Thirty years ago this summer I bought my first compact disc, a double-CD called Greenpeace: Rainbow Warriors that included tunes by the likes of R.E.M., Peter Gabriel and other rock 'n' roll do-gooders trying to, um, save whales? Fight pirates?
Whatever Greenpeace was doing, I'm sure it was great. My focus was on my next great leap in music consumerism. I may have grumbled about buying my favorite albums again after already purchasing them on vinyl and cassette, but I was thrilled at the potential of CDs.
Vinyl was too big to keep collecting when my whole world had to fit in half a dorm room. Cassettes were more convenient, but ran the risk of being eaten by my powder-blue Ford Escort's tape deck. There's only so many times you can lose a Purple Rain or Licensed To Ill before you snap.
CDs offered a size compromise, and a promise the sound would be so much better than vinyl or cassette. That promise proved bogus, of course, but technological improvements since got us to where CDs do (or, at least, can) sound great.
Of course, in 2019 no one buys CDs anymore, right? We all stream on our service of choice. I get it. It's convenient to enter a room and say, "Alexa, play my cow-punk playlist." I'm no Luddite.
At the risk, though, of evoking images of an old man shouting at kids and their newfangled listening devices to get off my lawn, I am here to stump for CDs as the best music lover's medium. And I'm doing it as someone who puts his money where his mouth is — I just bought a couple, the latest by alt-country troubadour Justin Townes Earle and Portland rockers Summer Cannibals (both excellent, by the way).
I'm not typically one to wear a tinfoil hat, but I can't see trusting the streaming services with my music needs. What if the clouds all crash? When Russian hackers start attacking our music services instead of voting booths, you'll wish you had physical media to fall back on. And there's something to the tactile experience of popping a disc in a player, looking at a CD's artwork and having an album actually end, rather than simply rolling into the next thing YouTube decides.
The biggest hurdle I see in listening to my CDs until the day I die is finding functioning players to spin them on, and training the nurses at my eventual nursing home how to play music without an internet connection. ♦