks through your aisles when you're trying to close the shop? If that's going to be on High Fidelity I'll watch it.

Tori: Cosmic Vinyl, Echo Park

Friends have come in here, before the show came out, and they were like, this is like fucking High Fidelity—but that was based on the movie. I honestly never watched the movie.

Actually, my friend came in here the other day and said she had seen it. I don't remember if she said it was good or bad, but she whispered to me, like, “Have you seen the new High Fidelity?” because [the store] owner was here and she thought that he would think she was an idiot for having watched it.

We have been getting a lot of job resumes—I wonder if the show is why. [Working at a record store] is not that glamorous. It's mostly people yelling at me from the street outside.

Adam: Going Underground Records, East Hollywood

Photo courtesy of the author

No [interest in the show] at all. I think I saw the movie once as a teenager, and that was it. I understand why they tried to revive it and do something new with the concept, but it's never appealed to me at all.

The record store [resurgence] thing is just, like, we've been hearing people say, “Oh, I hear these things are making a comeback,” but they've been saying that for the last ten years. I feel like for people who are always into records, record stores never really went away. And so obviously there is some truth to there being a resurgence of vinyl even within the last five years—the number of new records being released on vinyl is big. And they said I think, that in 2019 it was the most amount of vinyl sold since the late 80s or early 90s or something like that.

I don't know what it is but I've been seeing a lot of fresh faces this month specifically. I think people are getting tax returns.

Tillie: Permanent Records, Highland Park

I refuse to watch it, but I heard it's really good. I feel like it was just such a good movie—although that's not how you want your record store to be, I guess, because they're not nice, friendly, helpful people. But the movie is so good, and I think part of it is that I just really love John Cusack. And it's just like, I don't like how they're remaking all this classic stuff. It's like they're running out of stuff to do.

Rodney: Avalon Vintage, Highland Park

I watched like 30 seconds of it. It was crap. It's just cliche. The whole thing is a string of cliches strung together for someone who doesn't really know anything about that world to make them think they have, like, inside information. New insight. It's not really authentic.

I didn't even watch that much of it to get that. I saw the conversation she had with the guy in the bar about Fleetwood Mac and it was so ridiculous. It was so bad. She had to make clear to him that she liked Rumours, though Tusk was the much better album—and that was such a lame, hipster argument. No one would actually debate that in that way, at least. You might see someone casually be like, “Yeah, I like Rumours but I love Tusk,” and that's cool. But it wouldn't be debated in that way, you know what I mean?

Greg: Poo-Bah Record Shop, Pasadena

I binge-watched it. My girl had been wanting to watch it so we just watched it in two days. I enjoyed it, man. I liked the love story, I liked the cheesiness of it. Some people have too many expectations. Like, “Oh my god, it's a record store? It has to be perfect, you have to curate it perfectly.” And it's just like, dude, this is for the masses, it's not for the heads, you know what I mean? And most of their audience I would guess doesn't even own one record.

It's cool that it might introduce a kid to Minnie Riperton or something like that, or William Onyeabor. I think that's a cool aspect—that maybe people will start buying records and go down that journey for the rest of your life, because of a show like this.

John: Mono Records, Glendale

I haven't seen it. The last thing I want to do when I get out of here is go home and watch a show about record stores. I live it. The things that people do in media, it doesn't really have much to do with what really happens in here… I'm not opposed to it, because of course they're going to come out with something like that, for whatever reason.

Young people don't give a fuck about record shops. I don't even know what they care about. It's a bummer. It happens on the daily where these young cats will come in here and I'm like, “What've you been listening to?” and they don't know how to talk. They don't know how to have a legitimate conversation.

I think people's attention spans are going to the wayside because of technology. Instead of using a place like this to come in and get turned on to something they don't know about, they learn about it on the internet and they come here, and if you don't have what they already know about, or what they want, then they're not interested. I'm not trying to be dark about it—that's just what it is.

Quinn: Rockaway Records, Silver Lake

I tried to watch it the other day. It seemed a little silly. I watched the movie and that was OK, but for me, it'll probably be the same in the sense that it will always have record stores kind of be there but not really made a part of the story. It's gonna revolve around some love-life drama, and none of the actual collecting and buying process of vinyl. In that sense, I don't care, because I don't feel like it does much for record stores or the art of collecting records and listening to them.

Joe: Gimme Gimme Records, Highland Park

This is an opinion that nobody talks about, because it's all been businesspeople who wrote those articles [that say that] vinyl is nowhere near streaming, and it's like, yeah, because what you're seeing is the tip of the iceberg of the vinyl thing, which is new sales. But look at the store: This store is 90 percent used records, easily. Most of the stores around here are almost all used. There isn't like a Soundscan for used records, so you don't know how many used records are selling. You can see on Discogs or eBay or whatever, but there are tons of records being sold and they're all used… Whatever they're selling in the stores, in new records, just realize that there's probably like ten times as many of those records are being sold used. Probably more, to tell you the truth.

Ken: Headline Records, Fairfax

[The vinyl resurgence] is just a trend. They'll go back to Spotify or whatever they use because it's just a novelty thing, because they didn't grow up with it. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, because everything's so convenient. The fact that they're going to have to get up in twelve minutes to turn the record over—or if they have a nice turntable and they're going to have to take the needle off of the record—they're going to have to focus. And I learned that most people have the attention span of a gnat. I think it'll be good for very young people—they'll enjoy it if they're clever enough to enjoy it and stick with it—but everybody's in such a rush nowadays. Everything has to be right now; nobody has time to wait.

You can't joke with [young] people anymore. To them I come off as the jaded, old fucking slacker at the record store. Older—35, maybe 40-plus—then we usually will have a nice conversation. Younger kids will just kind of come in and ask, “Do you have this?” and not look, and looking is part of the whole record store experience.