Thirty Thousand Streets

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Other people's music on the bus

Unlike my esteemed colleague Zeno Cosini, I'm actually really rather partial to the odd bus ride. This is of course pretty contingent upon route and mode of bus of course (three years in and I still think the Bendy bus was as welcome an addition to London as the kane toad was to Australia).

They may be slow, they may meander, but for the flaneur, or idle man about town they therefore represent the zenith of metropolitan transport, allowing as they do an unparalleled view of our capital's streets, and how they stitch together. And in the unlikely event that you don't want to gawp at the shifting facades of Starbucks Coffee houses and Chicken Cottage takeaways slipping past in the January rain, what better excuse to stick your beak in a book, for an hour or three.

Today I caught the 176 to town, and was in reflective mood, staring out the window thinking about god knows what (my accountant, I think), when my idyll was shattered by that most modern of annoyances, some dickhead two seats behind me playing mp3s on his mobile phone.

There is nothing particularly new about this headache, and it's being going on quite apparently for some time now, but I actually get more irritated about it now than I ever have. When I first heard someone regailing the entire top deck of the bus with tinny renditions of R&B pap through a mobile handset, I think I rather assumed it was a passing fad, but three years on it just seems more prolific than ever, with at least a third of my journeys being marred by having to endure someone else's shocking taste in music. The reason I've become so hyper-sensitised all of a sudden is, I think, that it's just started to sink in that this is the way things are going to be from now on: mobiles are here to stay and buses will never be the same again. The hinges of the world have turned, irrevocably.

Today the musical feast (or rather Chicken McNuggets) being served up, sounded very much like the Neptunes, with Pharrell William's trademark warbly falsetto rending the quiet. I used to quite like the Neptunes production when it first came out, melding as it did the glitter and sheen of pop with the grime and posture of hip-hop. Unfortunately now that the shock of the new has dissipated somewhat, I can see that they've got a lot a lot to answer for, as every lump with a keyboard who can sing a hook can now pretend to be a rapper. In any event, these days you're more likely to see Mr Williams on a red carpet wearing Billionaire Boys club gear than actually in the studio 'holdin' it down', so there.

Ironically though, it's kind of fitting that half the music I'm forced to endure from other people's mobile phones is brainless 'ass-titties-ho's-n'-cash' rap, given that the music actually sounds like it's being played out of a mobile phone.. before even being played out of a mobile phone, it's that brittle and plastic.

And there's the rub: momentarily putting to one side the rather subjective factor of musical taste, music played over mobile phone speakers always sounds like it's emerging from a (closed) biscuit tin. It just sounds rubbish. Why not just listen to it through headphones and do everyone a favour?

Whenever I'm forced to endure someone else's chronic lack of musical taste on the bus, a variety of scenarios usually play out in my head, ranging from the witty (me turning round to the owner of the phone and saying "'scuse me mate, seeing as we've got to listen to your phone, any chance you could put something good on?) to more directly interventionist tactics (such as used by Mr Spock in the Star Trek film with the whales in it, where he gives the Vulcan neck pinch to the punk on the bus with the ghetto blaster).
However, as the offending party is usually a Akademiks-tracksuited rudey who looks like he stabs bloggers for breakfast, I, along with the rest of the bus have so far demurred from actual comment, much as I'd like to tear the guy in question a new orifice, and stick his phone up it (having first turned it off, of course).

Anyway. There you are. Even though the tube sometimes feels like it's giving your lungs an insight into the life of a nineteenth century chimney sweep, it also seems above the grime threshold of those who think using a mobile as a hi-fi is a good idea, which is definitely in its favour. I think I read somewhere that it was going to be made an offence to play really annoying music in public like this, though I suppose there's fat chance of that ever getting enforced. I for one would totally be up for a 'Guardian Angels' scheme, like they had on the New York subways in the eighties. Only these would be on the buses, and would primarily deal with infractions relating to mobile phones (they could still wear berets, though).


sigh9 said...

I have to agree...although it makes me feel old just saying so. To me the whole point of that music is the BASS (in capital letters 'cos it's that important). Which simple physics dictates is impossible to reproduce through a 1cm speaker.

Try explaining that to a young man whilst repeatedly facebutting his fist and see how far you get.

This leads me to think that it is not so much about the demonstration of exquisite musical taste as it is a deliberate red rag to middle class wankers like me.

I do have fantasies of a Crocodile Dundee-style arms race with my 1000W Subwoofer which I tote around for ages before firing the bassline from the Skool of Thought remix of "Seven of Nine" at the poor kid and finally getting to say the immortal line:

"Thats not a knife; THIS is a knife"

The Eyechild said...

Yeah, I think you're right, it's mostly a middle finger to everyone in the immediate vicinity, and I am aware of my general increasing Victor Meldrewishness about such things.

It is still well annoying, and that's a pretty good fantasy. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Then beat 'em.

D-Func said...

LOL!! I can't even finish reading it mate, it's too funny! Keep them coming!! hehe

D-MAN said...

Nicely written and funny. I posted a link to this on this blog:

For what it's worth, you're a good writer. I found your blog from Camberwell Online.

The Eyechild said...

@ D-Man

Thanks for your kind words!