Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bury Your Dead

This originally appeared in the second issue of Repulsive Regurgitation zine. I'm including it here for posterity...please don't steal this and the pics that go with it by putting it in your own shitty little thing without my permission. [I'm talking to you, Malaysia.]

Every movie monster is analogous to a larger problem. Vampires represent fears of sexuality, or drugs, or AIDS, or alienation. Frankenstein was an allegory for science run amok. Werewolves are twisted representations of adolescence, both male and female. Dawn of the Dead was about mindless consumerism; The Walking Dead is about fans of The Walking Dead. [Seriously, I have no idea why that show is so popular.]

Zombies are a useful metaphor for any kind of mob mentality. Take the cassette trend that's infecting heavy music, and that few in the underground question. People who listen to music on their phones and computers keep trying to justify their love of cassette tapes. It's the ultimate example of cognitive dissonance.

A friend of mine wanted to release his upcoming grindcore EP on cassette. I told him if he sold a bunch of blank tapes with a Bandcamp code, no one would know the difference. Most people who buy cassettes do so out of a collector's mentality, or purely to support bands they like. Few actually listen to the tapes they buy. Realistically, how many of the millennials taken with the format's novelty actually own a tape deck or Walkman? Do they even sell those anymore? [In Malaysia, they're only readily available through the second-hand market.]

As someone who grew up on cassettes, let me explain to you young people (and remind older folks romanticizing their youth) what the format was actually like. First of all, the sound quality is garbage, compressed and unavoidably hissy. So much so that most cassette recorders and players have a noise reduction ("NR") function that removes the hiss, but also cuts out most of the treble. It's no wonder that when I first heard Pure Holocaust and Dark Endless in high school on a 2nd gen traded tape, I thought someone had recorded 90 minutes of a gas-powered lawnmower.

Also, the maximum capacity for commercially available audio cassettes is 120 minutes. Which means if you want enough music to get you through your work/school day, you need to bring a half dozen cassettes with you. And remember, cassette players aren't USB chargeable; so you'll have to bring some spare batteries as well. You really want to trade in your phone/iPod for that?

Besides the shitty sound quality and inconvenience, the actual construction of cassettes is troublesome. The spools get wound too tightly from rewinding/fastforwarding, leading to frequent jams. Putting one of these tapes in an auto reverse Walkman basically means you get to listen to the first couple songs before it gets stuck and switches over to side two. The magnetic tape itself is fragile and easily damaged, and the sound quality degrades with every listen. And if your cassette gets jammed in the stereo, you either need a new cassette, or a new stereo, or both. You still think that's better than an MP3?

Look, I get it. Young people want to feel connected to an underground culture that disappeared before they were old enough to appreciate it. Older people want to reconnect to a time in their life they'll never get back. But neither is an excuse to glorify an obviously crappy format. Also baffling to me: How punk rockers, who pay so much lip service to environmental issues, champion a product made from plastics that will invariably end up in a landfill for a thousand years. Consider this: The trendy punk/thrash/black metal cassette that you think is so cool right now will last forever. Your love for them, however, will not. Thanks for fucking up the planet with your shitty music, you bandwagon hopping asshole.

I've been airing these complaints for years now. No one seems to take me seriously. I feel like the Omega Man, the last bastion of sanity in a world of mindless followers. Outside the zombies swarm, drawn to anything loud and dumb enough to catch their attention. I'm holding fast in my bunker of cynicism, armed with nothing but barbed wit. They'll never take me alive.