Friday, 29 November 2013

29/11/13 - LOUD NOISES!

I miss loud music.
When I was a kid there was loud music everywhere, and never any fear of irritating anyone with it. Quite often I’d be woken up on a Saturday morning by the sound of the Stones or Graham Parker booming up from the living room - my dad loves to crank the tunes up, it’s entwined in his DNA. His heart is a bass driver. If he was cooking dinner, the kitchen would be blasting out a bit of Dr Feelgood, or if he was out working on his kit car there’d be some choice Elvis Costello coming from the garage. It instilled within us, my sister and I, a culture of enjoying music at a decent volume. Family trips in the car would involve a bit of ‘you ask him,’ ‘no, you ask him’ back-and-forth in the back seat to get dad to turn the stereo up yet further, but he never needed asking twice. And so we listened to loud music in our bedrooms too. Music is better loud, that’s just a fact. And ‘loud’ was the default music setting for us – you’d only have something on quietly if there was a damn good reason. What’s the point of having something on anonymously in the background? Don’t you actually want to listen to your music, rather than just vaguely hearing it? It’s thanks to that sort of attitude that everyone in Coldplay has a bigger house than you. Pay more attention.

When I was fourteen, I saved up all my pennies and bought a pair of massive speakers for my room. I couldn’t afford the disco-spec Jamo floorstanders that I really wanted, so I got a pair of Tandy’s own-brand replicas. (I can remember very clearly that the CD I took to the shop to test their various speakers was The Wildhearts’ ‘Don’t Be Happy… Just Worry’. The elderly shoppers of Herne Bay High Street seemed nonplussed by ‘Splattermania’, although I think ‘Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes’ went down OK...)
Say what you like about the now-defunct Tandy, they knew how to hammer together a good speaker – I’ve still got them now, and they still sound ace. They’ve got louvred, ferrofluid-cooled tweeters, perky mid-range units, and 12” woofers. When I was a noisy teenager with a bedroom full of Guns N’ Roses records, this sort of extraordinary punch was necessary. But I live in London now, and I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I turned my volume dial above about 25%. And that’s kinda sad.

You see, everyone lives on top of each other in London. I don’t want to annoy my neighbours – they irritate the piss out of me sometimes, so I don’t want to give them any ammo – and we’ve got people below, people either side, and also a shop below at the front. My bassbins lie fallow, yearning for those halcyon days of irresponsible, ear-violating volume. The only times I ever get to listen to loud music are in the car and on the bus. And they’re both flawed options. If I’m alone in the car then yes, loud music happens, but I don’t find myself driving around solo that often – there’s usually a little person in the back. And it’s not really fair to kick out the jams when she’s trying to have a nap.
And yes, I can max the volume on the bus, but only if there’s no-one else around (people with no awareness of how everyone can hear the tinny beats seeping out of their headphones are, well, twats), and even then it’s hardly the last word in high fidelity. An iPod, playing through cheap Sony headphones. There’s only so much bass and clarity you can get from a 40mm driver unit.

So what’s the answer? Well, you tell me. Ideally I’d live in a detached house (unlikely, unless my EuroMillions numbers come in) and drive to work every day (again, unlikely – I’ve been here seven and a half years and there’s still no sign of them giving me a fucking parking space), but assuming my life isn’t going to radically change any time soon, what are the alternatives?

Extreme soundproofing

Louder music would be a possibility at home if I were to put some thought into hardcore soundproofing. But this’d have to go some way beyond mere egg-crates stuck to walls and suchlike. It’d probably involve building a sort of cage of false interior walls, padding the cavities between them and the outside ones with glassfibre and expanding foam, and nailing a load of pillows to the floor and ceiling. Although, on a practical level (ha!), this would result in a room so small that it would be ear-bleedingly painful to twiddle the volume dial further than 25% anyway. Might be a waste of effort.

Hiring out a room somewhere
An events venue or conference room would be a good place to go and get noisy. No-one would object to me playing loud music in a room above a pub.
But no, it’s not just the loud music I miss, it’s the ability to easily integrate it into daily life on a whim. Having to go somewhere specifically to do so would be a bit pointless. I’d just be sitting in a noisy room on my own, and that sounds like an Irvine Welsh breakdown fantasy.

Being obnoxious
I could just stop giving a shit about annoying my neighbours (or fellow bus travellers) and listen to music as loudly as I damn well please. Stop pussy-footing around and get the retaliation in first before they’ve got the chance to somehow annoy me. Yeah?
Unfortunately, Britishness stops me from even contemplating this option. Imagine if one of them looks me in the eye and challenges me. I might just shudder and cringe myself to death.

[4th option]
No, that’s all I can think of.

None of that seems to work. Maybe I’ll just have to sit closer to the speakers.

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