Alright, so a few years back there was a resurgence of sorts in the underground that found modern day bands releasing new albums on cassette. This fad, to an extent, lives on today with notable indie labels such as Sub Pop and Suicide Squeeze joining the ranks of releasing their artists on this format.
I partook in the hype. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
It’s the nostalgia factor, much like that found with my beloved vinyl. It’s a reminder of a different time, of riding the bus to school with my walkman in tow. Then, later, of driving around the ‘Couve in my hand-me-down burgundy ’86 Mercury Sable blasting my latest favorite from the factory cassette deck.
I found new favorites, mostly released around 2011 and 2012 on Burger Records, one of the key players in originating the resurgence. Releases from around those years by bands like Lace Curtains, Night Beats and Deerhunter became mainstays during my 30 minute commute to work.
I even snagged an original copy of God Don’t Make No Junk by The Halo Benders. At the time, I drove a 2003 Mercedes C230 Hatchback, which (like my ’86 Mercury) had a cassette player. Imagine that car blasting “Don’t Touch My Bikini” while cruising down I5 at 75-80mph!
I also picked up an original The Queen is Dead by The Smiths on cassette! “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” remains among my favorite songs by the band.
After selling the Merc a mere 10 months after purchasing it (money pit, surprise surprise), I was sans cassette player. It wasn’t long before I grabbed a Panasonic boombox from the 80s.
This brings me to the second part of the nostalgia factor, rediscovering forgot favorites from forever ago.
Forgotten Favorite #1: Chris Cornell
We all know we lost a great musician a few weeks back. Chris Cornell played a big part in my formative years. Soundgarden’s music, IMHO, surpassed anything else he created before during or after that time. Superunknown and Down on the Upside were hugely influential to my teenage early high school days.
A few months ago, I stumbled upon a handful of mainstream grunge-era cassettes. In the batch, I snagged a 1991 copy of Temple of the Dog. Back in the 90s, I wasn’t fully versed in the band, but 94.7 NRK in Portland played “Hunger Strike” fairly frequently.
(Side note, I just have to point out how 90s that purple outfit is in the video up there.)
Those two events, paired together, led to my rediscovery of Cornell’s work. This happens frequently after an artist passes. For example, though I had been on a pretty big Bowie kick months before his passing, I dove pretty hard into his collective works when the news struck in January of 2016.
Forgotten Favorite #1: Ill Communication
Let’s follow Cornell with an event last week. After a particularly exhausting day at the office, I hopped in my little Fiat only to be graced with the beginning notes of “Do It” blasting from KEXP.
It was exactly what I needed that afternoon.
The song hails off the Beastie Boys‘ brilliant 1994 release Ill Communication.
That evening I ordered a copy from a seller on Discogs, my go-to place for online crate digging.
Discogs notes Ill Communication incorporates a number of genres, from punk and noise, to hip hop and electro, to instrumental and cool jazz. The odd thing is that not only does this album include all of those, it does so with expertly crafted finesse. The damn thing flows impeccably from start to finish.
The Beastie Boys toggle from the hard-hitting noise punk cut “Tough Guy”, to the hip hop “B-Boys Makin’ With The Freak Freak”, then jump into a cool electro jazz track “Bobo On The Corner” like it’s nothing.
Shit, if this is gonna be that kind of party, I’m gonna stick my dick in the mashed potatoes!
Yeah, and I totally forgot how this album had a big ol’ Parental Advisory stamp on it for explicit content.
So after a few years’ since my last bout into cassettes, the fever is back. This time, however, it’s focused on digging up some of those long forgotten favorites from two to three decades back.