Cutler’s Serves Adequate Music, Great Tchotchkes.

(There are some words you never expect to use in a headline. Oh well.)

Somewhat of an institution in that the store has been in the same family since it’s opening in the 1940’s (and the fact that it lies smack in the middle of Yale University’s campus), Cutler’s Records was an important stop to make during a recent trip through Connecticut. After all, I’ve seen the t-shirts and heard great things as a ‘local’ place, with that word emphasized.

The thing is though, it’s just that: ‘local,’ in that it is centered somewhere there is a community.

The full review after the jump.

Upon entering, the immediate size of the store can be daunting to look into. I don’t know the exact dimensions, but there are records of every genre, every era, covering one half of the room, with the other side being shelf space for all manner of wacky things. You know, Marketing Guru and Einstein action figures, Flying Pig guns, shot glasses, T-shirts (bands, old horror movies, and, as mentioned above, the hundreds of Cutler’s Record Shop tee’s in multiple colors — tie-dye only available in store, by the way), Beatles Monopoly, etc. etc. etc.. And there’s racks and racks of new and used vinyl and CD’s. And certainly, with some good time spent, you could find something worthwhile. It’s a well organized store, but for the most part, Cutler’s offerings were predictable and oriented more toward general pop music. In the Used LP section, there wasn’t anything there that you couldn’t find in a basic shop: the lesser-appreciated albums from major bands, a couple of tattered ‘Greatest Hits’ comps, and the occasional great record that, unfortunately, is in less than stellar quality.

Meanwhile, the New LP section has the markings of a shop jumping on the vinyl-resurgence bandwagon a little too late. Sure, a fresh copy, 180-gram reissue is nice and guaranteed to last longer than something, ANYTHING, in the used racks; but what I generally find is that these racks lack heart. Just the essential albums that everyone is supposed to have already, freshly pressed and protected in thick plastic. That may be good for some, but for the true ‘head out there, it’s just not enough, lest you’re in the market to replace your copy of Velvet Underground and Nico or Abbey Road, and don’t mind paying some serious mark-up damage. Meanwhile, the New section had a modest representation of current indie releases, but no more than that.

While the CD sections were a little more full, a lot of the findings were centered around alternative rock from the mid-90’s, and popular acts from every genre. Used CD’s were a little more adventurous in that respect, but again, don’t get your hopes up.

Grade: C. I’m sure that with serious investigation, I could find a real reason to say that Cutler’s is the sort of must-go kind of place, but the bottom line is that this place is average at best. If you’re in the market for music-related miscellanea, then by all means, go and have a ball. There’s enough wonderful, useless crap to entertain the most seasoned knick-knack lover (plus a full assortment of 80’s video games). Assuming that only Yalies go here for their fixes, I could see why Cutler’s is revered in some circles. It certainly does have local flair that is so important to hold on to; even places here in Brooklyn don’t have that air of self-importance anymore (at least, the stores themselves don’t — the people serving you, that’s another story). But for outsiders passing by on I-95, it’s strictly for the curious.

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