On the phone

Grumbling about how teenagers are using technology is a classic sign that you’re wavering into high-waistband territory. But there’s something about this unstoppable craze for playing music from a mobile phone that fascinates me.

Apparently the low-slung look now so beloved of Skins, indie bands and the kids who watch Skins and listen to indie bands is a long distant cousin of a gangland trend borne out of the US prison structure’s inability to provide clothes that fit the criminal.

Walk down any high street and you’ll see a dozen Steve Jones-a-likes, 100s of Hollyoak twats (the official term) and countless Moira Stuart wannabees. Okay, one of them is an exaggeration. But each fashion has an origin. Who the hell started the music-from-your-phone business?

Briefly channelling my inner granddad here, there’s few things that drive me eyeball-gouging crazy than other people’s noise intruding on me. This is, of course, a fatuously self-involved complaint. But why should that be a problem?

I regularly curse Steve Jobs whenever anyone on a train or bus near me sticks the iPod’s basic earphones into their lug holes. Because these white buds are the worst noise-funnellers ever made. Less sound appears to make the short journey from speaker to eardrum than leaks from the poorly made housing and into the surrounding air.

Spewing bass-heavy fuzz-o-noise from your shitty little mobile while riding public transport is worse, obviously, given that it’s the aural equivalent of announcing to everyone in earshot that you really couldn’t give a fuck about them, and anyway didn’t you know it’s a privilege just to be breathing the same air?

But, hey, enough yelling. What really intrigues me is where this dumb idea came from and why it’s become so popular and so normalised. Because it’s not just a fad now, it’s everywhere.

You don’t have to be massively prejudiced to pick the likely phone-blarers. They’ll be young and desperately fashion-conscious. This is easy – they’re probably hammering out the music because they’re bored or just hate any moment without a soundtrack. Music is as much a uniform as the low-slung jeans, so there’s every reason for these kids to be broadcasting the kind of person they want to be recognised as through their mobile.

Except that’s not the whole of it. Chances are a ton of the kids, especially on transport, turn up their phone and blurt out tinny shit-hits precisely because they know it bugs the bollocks out of anyone around. It’s a power thing.

But there’s still an inexplicable number of people – adult, smart, sensible looking people – who still insist on playing music (and why, why is it always catch-pop-chart-wank?) at infuriating volume, just loud enough for us to hear the dumb-tounged singer mumble focus-group lyrics that are actually even more annoying because we can’t quite hear them properly?

Kids are kids, they’re always going to find some way to fuck people off – intentionally or not – and that’s just part of our culture. The only hope is for the Facebook effect: The older the people who do this sort of thing get, the less the youngsters are likely to keep doing it. Except that still leaves us with the brainless bastards belting out Beyonce during their morning commute from their buggering mobile.

Still, at least I’ve had a shout about it now.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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