iPod classic no longer

September 6, 2013

This story in Wired made me ever-so-slightly nostalgic. It seems the iPod ‘Classic’ (the one with the click wheel) is on its way out.

The iPod was once the shining star of Apple’s product kingdom. Announced in 2001, iPod sales were growing, growing, growing up until they peaked in December 2008. Since then, they have been steadily slumping as many potential buyers go for the iPhone or other smartphones instead of a dedicated MP3 player. The numbers have gotten dismal enough that in its second-quarter financial results this year, Apple for the first time left iPod numbers out of the announcement entirely. In parallel, Apple has given the iPhone less time in the limelight at its periodic keynote presentations.

Certainly my own iPod is languishing, unused for several years, at the bottom of a drawer which also houses other bits of kit I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of but no longer have any use for. This is not, actually, because I don’t have music downloaded onto a device at all, but because my Spotify subscription allows me to download for safe-keeping more than I ever really need for times without signal. And I’m – obviously – safe in the knowledge that virtually anything I may wish to listen to is available in the ether. Still it is incredible how quickly a change in available technology has shifted habits around such an integral bit of the aural leisure landscape.


Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Colston Hall, Bristol

June 2, 2013

I’m writing this on the last train back to Swindon having seen musical/lyrical hero Elvis Costello and his Imposters at the Colston Hall in Bristol (although unfortunately having had to leave before the encore, thanks to a train timetable that seems expressly designed to make gig-going as impractical as possible). So in the spirit of semi-live blogging, here are a quick three personal takeaways. In no particular order, the gig was…

Fun – and this was, I’ll admit, something of a surprise. Not that I wasn’t expecting an enjoyable evening – I was – but I hadn’t expected Elvis himself to be having so much fun. You see: without much concrete evidence (aside from all those songs of bitterness and heartbreak of course) I’d formed an image of the man behind those famous specs as a pretty tortured fellow. And yet here he was as literal ringmaster of a stage bedecked with circus-themed props including a strengthometer, massive spinning songwheel and caged dancing showgirl. Inviting audience members up to grip the wheel and spin, thereby choosing the next song for the band to play whilst – on two occasions – gyrating alongside the sequinned dancer in her cage. The audience members that is, not Elvis (I didn’t mean he was having quite that much fun). And in amidst the songs chatting away about their origins, about Bristol, and about the rules of the whole spinning thing.

Strong – the Imposters are a four piece, with Elvis on vocals and sole guitar (and the other three on drums, bass and keys respectively) but make a pretty colossal racket. Steve Nieve pounds piano, then Hammond, then synth; often all within the space of one song. And as other bloggers have noted Elvis’ guitar work is blistering, but delicate and dextrous as well, when playing folkier acoustic numbers. Which brings me to number three…

Fresh – this gig really brought home to me how well Elvis’ more recent material (everything from 2004’s rootsy return to form The Delivery Man onwards, say) stands up against Classic Costello. And in fact my one critique of the set is that the band’s volume and apparent over-familiarity with the older tunes – Alison, Oliver’s Army and so on – rendered these segments a little blastingly indistinguishable, with one footstomping 70s/80s anthem blurring into the next. The more modern songs on the other hand were subtler, often beautiful: Bedlam, A Slow Drag With Josephine, and Jimmie Standing In The Rain (the last two from the excellent 2010 album National Ransom) were knockout.

The next president and The Boss

November 14, 2012

No: not a post proposing that Bruce Springsteen’s late involvement in Obama’s campaign was the crucial factor in pushing the President-Elect over the finishing line, but a window into a possible, plausible future; a future where New Jersey governor Chris Christie – he who the more shortsighted in the GOP are keen to blame for stalling Romney’s momentum by praising Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy – becomes the man to haul the Republican Party away from the politics of fear, negativity and protection of privilege to a land of hope, dreams and fairness. Any man who’s willing – keen even – to spell out his political principles in the form of an imagined debate with Bruce has proven his credentials as far as I’m concerned. Here’s the ‘exchange’ in question, taken from an interview with Christie published in The Atlantic earlier this year, with Jeffrey Goldberg asking the questions in the midst of a Springsteen concert:

Christie argues that the only thing separating his philosophy from Springsteen’s is a single word. At concerts, Springsteen has often told his fans: “Nobody wins unless everybody wins.”

“I think I would agree with that statement if he added a word,” Christie told me. “‘Nobody wins unless everybody has the opportunity to win.’ If he said that, I’d be 100 per cent on board.”

But here’s what I told him I imagine Springsteen might ask: “Governor, do you really believe it’s a level playing field? Do you really believe that marginalized people even have access to opportunity?”

“Look,” Christie said to the imaginary Springsteen. “I’m attempting to level the playing field. We just disagree about how to level it. I think we level it by improving an urban education system that is dominated by union interests that are not working for the best interests of kids, but working in the interest of their next contract. You do it by bringing more private-sector business to the state.”

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