The ninety-first issue, the annual “Music Issue,” July/August 12, of The Believer magazine arrived via snail mail yesterday. The snail was slower than usual. The music issue always comes with a CD, a surprise I look forward to, but this year there’s a cassette tape (no, not an 8 track tape, though that would really have been a surprise), and there were apparently a few problems with the tape, the tape taped to the cover, the cassette tape taped to the cover of the magazine, coming off in route. (Remember when cassette tapes got eaten by the player?). Anyway, my copy never came, so I sent a polite email, asking “what’s up?,” and the good folks at McSweeney’s sped a special delivery of the issue, which, as I said, arrived yesterday. I’ve not subscribed since the beginning, but almost. There’s a stack of them (I never toss them out) on the top shelf.
I was reading Silence by John Cage when the issue arrived. The tape is titled “The 2012 Believer Tape: Love Songs for Lamps.” At first I thought it said, “…for Lambs.” But no; it’s, “…for Lamps.” I was reading John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing,” from Silence. In the “Notes and Apologies” section of the magazine, I read, “In the event that you don’t own a Walkman….” But I have a tape player in the old used car, so no worries, but I did pause when taking out the Dylan tape (“Highway 61 Revisited”) that’s been playing non-stop for months, as if I’m going for some sort of record. But I did also download the “Lamps” songs to iTunes, feeling somewhat with it, it being conversant with contemporary technology. And then I listened to the first “Lamps” song, “Leave Me Alone,” by Hysterics. My first reaction was that it’s a mercifully short song. But I was listening to it on my computer.
Today, Eric and I were heading out, and I told him about The Believer cassette. I had the magazine open, and I read him the list of bands included on the tape: Hysterics, The Memories, Shana Cleveland and the Sancastles – you get the idea, and he had not heard of any of them. And his antennae are never retracted when it comes to this sort of thing. So I was surprised. Then I read, in the magazine, that these bands “…release their work as cassette-only.” How cool is that? I said, cooly. Eric’s the one who ejected the Dylan. And as we headed out, the Hysterics yelling “Leave Me Alone,” I thought, this is a perfect cassette, perfect for the car. Cassettes should have short songs – it makes it easier to find them if you’re searching for just one. But we let it play, and then we heard The Memories doing “Higher,” and I’m sold. Good issue, the ninety-first issue of The Believer. There are also some good articles, an interview with Lucinda Williams, for example.