Musings on several months into vinyl fetishism...

I've been married for over a year now, and I like it. When I got married, I got many things: an amazing wife, a big party with all my friends and family, and a bunch of gifts. Still got the wife. Awesome. Still remember the party. Cool. Possess total recall of precisely one gift: a vinyl pressing of Mr. Bungle's California.

But the thing about that gift is that is was PERFECTLY suited to both Maureen and I.

The one problem: I burned up my stereo when I burned down France.

Sam, by way of giving us California, planted seeds that germinated several months ago when I convinced Maureen to let me go piece together a new stereo rig. Convinced is too strong a word as I didn't really have ply excessive charm, but still I prepared like it was going to be a Big Weird Fight. It's more fun that way.

I was unsatisfied with new gear offerings (in the financial ballpark we jointly agreed to), so I pieced together a modest system at a suburban pawn shop, and away we went.

A couple months in, and I'm throwing out about $50 a week on records. Sometimes it's $70 on two heavy pressings from a high-end boutique label like Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, sometimes it's $30 on a wholly random smattering of used records at the Fetus (the Fall, Michael Jackson, and Jethro Tull).

I'm not really an audio snob. I easily slipped from CDs to mp3s without a complaint. I couldn't tell (that I could tell). The records I had were more out of ironic faux nostalgia or out of simple neat-o collectorhood. The difference between a polybagged comic book and Kraftwerk's Computer World were surprising negligible.

But years and years into the digital revolution, vinyl offers a surprisingly nice punch. Again, I don't have a high-end system. It's a Technics-made JC Penney turntable with a generic AT-71 stylus on a Nakamichi receiver through some old Avid speakers. But the presence is outstanding, and depending on the record, the clarity of space and separation is somewhat mind-blowing.

It's an easy and unsurprisingly accurate summation to dismiss my wonder as the result of years of settling for almost all recorded music to be absorbed via either my car or my computer. I get that.

But that's not the reason I've fallen in love with records.

It's the ritual.

I want to listen to some music. I select a record, shuck the plastic sleeve and the paper sleeve, gingerly pull out the record and examine it. I put it on the platter. If it's clean and shiny, I drop the needle. If not, I dose it with some Pfan Stat and give it a twirly wipe first. Then the music comes.

While not circumstantially identical, it takes me back to when I was a high schooler in Redfield; when I first discovered music. A box would come in the mail. Depending on who I thought I was getting a great deal from at the time, it contained music from either BMG or Columbia House. Down to my basement room I'd run, grabbing a comp notebook and my trusty Aiwa disc portable on the way to flopping on my bed where I'd lie and ACTIVELY LISTEN, going so far as to even transcribe any lyrics I found particularly compelling.

So far, the only regret I have is with selection. I'm not taking too many chances with unfamiliar material, instead frequently choosing to repurchase my greatest favorites from circa '96-'01.

I assume this is a personal fad that will eventually die, either from exhaustion of reasonably priced still-in-print options or a significant uptick in trustworthy new releases.

Oh, and as an added bonus, Maureen kind of likes listening to records too*. She raises the same eyebrow she raises whenever I find a new way of spending money as a substitute for being a creative, productive human, but, hey, to that end, I don't recall ever writing this extensively about either my various lens lusts or even about having spent the last three years as far more of a photographer than as a writer.

So there's that.


* Yes, she more than "likes" listening to records. She still (correctly) thinks I'm spending too much money on it though.

1 comment:

Sans Coast said...

Welcome back in both ways.