We all know it, but it's time to show it. Urban Outfitters is a creative wasteland, a shortsighted cul-de-sac of trends and trash-culture bent for capital gain -- one large, unthinking slab of cultural masturbation. But, by and large, it's a beast we ourselves feed. Like creepers to a drug deal we lurch in, grab what we want and dart out. (Some of their basic clothing isn't half bad, right?)
Excuses aside, the inventory is laughable, shamelessly anachronistic and inauthentic. Musically speaking, it's the sort of faux-hippie, yuppie detritus that's fueled a million Dark Side-only Pink Floyd fans. Here are 10 of the worst examples of why UO is a drain on our music-loving souls.
1. They sell turntables that will eat your records.
In fact, they only sell record-destroying players. These Crosley tables -- equipped with uneven speeds and ruinous ceramic cartridges -- aren't really listening tools, they are toys. Cutesy, retro-chic, vinyl-hungry toys. Given that your albums won't last long on that new turntable, it's comforting to know that you can replace your LPs at UO too. It's a good thing that their prices are fair ... Oh gad wait. 2. Their record prices are an assault on your financial well-being.
Even if you ignore for the moment that their records are terribly treated and poorly stored, UO's prices are astronomical. Singles will cost you upward of $20. And my goodness, double LPs, even shitty ones, can cost you $40. This means if your monthly music budget is $150 (we're allowed to dream), you can still only buy about five albums a month. Those are prison cafeteria-type rates. Yay hip vinyl trend!
3. Now you can coordinate the Unknown Pleasures artwork with the rest of your outfit.
Sweaters and shirts in a dozen colors and styles, all slathered with the iconic Joy Division radio waves, blanket UO's interior. Hell, it's almost their corporate symbol at this point. Ian Curtis would be so very proud.
4. According to UO, John Coltrane is the only jazz musician ever born.
Don't get me wrong, Coltrane was a genius. But there were and are other geniuses in jazz. Arguably even better ones. From shirts and posters to UO's narrow LP selection, Coltrane is essentially the only jazz player represented here. I'm not saying ditch the Trane, I'd just like to see some of those duplicates of A Love Supreme replaced with some Coleman, Mingus or Sun Ra.
5. If you're dead, famous and a musician, then you're also a shirt at Urban Outfitters.
Hendrix, Elvis, Biggie, Tupac, Marley, Cobain: They're all images constantly recycled at UO. Certainly, these figureheads are worthy of remembrance, but perpetual commercial re-appropriation has to be one of the absolute worst ways to go about it. Considering these artists' reputations are directly tied to cultural memory, it's a dangerous practice to continually reuse and abuse their likenesses in ways grossly out of context. 6. Even non-musical celebrities are exhumed and made up like musicians.
The perversion might not be full-on Orwell's Ministry of Truth; but it's not far off. At the very least, this is a mockery of Lee's disciplined legacy and a trivialization of the DJ art form. Granted, he may well have been a mean DJ, but that's beside the point.
7. At Urban Outfitters, rap ended in 1996
Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, Notorious B.I.G., Dre, Tupac ... the list goes on and on. Save for a few exceptions, anything and everything concerning rap at UO ends with the gangsta rap golden days. There's no backpack-era underground stuff (think Kool Keith, Company Flow); and there's certainly no substantial show of Southern rap (Lil Wayne, Ludacris) or nu-rap. I think I might have seen a Kanye West and/or Outkast item -- so at least they snuck some conscious, white-friendly rappers in there too. 8. With respect to hip-hop, Urban Outfitters is a graveyard.
At UO, hip-hop culture is reduced to drug abuse, death and incarceration. Jail bars, skulls and unsavory quotes are the barebones surface features that represent rap at Urban Outfitters. Worst of all, practically every piece of hip-hop merchandise offered here highlights, nearly glorifies, death. Yes, we get it: Lots of rappers died in virtue of their craft. But this is something to mourn, not glorify.
Oh, man, I don't even know where to begin with this one. 10. And ...THIS
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.