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Quite interesting, but Make sure it's what you think
on 14 July 2005
I was quite excited about this book after reading a glowing review in a British weekend newspaper. Overall, I was a little disappointed, but that may in part come from the fact that I'm not familiar with the author's style, and was one of those teenagers who spent most of their formative years of reading music magazines not having a clue what the authors were on about and feeling left out.
Granted, Jones is enthusiastic about the music, and this comes through in his writing, and he's far from a musical snob, which is almost refreshing, (even if you have to question his inclusion of albums like "Twentysomething" on a list of top 100 jazz records). The writing about music and the evolution of his taste contains mildly annoying details from Jones' own biography might come across as too personal and not really that interesting for some readers. If possible, I'd recommend you try to locate an excerpt of this book as a taster or flick through a few pages of the writing on music to see if it's your thing. I also get the feeling that this book will seem dated very quickly, in fact, though it has been published, some of it already reads dated.
However, one great thing about this book are the chapters on the development and evolution of the iPod, iTunes and the whole kit and caboodle and I found these highly enjoyable. As they're spread out amid the other chapters, this is largely what kept me reading the rest of the book. If you're an iPod fanatic, or are interested in learning about what all the fuss over Apple has been over the years, then there is likely to be a lot in here to satisfy. The Sections on Steve Job's story, his obsession with Bob Dylan are amusing and insightful in a Secret-History of entertainment sort of way. The bits on British designer Jonathan Ives and his story at Apple are a good read too, and there is some information in here, anecdotal and otherwise, that you're not likely to have come across before. Overall, I was impressed by the writing about the evolution of the player and the consumer mega trends of recent years.
Parts of the book also explore the changes digital media have presented to the record industry, how music is consumed and marketed and specialisation, the future of the 'Niche' mass market, though there is room for more development here; no mention of the 'Long Tail' and other factors that are surely at play in the success of iTunes and in the reclaiming of content by the consumer revolt, most particurlarly in the area of music pricing and downloading. The recommendations on musical discoveries are useful and will be very interesting to some (perhaps the types walking around with the white earphones who only ever buy top 40 albums and have found that they could do with something a little less bland to fill up their 4 Gigs) - the final third of the book is made up of appendices of lists and recommendations for play lists. These are amusing lists and you have to admit that the selections or grouping are not as entirely 'muso' as they might be, so perhaps that's a plus for a book that could potentially be inaccessible for most. If you're already the type of person for whom a digital media player with a lot of space was actually a godsend that made your life genuinely easier and more enjoyable because you listen to so much music, rather than someone that bought an iPod because they were cool and trendy are the thing to have, then there's this is all likely to be too rudimentary for you.
This book will probably appeal to fans of High Fidelity and can you can definitely sense the trace of that book in here, though I won't put it on level-pegging with anything by Nick Hornby, and the reference to Liar's Poke is a bit of the mark too. I thought I might get away with the book without the dust-jacket, when transporting it about my daily business to read on park benches and in coffee shops, but the title is emblazoned in large lettering across the spine, so perhaps the paperback edition could benefit from more subtle design features; if the title weren't enough, the Rodin thinker-style figure with the white headphones is definitely likely to embarrass some.