I Love Vinyl! There, I Said It!
April 1, 2020
Vinyl has a complicated history. It seems as though vinyl has been around forever, but it wasn’t until the ’60s and ’70s that its perceived warmth, quality, and affordability made it ubiquitous in U.S. homes. Vinyl often brought artistry and vibrancy to lives seemingly stuck in a 1950s black-and-white world. But like beads, bell bottoms, and platform shoes, vinyl began falling out of favor in the ’80s. New—but not necessarily better—materials and formats displaced it, ushering in an era of false performance claims.
In the past few years, the limitations of these vinyl replacements have become more obvious, and ever-resilient vinyl is once again finding its groove.
It is easy to get distracted by the noisy, pulsing beat of progress. Like a bad pop artist, we want instant, catchy hooks, but they lack depth. The marketing of new materials makes them sound clean, but the devil is in the details. As the newness fades, we are stuck with hyped systems and products whose promise now sounds flat.
Vinyl, on the other hand, retains the same basic performance today as it did then. Properly maintained, you will be able to enjoy it for years to come. Yes, you do have to keep it clean, but a simple wash is usually enough to get dirt out of the deepest grooves, leaving the original surface and colorful tones.
Instead of improving upon vinyl, we have moved to a nihilistic stage where even beloved materials have given way to the use of inferior materials like polycarbonate, or worse—no materials at all. Don’t get me wrong; in some cases simplicity can be great, such as using polished concrete instead of carpet, but like wood laminates, the promise of cheap and convenient can also provide a pale imitation of the real thing. And though the amount of inferior merchandise started out as an immaterial, small mountain beck, it is now a torrent, streaming into every corner of our lives.
Well, I’ve had enough. I’m chucking my CDs and digital audio and going all in on vinyl. Though I am not a fan of any heavy metal otherwise, I’m celebrating all of vinyl’s imperfections in favor of a more organic tone. Instead of listening to thousands of iTunes files flattened by electronic limitations and bandwidth, I’m breaking out my albums, cleaning them with my old Discwasher, and putting on some Brubeck or Buffalo Springfield. What can I say? Us aging hippies love vinyl!