Vinyl records have definite drawbacks. They get scratched. They skip and pop. And they weigh a ton. Take it from a record collector: mention you’re getting ready to move and might need help, and watch as all your friends stare off into the middle distance and mumble something about how busy they’ll be the next few weeks.
And yet, in many instances, I still prefer LPs over mp3s. Probably because the latter format only appeals to one sense, and often not even that well; the crappy quality I’ve come to associate with a lot of mp3s would’ve had me checking my phonograph needle for lint and debris back in the day. Records, on the other hand, appeal to at least three senses: Sound, vision, and touch. Hell, sometimes they even venture into the realms of the olfactory; my 1989 pressing of Madonna’s Like A Prayer LP still smells faintly of the patchouli oil used in the original packaging, while Katy Perry said her new Teenage Dream CD would be scented like cotton candy. (Although Kate Bush issued a single in 1993 called “Eat the Music,” I can’t think of any instances of actual records you could taste. However, in the early ’80s you could pop into your local 7-11 and pick up a package of Chu-Bops, tiny record-shaped pieces of bubblegum packaged in 3-inch album sleeves.)
So, yeah, I find old-fashioned records more stimulating than mp3s. Some might even say I find them over-stimulating, since Saturday I spent most of this week’s lunch money on the vinyl-only pressing of Video Boys by UK synth-pop twosome Circuit 7. Had I just downloaded sound files of their independently released 1984 singles, “Video Boys” and “Modern Story,” they probably would’ve vanished in the recesses of my iTunes library, rarely to be heard from again. But that’s not how the crew at Minimal Wave roll. Instead, they pressed up what would appear to be the band’s entire recorded output—a whopping eight tracks—on heavy, pistachio green vinyl, in a sturdy, neon-lime-on-slate-gray cardboard sleeve. Bing, bang, boom, they hit my eyes, ears, and fingertips, and my wallet just popped right open. I walked home with a copy of Video Boys under my arm, and a local indie record store lived to stay open another day.
What’s it sound like? Well, you can click on those song links above for a sample. If you dig early O.M.D, the first Depeche Mode album, and the less-polished moments of A Flock of Seagulls, this should get your pointy-toed boots tapping. But really, you should buy the vinyl rather than just grabbing those tracks out of the digital ether. Because Video Boys not only sounds groovy, it looks and feels good, too. And it won’t leave your living room smelling like a day at the carnival or a hippie crash-pad, either.
DJ El Toro hosts the variety mix show on Wednesday nights from 9 PM to 1 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, “Weird At My School,” appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog. Please follow DJ El Toro (aka Kurt B. Reighley) on Twitter!