Silence is golden

Why is music in pubs so bloody loud? There’s a discussion about it on one of the music boards I frequent, and the consensus among young, music-obsessed people is: for god’s sake, turn it down. If we wanted to hear music that’s so loud our teeth rattle, we’d go to a gig or a club, or hack our iPods so they make our eyes vibrate.

It’s something that’s become more and more prevalent in recent years, whether it’s city centre pubs blasting house music at volumes that could shatter buildings, or small-town pubs where the entire clientele is subjected to the whole of Frampton Comes Alive until their brains beg for mercy and try a Steve McQueen-style jump from their ears. You can’t even go for a meal without being blasted with hip-hop. Which bright spark decided that going out for dinner would be much more fun if you couldn’t have a conversation?

In the message board discussion, one poster suggests that money is the motive: if you’re sitting back, blethering with your friends, you’ll probably drink more slowly than you do when your conversation consists entirely of shouting. And he’s probably right, although it’s also partly due to the way in which many pubs see themselves as pre-club venues whose aim is to get everyone fired up before moving on to a proper club. And of course, it’s partly due to the ongoing infantilism of the world, where everything is geared to late-teens and sod everybody else.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there were any escape, but there isn’t: head for a traditional old man’s pub and at weekends, you’re almost guaranteed to encounter karaoke. This is even worse than too-loud music: not only has the karaoke operator managed to defy the laws of physics with a small pair of speakers pumping out music that registers on the Richter Scale, but the gin-sozzled twats who dominate such “entertainment” can’t sing for toffee. Never mind the sound of crying babies or nails down a blackboard: the worst sound in the world is a Celine Dion song sung by a blowsy old madam whose relationship with the tune is as strong as my relationship with vegetables and exercise, bellowed through a PA system the size of Spain. And yet instead of killing these people, we encourage them – and we amplify them.

The web is currently ablaze with talk of the TV-B-Gone, a remote control that you can use to surreptitiously switch off unwanted TVs in public places. I’d rather have a Music-B-Gone – or failing that, a rocket launcher.

“And now, Big Aggie’s going to sing-”