Pop quiz: how do you take your tunes? Most formats have their fans: purists pick vinyl; kids dig MP3s; the rest of us stick to compact discs. But the audiocassette? With its hiss, its tangles of tape, its side A and side B? That's, like, so 1985.
Which is precisely the point--at least for "tapeheads" like rocker Thurston Moore, whose "Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture" just hit stores. "A cassette," he insists, "will bring healing analog tones to the ear." Not sold? Check out the charming mix-tape inlays and track lists that Moore gathered from his famous friends: Kate Spade, Allison Anders, DJ Spooky and more. Ahmet Zappa's mix (choice cut: "Looks That Kill" by Motley Crue) honors "a time when corn dogs filled the guts of many a fine hard-rockin' American teen"; Anders's entry, a gift from a male pal, "pushed [her] from a crush into full-blown love." It's enough to make Steve Jobs miss his Walkman.
But despite the recent surge of nostalgia--tapeheads can now drool over 600 pics of vintage cassettes at c-90.nm.ru and snap up tape-only releases from labels like Since 1972--there's no comeback in the cards. According to the RIAA, audiocassettes accounted for less than 0.2 percent of music sales last year (down from 25 percent in 1994). With "Mix Tape," Moore & Co. have delivered a loving eulogy for a dying art form. Remember to be kind and rewind.