Please Save Our Third World Ears

If countries were ranked on the quality of music playing in public spaces, Australia would be third world. Shopping centres, supermarkets, fashion boutiques and most disappointing of all, music stores. They’re all drought ravished, impoverished wastelands. Of pop music.

Sanity? Call it insanity, because that’s the only thing inspired by the constant blaring pop remixes. They might play the odd decent tune, but I’ve never heard it. The other chain music stores are just as bad. Only in the independents do you ever hear anything decent, as the people who run those stores aren’t just there to make money, they’re also passionate about music. Crazy huh?

The sugary gunk discharged from supermarket and shopping centre speakers, dropping like so much putrid waste into the ears of helpless shoppers, it’s just as bad. All the blandest hits from the last decade on repeat, it’s a wonder more staff haven’t snapped.

The worst offenders are the fashion boutiques. Striving for funky cool with their carefully selected store décor and music, but every time I find something funky, I throw it in the bin.

On planes I now feel ridiculously safe. While statistically safer than car travel, there’s something unnatural and unnerving about being so far up in the air for so long. Landing and take-off are supposedly the most dangerous parts, however as soon as I hear some exhausted pop song being piped through the cabin, I know I’ll be fine.

It’s no longer a plane, it’s an elevator with wings, and if there is a God, none would be so cruel as to make this song the last I’ll ever hear. If a plane ever does play something decent, that’s when I’ll reach for the life jacket. Then remember that in Australia most flying is done over land, not water, and put it back.

I understand the attraction of pop music. Instantly accessible with relatable and easy to learn lyrics, and tunes that stick in your head. Listening to the Top 40 there is the odd song I quite like, but music is so much more than just what’s most popular.

With every public space, someone chooses what to play, and they’re wasting an amazing opportunity. Travelling around the world many spaces play the same crap as in Australia, but I’ve also heard jazz in French supermarkets, traditional string instruments in Chinese airports, salsa in Spain, and classical music dotted through Scandinavia, among so many other examples.

Some studies have suggested that classical music makes you smarter, and even if that’s rubbish, it’s surely better than what’s being played at the moment. My choice of music in public spaces would be rock, country, punk, and basically anything with a guitar and some feeling, but I know that’s a personal preference.

All I’m suggesting is that we put a bit of thought into what’s being consistently poured into our ears. Independent music stores use their selections to introduce customers to the new, innovative and different, or to remind them of forgotten gems. Why can’t other public spaces do that too?

We’re now in the season of Christmas Carols, so it’s the ideal time for a change. Let’s ignore the pop stars cashing in with their renditions of the classics, and all the other done to death recordings. Instead, let’s draw from the hours of innovative and musically spectacular Christmas inspired recordings that are out there. I can hear you thinking, ‘Not possible. There aren’t that many.’ There are, all you need to do is have a look. Please, I’m sick of having third world ears.

If you didn’t mind this rant, why not come see some live stand up?

‘Xavier Toby – White Trash’ at the Butterfly Club in Sth Melb, Nov 22 to 25 at 9pm Thurs to Sat (8pm Sun).

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