Friday, June 01, 2018

Back in black

Sounding Bored has reached the big 3-0 and host Rob marked the occasion by inviting two new voices to contribute to an episode for which the main topic of discussion was the waxing and waning fortunes of vinyl. Gavin Barber is a vinyl fan whose collection has in the last year made the ceremonial journey back from loft to living room, while Karlyn King - like Rob and myself a Nightshift contributor - is actually studying the format's renaissance as part of her PhD thesis.

Having divulged their personal formative experiences of vinyl, the panel trace its decline to the point of obsolescence, thanks to industry-created demand for CDs and the difficulty of acquiring the means to play records let alone the records themselves. The extraordinary recent revival is then identified as something of a backlash against the intangibility of downloads or streamed music, satisfying the desire for physical possession - the appeal of LPs lies largely in their physical attributes (their size, their cover art, their smell, their tactile quality).

As Karlyn observes, though, vinyl might be back but it's not "back back". Streaming is the dominant means of music consumption and sales of LPs are no doubt boosted by the fact that they usually come with free downloads. While you can now pick up records in supermarkets (something no doubt connected to a demographic shift whereby women are now important consumers of vinyl), it is nevertheless very much seen (and marketed) as a deluxe high-end product to be enjoyed by the connoisseur rather than the mass market.

Renaissance is also very much the theme of the day when it comes to the featured album: Belly's third LP Dove, released a mere 23 years after their second. In keeping with reviews elsewhere, the panel see it as a continuation rather than a deviation and their verdicts are broadly positive.

Elsewhere, Karlyn talks about the free course on women's employability in the music industry that she's running up in Edinburgh, while Gavin enthuses about the new Half Man Half Biscuit album, which is brilliantly titled No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut and features (for the first time) a reference to his beloved Ipswich Town.

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