Both retailers and customers seem to have a love/hate relationship with “Record Store Day,” a yearly promotional “holiday” celebrating the independent record store. Labels producing merchandise for the event generally release limited-edition items that are only available for a short period of time at the participating shops. Customers often complain that they cannot obtain the items they want, as they are often scalped by eBay speculators to be resold at exorbitant prices. Retailers often complain that due to the nature of the distribution of releases, they are forced to over-order with the hopes of obtaining even a handful of the most desired pieces. This often results in order-frenzies that leave stacks of unsellable merchandise filling store racks once the hype of the day is over and the online resellers have determined that some of the pieces, no matter how limited, are just not marketable. Bands and record labels complain every year that pressing plant turn-around times are slow because of the backlog of Record Store Day releases clogging the presses. These complaints often call into question the necessity of certain “RSD” releases. I remember quite a few eyebrows being raised over the 2013 RSD release of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler in all of its 180 gram and $35 price tag glory. Had neither the label nor the smattering of people who actually bought the release, ever heard of a thrift store—ANY THRIFT STORE—where you could easily find a vintage copy of the original for a dollar?
The worst RSD releases are the ones that just seem unnecessary. The slightly less-worse-but-still-ridiculous releases are good items in dumb formats—for example the release of Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde as… A SEVEN INCH BOX SET.
The worthwhile RSD releases are the ones that unearth unreleased vault material by beloved artists or shine the vinyl light of day on music that was previously available only on CD or cassette.
This Record Store Day, April 22nd, brings a release by The Cure which is, in some ways, totally welcome and completely the kind of thing labels should be doing for RSD. It is the first-time-ever-on-vinyl release of The Cure’s Acoustic Hits, which was originally included as a CD bonus in early pressings of The Cure’s Greatest Hits disc from 2001. While this is something to be excited about for vinyl-loving Cure fans, Universal is releasing it as a PICTURE DISC (along with a separate picture disc of Greatest Hits). The problem with a picture disc is that, while an interesting novelty item for collectors, they generally suffer from terrible fidelity. Picture discs are notorious for their awful sound quality. Here was an opportunity to give Cure fans a really terrific-sounding slab of wax of a grouping of songs previously unreleased on vinyl. Unfortunately, what we are getting is a dumb gimmick piece which might look cool in a frame on the wall, but will sound fairly bad on the ol’ hi-fi. Still, if you’re a Cure collector, this will undoubtedly be a must-have. Just make sure you hit the shop early, or you’ll be hunting it down online at twice-the-price.
If a picture disc holds no interest for you, but you still want to hear The Cure doing some (pretty wonderful) acoustic versions of eighteen of their classic numbers, here’s a YouTube video of the release. The fidelity should be comparable to the upcoming picture disc, if not way better…