When I first heard that tapes were making a resurgence in the world of alternative music, I thought it was all an elaborate joke. As someone who grew up in the era of CDs, tapes only have a negative connotation in my memory. They reminded me of old cars with no power windows and with gum stuck under the window cranks. The idea seemed as absurd to me as the return of black and white TV's. Clearly, someone’s ironic obsession had gone way too far, but I felt confident that the general population would let this quick spike in interest go away quietly. But then, tapes started appearing in my everyday life. A person drinking coffee out of a mason jar told me that they had just purchased a tape at a local show (the mason jar detail is necessary because mason jars are the tapes of drinking containers), and then I sat in a friend’s room and she began to play Nirvana’s Nevermind on cassette. I walked into an electronic store to ask for blank cassettes and the salesperson told me that “four people” had already asked her that question during that same day. Even the CBC started reporting on the phenomenon. Finally, I gave in and purchased my first tape at a Courtneys show, which I have still not listened to. People who are often progressive in every single aspect of their lives are painfully traditionalist when it comes to music mediums. The argument of nostalgia is used amongst a group of people that normally demonise any positive feelings about the past. I have silently watched the tape movement take flight, but I must speak out. Tapes are the fucking worst, and people need to stop trying to make them happen.
Rectangles are aesthetically unpleasing and unnatural. Tapes are shaped like bricks, which is mildly convenient because this allows you to stack them in your basement nicely. This is where they will collect dust until your nice car breaks down and you’re forced to drive a 1994 Pontiac Sunfire with only a tape deck and no air conditioning. You know what other things are shaped like tapes? Mein Kampf, printers, TIME magazine, John F. Kennedy’s head. In contrast, LPs and CDs are beautifully circular like breasts, the sun, good pizza (fuck those square slices) and the Earth itself. It’s simply fun just to watch a record spin around. CDs were also fun in this capacity when everyone had those clear cased walkmans that they used to play The Eminem Show in the early 2000s. But tapes? Yeah sure, have fun staring at that useless slab of plastic.
Tapes also sound like garbage. At least vinyl has a rational argument when purists say that the sound quality is impeccable. Should that not be the point of music mediums? You know…the way the music itself sounds? Tapes just sound terrible. They can make any vaguely listenable song sound like it was recorded by your six year old cousin who decided to round up his fellow classmates to experiment with free jazz.
Cassettes are also directly responsible for those crappy mixtapes that people tried to give you as a gift. When is the last time you actually listened to a mixtape – or hell even a playlist – that someone curated for you. If you did listen to it, it probably made you emotionally confused and very stressed out deciphering the meaning behind song placements. You may have also received a mixtape made with the goal of exposing you to some new kind of world (i.e. best Yellowknife drone bands, “GOOD” country music). With the internet, these worlds can be both heard, and avoided, from a safe, FLAC-equipped distance. A quick swipe to the recycling bin on your desktop requires much less physical energy than trying to destroy a cassette.
Who the fuck has tape decks anymore? I mean seriously, they even stopped installing them in cars. I went to a thrift store to buy one of these ungodly things because a lot of bands that I really enjoy have embraced this medium and I have no option. It now sits below my very active turntable, staring at me, begging me to throw it onto the curb. The Value Village cashier laughed at me as I purchased it. I felt gross and out of touch. I plugged it in, listened to my two tapes and then turned on my computer and listened to Yung Lean for three hours to deal with my tape induced sadness.
The only redeeming quality about tapes is the fact that they are cheap to produce and because of this, they are a great way for emerging artists to release something in a physical format. Although, maybe bands should spring some extra cash so that more than one side of their bedroom EP gets listened to.