For the last 10 days, I have been travelling around Europe without a phone. What this means for a kid might not be apparent to a member of older generations but for a punk like me, fairly born into the world with an email address and earphones glued in, it is an event which sort of rocks you to your foundations. We talk about how reliant we are on our devices but it is not until you experience having to make plans with a friend in a foreign country to meet at a train station Starbucks at a particular hour and deeply hope that you have the right Starbucks and the right train station and the right date that you realise just how cripplingly dependent you have become. Without the crutch of screenshots and GPS and mobile cameras and email on-the-go, things become intensely more difficult, more frustrating, more uncertain but, I’ve found, you become increasingly freer, less stressed and more flexible in inverse proportion.
The one feature, of the many features, that I miss most about my slab of glass and metal is music. It’s one thing to have to rely on maps and signposts, old-fashioned meetings and mental visual memory but quite another to lose recorded music in its entirety. Recollection goes some way towards bridging the gap – recalling lyrics, humming melodies, tapping out drum beats – but there is no ready substitute for the feeling of 320kbps soundwaves pulsing through earphones, becoming indelibly linked to your memories of a certain beach, town, bus ride. So thank lord for a road trip yesterday; my first long-term exposure to sound in a ridiculously long time.
Much has been written about the relief of disconnecting, the happy quietude that accompanies switching off and tuning out, but they rarely describe the rush of blood to the head that is returning to the land of the electronic, the power to choose any song from among hundreds, thousands, to play instantaneously and the fidelity with which such choices can be reproduced (in stark contrast to the horror that is my attempt to faithfully reproduce vocally). Confronted with this embarrassment of sonic riches, my choices yesterday seemingly skewed familiar; there is something seemingly atavistic about our drive to return to the known. Thus it was with some delight yesterday that I explored parts of the first two Arctic Monkeys’ albums, rendered in crisp stereo at the touch of a friend’s iPod. In this case ‘D’ is for Dangerous – the way I have lived, on the precipice of communicative demise for the last week and a bit – but also for Dramatic, Delightful and Damn Exciting as I have discovered the excellence of books, the heretofore unknown pastime that is quiet thought, and my unwavering love for the Arctic Monkeys, all thanks to a broken iPhone.