Smooth Trading

I made my first visit to Rough Trade East yesterday and found it to be quite a pleasant experience. For those not aware, Rough Trade closed its Covent Garden store last summer in order to open what was widely described as a ‘megastore’ off Brick Lane. This new store has been much hyped by the media and hit the headlines with the free Radiohead gig back in January that was so popular it actually had to be moved down the road.

The internet community is littered with people unhappy with the prices in Rough Trade and so I approached the store uncertain about what I’d find inside. As it goes, the first thing that you’re greeted with is a cafe, offering the chance to grab yourself something to drink as you wander about amongst the racks. There is something fundamentally wrong about this, it seems to me, although at the time I didn’t allow it to sour the mood. As someone who practises the ‘two-handed rummage’ when looking through racks, I’m not sure where the coffee’s meant to go when you’re actually looking at the records you presumably went there in order to purchase. Am I over analysing this?

Anyway, the record shop is presumably what you’re interested in. Firstly, the selection is huge but, as a result of being in a bloody big building, the shop is enjoyably spacious. Having sweaty, middle-aged men in raincoats squeezing past you as a fug of warm fart hangs over the artist-alphabetical section that you’re battling to get a look at loses its allure pretty bloody quickly. Filing is pretty simple and none of the artists I could think of – and I did try to be a little bit awkward at times – were filed out of my grasp.

Price-wise, I take the point of those who mutter about how much certain things cost, although I don’t think that they’re particularly over the top for the majority of items. I have to say, my main focus was on the vinyl which was pretty reasonable all round and when I strayed into the CD sections the odd item was a little more than I’d have expected. To use a couple of the items I purchased as examples, £13.99 to add a vinyl copy of Richard Hawley‘s ‘Coles Corner‘ to my collection is pretty standard and The Superimposers‘ new album, ‘Harpsichord Treacle‘ was £9.99 on CD, with a bonus – Rough Trade only – disc featuring remixes and unreleased tracks.

Rough Trade East seems pretty good at stocking those items that you struggle to track down. In amongst the racks of 7″ singles, I noticed Duffy‘s ‘Rockferry‘ (ok, I know, I’m just using it to make a point) and Adele‘s ‘Hometown Glory‘ at their original prices, rather than the inflated eBay nonsense that’s occurred since they became famous. They’ve still got stocks of the ‘Fat Children‘ 12″ that Jarvis put out a while back, which everyone else tells you has sold out. Ok, so it’s on their own label, but it’s worth a rummage if you’re after something in particular.

The other reason for visiting is the sheer exposure to different records. A sustained browse – caffeine assisted or not – will present you with all sorts of records you’d forgotten about or never seen physical copies of. In addition, the reasonably hyperbole-free description labels on everything help you to dig up something new that you just might like. Be in no doubt, there are plenty of better record shops out there, but this one is a worthy addition, and I can’t help thinking it’ll still be there long after many of my current favourites have pulled down the shutters for good.