Good old-fash­ioned rock’n’roll – now where’s the app for that?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

MAY I BE THE first to say it: stop this app mad­ness now. You can’t take a stroll down the street any­more with­out be­ing as­sailed by young peo­ple thrust­ing their new app giz­mos my way and ex­claim­ing “It’s the fu­ture!”. And when­ever any­one within the in­dus­try shouts “It’s the fu­ture!”, you can be sure you’re hold­ing an over-priced crock of rub­bish that will be foisted on the pop­u­lace willy-nilly be­fore said pop­u­lace promptly throws it in the bin and asks for a re­fund.

Still, they’re re­ally send­ing out the big guns to shill for apps. The first out of the blocks is David Bowie, who, in early June (if you can stand the sus­pense), will re­lease Golden Years as an iOS app.

Bowie has mixed down the song’s orig­i­nal eight stem files – his orig­i­nal lead vo­cals, the 12-string gui­tar, bass, drums, elec­tric gui­tar, har­mo­nium, per­cus­sion and back­ing vo­cals. Once you hand over ap­prox­i­mately ¤1.99 for the app, you get to remix it your­self. All day long if you want. File un­der: tech­no­log­i­cal bas­ket-weav­ing.

One step ahead is Björk, whose up­com­ing Bio­phillia al­bum was “partly recorded” on an iPad and will be re­leased as a se­ries of apps. Ap­ple is in on the deal and busy an­nounc­ing that this is “the world’s first app al­bum”. Where’s my bunting?

How­ever, there’s no re­lease date and the only vague thing we know about Bio­phillia is that it will “en­com­pass mu­sic, apps, in­ter­net, in­stal­la­tions and live shows”. In other words, it will be the usual 10 or so four-minute songs with a link to a Face­book page and lots of flash­ing lights that don’t ac­tu­ally do any­thing.

The re­search and de­vel­op­ment teams at all the ma­jors have pumped big money into the “app dol­lar”, so brace your­self for a bar­rage of “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” and “world’s first”-type press re­leases over the com­ing months. If it all reeks of des­per­ate catch-up from a bunch of mid­dle man­agers who have over­dosed on Mar­shall McLuhan, it’s be­cause that is pre­cisely what has hap­pened.

There is only one mu­sic app out there that you can ac­tu­ally take for a test drive: Swedish House Mafia’s Un­til One, which was specif­i­cally de­signed for the iPad. Prices vary across ter­ri­to­ries, but it’s cheaper than buy­ing an al­bum off iTunes (though dearer than your av­er­age app).

“It’s very much a test of the for­mat, the prod­uct con­tent and how it is all bun­dled to­gether,” ex­plains Cosmo Lush of EMI’s Dig­i­tal Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment. “It’s an ex­per­i­ment – we are look­ing at how tech­nol­ogy opens up op­por­tu­ni­ties and new ways to de­liver mu­sic con­tent.”

Apart from the ac­tual al­bum (re­mem­ber that?), the app de­liv­ers mul­ti­ple video seg­ments, first­per­son writ­ten ac­counts (that’s “liner notes” to you, Grandad) and an in­ter­ac­tive black-and-white gallery of some 150 pho­tos. There’s also – you’re way ahead of me – “links to Twit­ter and Face­book pages”.

It all sounds and looks a lot like the much-hyped iTunes LP launched two years ago. The deal here was that you weren’t just get­ting the in­di­vid­ual al­bum down­loads but also liner notes, art­work, mem­o­ra­bilia, video footage and all that jazz. It’s priced higher than the usual iTunes al­bum and hasn’t ex­actly been an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess.

So now, for­mat-wise, we’re look­ing at the CD, the bog-stan­dard down­load, the iTunes LP and now the app re­lease. But here’s a mad idea from to­tally out of left­field: take away all your tech­no­log­i­cal flash­ing lights and bells’n’whis­tles.

In­stead, put all those mil­lions of de­vel­op­ment euro into find­ing bands that can de­liver an al­bum of sub­stance (not just one-and-a-half good sin­gles); a band who can ac­tu­ally play their in­stru­ments and cut it live; a band who can thrill us, move us, per­plex us and keep our in­ter­est af­ter the first mar­ket­ing cam­paign has faded from view. And no, there’s no app for that.

Björk: appy woman

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