The Attic, a record store in Millvale, presents one argument against the “.mp3s are killing vinyl and CD” mindset. Upon first entering the store, one is confronted by shelves stuffed with CD’s and singles, crammed into an absurdly tiny space. From this view, one might conclude that The Attic is a snug store with a decent (ok, impressive) collection. Of course (and you probably knew this was coming), there are two wings off of the main room; the room on the left contains more CD’s (a lot more, actually), and the room on the right contains ludicrous amounts of vinyl. You could spend an entire afternoon just exploring one room (take it from me; I have).
Because this writer is not a vinyl connoisseur, he cannot comment on the quality of The Attic’s record collection proper, but he has heard nothing but good things, and the sheer size of the collection, coupled with the excellent CD offerings, suggests that the east wing hides some great releases.
It must be said that The Attic does not exactly offer the best prices in town. CD singles tend to go for around $5, and the cheapest CD’s I’ve seen are $6 (excluding the rows of “damaged” CD’s, which are something of a pain to browse through because they’re displayed sans cases; instead, the booklets are slipped into translucent sleeves).
If you’re seeking out popular or mainstream titles, there are probably better places to begin and end your quest. However, when it comes to rare titles, The Attic is your place to go (early, pre-Britpop Pulp releases? Buzzcocks’ “Time’s Up?” The UK versions of Kate Bush’s albums, complete with lyric sheets and sonic improvements lacking from the US versions? I’ve seen them all at The Attic). Just remember that you’ll probably be shelling out at least $19 for the real goodies (which, depending on your idea of “inexpensive,” is either an outrageous sum or a bargain).
One nice feature of this store is that the owners will let you sample releases before purchasing them. Furthermore, this is not a matter of handing you a Discman and a pair of cheap headphones that barely offer enough volume to provide ample listening in a quiet environment (which any record store worth its salt is not). No, they will actually put the release on the store’s sound system, which is a wonderful way to save yourself the agony of shelling out greenbacks for something you bought based on word-of-mouth and then discovered was not all you’d hoped for it to be. Of course, a new agony is added, namely, the embarrassment that results if the release you chose is a turkey and everyone in the store knows that you were the person who humbly asked for the wretched song to be played over the soundsystem…the best solution this writer can suggest is to make a loud display of refusing the record and murmuring some asides about how “Uncut just ain’t what it used to be.”
Location: The Attic is located on Grant Avenue, near the intersection with Howard Street. It takes up a decent half of the block and is fairly hard to miss.
(Allergy alert: keeping in mind that it is difficult to say this as delicately as possible, The Attic has an amazingly pervasive and stubborn odor that is reminiscent of an, um, attic. This can be seen as extremely annoying or endearingly authentic, depending on your propensity for looking on the bright side of things. It is advisable to park far away from the store, to give yourself an excuse to take in some fresh air after patronizing the store. Besides, spaces far from the main drag tend to be unmetered, another bonus.)