Fossil Fuel for Vinyl’s Comeback at Dinosaur Records
Tucked away in Little Falls, in a tiny strip of stores with a modest parking lot, you’ll find a small, unassuming record shop. When you go inside, you’ll open the door and find racks stacked with albums, vinyl stuck haphazardly to the concrete of the hot green walls, and several plastic dinosaurs hidden here and there in shelves and on top of turntables for sale. You’ll also find Jim Catania, the owner of Dinosaur Records, hanging out behind the counter and checking the score of a baseball game. As soon as you approach him with a question about something you’re looking for, you’ll find that Jim is a fount of musical knowledge, just a little bit shy when it comes to talking about himself, and extremely cool.
Jim, who had previously owned a video store in which he’d been accumulating records for years, had decided to focus solely on selling vinyls when he realized that videos were dying out in favor of DVDs. When the opportunity arose to move his record collection into a smaller space, he jumped on it, and the store officially opened in December. When asked about its name, he laughed. “My partner is a young girl, and compared to her, I’m a dinosaur. It sounded like a good idea at the time, so we went with it.” He’s embraced the name and made it a kitsch joke for customers as they browse through the stacks, stumbling upon a triceratops in the magazine rack or a T-rex holding a business card in its teeth.
When I came to check out his place, Jim gave me a mini-tour of the different sections he’d arranged in the small room, like the boxes of discounted albums in the back, the section devoted to 45s, and the tower of music featuring local New Jersey bands. He played the B-side of Jack White’s 45 when I told him I hadn’t heard it, and ‘Machine Gun Silhouette’ crackled into the room while I poked around the Rock shelf. He seemed amused when he showed me some of the more recent bands in the mix (i.e. AFI, As I Lay Dying) and quickly moved on to the ones that he preferred (The Ramones, Tom Waits) while we talked about the appeal of owning a record.
“People tend to collect records for the artwork and stuff like that. I think the comeback is still kind of in its infancy, and it hasn’t really hit yet. But it’s a different market. It’s almost less about the music, and it’s more a collectible kind of thing. I mean, if you want to hear new music, you can go on a computer and hear it if you want. But if you want to actually own it… it’s different.”
Quite simply, Jim prefers records because they have a much better sound. For him, CDs come close, but mp3s are too compressed to get the full dynamics of the songs. Record players are the best way to hear music, because they give what’s being played its own identity. People become familiar with that one skip or that scratch on the edge, and that’s what they want to hear because that’s the way they know the song. There’s a romance that surrounds it, and Jim honors that with his store.
When it comes to choosing the music he stocks, he’s open to anything that might be worthwhile. Though he has his personal favorites, the range is far-reaching, with classics from punk, rock, and blues, as well as lesser-known artists. Currently, what he has for sale is mostly older, used records, and the younger crowd comes in looking for Led Zeppelin and Kiss, while the older crowd comes in for throwbacks for nostalgia’s sake. But he’s looking to expand his local section as the store evolves, and he already has a small supply of local music on consignment.
This Saturday should help him build on that: it’s the fifth annual Record Store Day, a concept that has gained traction and become widespread in the last few years. The goal is to celebrate music and boost appreciation for independently-owned record stores throughout the US, and Jim is going to mark the occasion with a free, all-ages, unplugged set in-store from Montclair band Those Mockingbirds. They’ll be giving a stripped version of parts of their latest album, Fa Sol La (which is featured in Jim’s local section), along with some newer songs at 6p.m. Jim is using the occasion to test the waters for future events in the store, and hopes to see more performances in his shop soon.
Because I couldn’t resist, I asked Jim what his favorite record is. “You’re gonna make me narrow it down to one? I like anything by The Kinks, The Doors, Cream. But there’s too many to say one. All I can give you is my favorite new record right now – it’s the newest Tom Waits album.”