THE heyday of vinyl is well past, having been overtaken many times – by cassettes, themselves long antiquated; CDs, downloads and streaming.
While there is no doubt that both collecting and listening to the old-style records is now a niche interest, it’s a niche that isn’t without its devotees and apparently the numbers of fans of vinyl are actually going up.
Sinéad Nic Síoda is running the Record Break Café in Ennis and in her store she stocks vinyl from stars of decades gone by but, surprisingly, there are also very recent releases.
For example, U2’s most recent album, Songs of Innocence, which was controversially released on iTunes last September, is there on vinyl, while for the not insignificant sum of €300 you can buy a limited edition collection of all Eminem’s work. Slim Shady on vinyl, who’d have thought it?
There is little problem getting new records, Sinead says, and she believes there is more interest in them now.
“I get all the new stuff, newly pressed records. Vinyl has made a big comeback and now in New York, apparently there are queues outside the doors of the record shops.”
While most people are downloading their music these days, she says there is a price to be paid in terms of quality.
“People argue and say there’s no difference; it’s not audible to the human ear or whatever. But I think it has a much fuller sound, even the crackling of a record; you don’t get that on a download. They’re compressing the music and the more it’s compressed, the more you lose different elements of the sound.”
Explaining why differences exist across formats, she says, “Everything is recorded originally as an analogue. To make digital, they have to compress the analogue sound. They say you may lose a beat or the sound of a trumpet or whatever but that you wouldn’t notice there’s anything lost. But some of the more serious listeners would say you can.”
A native of Ennis, she was in the UK working as a teacher for many years before returning to Clare five years ago.
She opened the café late last year, which hosts a number of music and poetry events and says she feels Ennis needed something to refresh the local cultural scene.
“I think Ennis is in bad need of an alternative arts venue really. Glór is great but it’s big and it’s at a more commercial level. It’s nice to get poets and musicians that aren’t going to go into the big theatre.”
On the first Friday of each month there is a poetry session called Poet’s Corner, while on the second Friday of the month Belfast native Phil Gaston, who ran the famous Rock On record shop in London, has a set there. The café also has regular live music and locally-based group Good Medicine will be there this Friday.
She is pleased with the reaction and feels the vinyl is helping.
“I think it’s growing and with a lot of the people coming in here, it’s an interest in the vinyl that’s bringing them in. It’s definitely making a comeback.”
Young people are among the customers and she is sometimes surprised by what floats their boat. “The teenagers now are coming in and getting Fleetwood Mac and all the stuff I would have listened to as a teenager; there seems to have been a revival in rock music.”
By Owen Ryan