Mark Sims

The cassette tape returns to favour, records our inability to let go of the past

With the cassette tape returning to popularity, I think you and I should have a little chat about our nostalgia addled society. 

 

 

For this generation, our watchword may as well be: this is why we can’t have new things. We can’t, because we can’t let go. Alongside the miniaturisation of gaming consoles, the vinyl re-re-rebirth (which now makes up 14 percent of all physical album sales during 2017) and the search for ironically lame t-shirts that we gave to the same op-shops because they were just lame a decade before, add the whirring march of the cassette tape.

According to the Nielsen Media Research, sales of tapes rose 35 percent in the US, with a total of 174,000 units shifted, representing the best year for cassettes since 2012. Wow. You guys remember cassette tapes, right? They were those things that you’d pop into your stereo (whatever that is), and patiently sit through an hour of inane radio chatter that barely passes anywhere near the planet of humour in the vain hope that you’d hear a song that would reflect the feelings you feel, lo, you hear it, but you can’t enjoy it as you’re concentrating, having to time to release the “PLAY” and “REC” buttons you’ve held for the last seven minutes, hoping that you’d be able to time it correctly, so the shrill voice of the DJ didn’t welcome himself into your romantic pair. Whatever year that was was a crazy, stupid time.

I remember, of course I do. It was the worst of times, especially when you trusted it as a medium to pitch your woo. I labourously slaved over a mixtape that stated my intentions, sent with a foolscap note that outwardly stated my intentions to this person, replete with medieval heraldry that carried both our initials and my hopes for romance. Typically, it was rebuffed, and the whole situation was horribly unearthed last year when I bumped into her randomly at a discotheque, who asked me, tongue firmly in cheek, remember that cassette you sent me? Yes, Emma, I do. Did you even listen to it? Did you hear the dolphins cry or just the sound of your group laughing?

Why would we want to go back to that pain?

The answer is enabled retro flair by the trash we watch. The popularity of Guardians of the Galaxy who reached peak creativity of our species, transporting ancient technology to space, matching judicial arse whooping with Pina Coladas, and more recently, Stranger Things, a fever dream of neon antiquities, elevated to genius by dope production values. Piano key neckties? Whhhooooaaaa.

 

It was the worst of times, especially when you trusted it as a medium to pitch your woo. I labourously slaved over a mixtape that stated my intentions, sent with a foolscap note that outwardly stated my intentions to this person, replete with medieval heraldry that carried both our initials and my hopes for romance.

 

I understand nostalgia, I do. The computer I type this on is faster than my nerdy teenage dreams could approach, but I purely use it to play the games of my youth and playing Goldeneye through for the eightieth time leaves me with a corrosive feeling. The true value of nostalgia is taxidermy. Think of all the things you loved as a kid, and put them behind glass, see them as a museum exhibit guarded by a sign that asks you not to touch or take photos of it. You see, the value of these objects is rediscovery, but only in an abstract fashion. Seeing in your mind, but not touching with your hands. As soon as you use these devices, their power is lost. You measure them against what you accept as normal now, and, whether we want to admit it or not, it becomes disappointing. Use subverts your memories, and the value you placed, or the money you spent chasing that feeling that once meant something.

Fig 1. The moment Martin McFly crossed this juncture for himself.

 

 

Yes. That’s Elijah Wood, and no, Back To The Future was not awesomepants, it was tat. Especially the second one, and shut up about your hoverboard (or lack thereof). If I learned anything about being pixelated James Bond again, it’s that reality is a carefully aimed silenced pistol shot to the humourously enlarged head. It hurts, or on Double-0, it hurts a bit, before you stand there completely unaffected; and that is certainly my point. Unlike your youth, you feel nothing. And that’s so much worse, and there’s no amount of magnified scientist casualties you can commit that will minimise your ennui.

Noted life-coach Shia LeBeouf once instructed us to not let our dreams remain exactly that. I disagree, live your new dreams, but leave the old ones alone. That way, those golden Saturday mornings spent with the departed on departed technology will forever remain what they should be, untouchably important.

 

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