I’ve been in a retro mood lately. On a whim, I searched eBay for an old comic I remembered buying when I was ten years old: Load Runner – “The galaxy’s first computer comic.” As luck would have it, I was able to pick up a complete collection of the comic right there and then. Issue nine had a free flexi disc containing a pop single, “Talk to Me,” by a virtually unknown band called Mainframe. This was no surprise; for some reason, that song has been embedded in my brain for the past twenty-four years. The next thing I knew, I was keying the word “mainframe” into eBay, and now I’m the owner of a 12″ single and LP.
The only thing is, I don’t own a turntable. I had to get my friend Graham to fish his old 1980s stereo system out of his attic. CDs were invented when I was in junior high, so I belong to the last ever generation of teenagers who bought vinyl. And I still have some of those records lying around. I was keen to listen to my old stuff again and compare the sound quality to CDs.
You know those people who insist that vinyl has a better sound? They’re right. And I’ve always had the feeling they were right, ever since the internet file-sharing explosion allowed me to revisit the music of my youth digitally. Recently, I was listening to “Calling All the Heroes” by It Bites. It’s a nice, clear digital recording from a CD source. But the song’s opening blast lacks the oomphf (for want of a better word) that I remember from my old vinyl single of the same song. This is something you can’t recreate by simply turning the volume up. Vinyl, despite the crackles, undeniably provides a richer, fuller sound. I’ve a good mind now to buy a turntable and start collecting oldies from car boot sales.
As for Mainframe, they’re an interesting band. They’re sound is in keeping with the New Romantic material of the 1980s (Ultravox, Depeche Mode, etc.). Some of their less pop-oriented stuff is a little like Tangerine Dream. More info, including an audio sample, on Mainframe’s Wikipedia entry. It’s nice to find something from the 1980s that was almost unknown in the 1980s.