Missing the Bells…

The Daily Post asked a question today… As for me I wasn’t going to be where I wanted to be anyway. I was on duty and therefore unable to drink but that turned out lucky as I ended up having to rush a friend to A&E and spent four hours pacing a hospital on New Year’s morning. The good news is she seems to be on the mend, although still in hospital, the bad news is I missed the opportunity to kiss my wife and children at the bells and wish them a Happy New Year… again!

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2012 Music – My Top Ten Albums

I set myself a few ground rules for this list; no live albums, no EPs, no re-releases… It’s just as well I did as the choice (apart from 3) was extremely difficult to make. (And made all the more difficult by my noticing some people were including EPs in their lists!)

So, without further ado, here’s my top ten albums of 2012:

10 – Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth. Despite all the rumours and the aborted previous attempts at reformation I held out little hope that Van Halen would get back together with their original vocalist, Dave Lee Roth. After reading Sammy Hagar’s autobiography even my little glimmer of hope was diminished and yet, despite all the odds, here it is: the first new VH album in many a year. What I like about it most is that it picks up almost exactly where the last DLR VH album left off. There’s no attempt to modernise their sound, there’s no attempt to reinvent their style. It is, quite simply, a testament to those first 5 albums and the sound they created. Despite the terrible (but fun nevertheless) attempt to recreate Ice Cream Man I find the whole album enjoyable to the extreme. It’s just a shame the mess with Mark Anthony couldn’t be resolved and the tour fell apart… But I suppose it’s to be expected with DLR and EVH back in the same room?

9 – Flying Colors – Flying Colors. Neil Morse, Steve Morse, Mike Portnoy, Dave LaRue and the relatively unknown (to me at least) Casey McPherson, seemed like a recipe for another bloated, self-indulgent prog supergroup and, for that reason, I almost avoided it completely. Oh, how wrong I was! Despite the pedigree of those involved there is very little showboating here, most notable to my ears is the positive reserve of Mike Portnoy and the only occasional flamboyance of Steve Morse. The songs are solid, and varied, with the fault only being perhaps too much of a balladic feel as the album progresses. Stand out tracks for me are the opener Blue Ocean, All Falls Down and the 12 minute closer Infinite Fire.

8 – Rush – Clockwork Angels. And here we come to the disappointment of the top ten. So why is it here at all? Well, the fact that this is perhaps the best Rush album in at least 20 years, perhaps even over 25, is reason enough. The music is classic rush, the concept classic Peart, and it all works extremely well. The title track, The Anarchist and The Garden should be enough to convince any non-believer to visit Rush’ back catalogue, they’re sublime! So, why so far down the list? Quite simply the album suffers from terrible use of some kind of maximiser in its production. There’s no dynamic. A friend described it as ‘the sausage factory’ effect, and he’s right. It’s a shame as, if this hadn’t been the case, then Clockwork Angels would have been top 3 material. As it is, I struggle to listen to the album as a whole because my ears hurt after a while.

7 – Stolen Earth – A Far Cry From Home. Despite their pedigree Stolen Earth have managed in this, their debut album, to avoid becoming a tribute to their previous endeavours. The songs are strong, the music excellently written, and performed, and Heidi Widdop has managed to produce a performance across the whole disc which I find beguiling. I likened her voice to that of Chrissie Hynde‘s on the album release and yet I now feel that does her performance an injustice. While there are hints of that tonality the overall result is far stronger than anything I’ve heard by Ms Hynde. I’m looking forward to hearing the next chapter from this band. The fact that they’re the only band from the stable of other related acts should not go un-noticed, of all the MA related bands releases over the last 18 months this is, to my ears, by far the strongest.

6 – Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials. What can I say? When I first heard Flo I wasn’t sure, I saw her live and wasn’t sure, then I heard Drumming Song and fell in love with her quirky style. Ceremonials is a different beast to her debut, Lungs, and yet, while it follows a different vein it remains true to the overall style of her music. It’s an immensely uplifting album drawing on church music as its inspiration (apparently) and definitely cements her as the top of the pile of quirky, indie, female acts. The opener, Only If For A Night, Breaking Down and Spectrum are my personal favourites but the album is strong from start to finish.

District 97 – Trouble With Machines

5 – District 97 – Trouble With Machines. Another find from TNIMN (with thanks to Dave Cooper for this one) what we have here is hard to categorise; Rock? Yes. Prog? Yes. Jazz? Yes. Fusion? Could it be anything else? D97 were an instrumental group originally and approached American Idol finalist Lesley Hunt… If I’d known this prior to hearing the music I may well have responded exactly as I guess you just have; disgust. Never fear, Miss Hunt has proven Simon Cowell wrong (I understand he was the one who cast the deciding vote on her elimination) quite emphatically. Even without the vocals the music really is quite amazing with a mix of all genres mentioned above and musicianship which is of the highest order throughout. The Perfect Young Man and The Thief are the stand out tracks on an outstanding album.

4 – Headspace – I Am Anonymous. Another album I almost missed, saved again by TNIMN. I heard murmurings of Headspace a few years back but dismissed them when I heard that it was Rick Wakeman’s son on keyboards. Then, perhaps only a month or so ago (if that?), someone posted about the album so I checked them out on Spotify. There are many reasons I rate what I heard so highly. The first is the theme itself (I’ll let you listen to find out for yourself), there’s the musicianship, the production, the writing, in fact the only piece of the puzzle which doesn’t sit perfectly for me is the vocals. They seem, at times, to be at odds with the music which is modern while the vocals have an almost eighties feel to their production? When all is said and done though, it works, and works very well. This is the album Queensryche have been trying to write for the last 10-15 years.

Marillion – Sounds That Can’t Be Made

3 – Marillion – Sounds That Can’t Be Made. I’ve been waiting for this album for years, literally. Now it’s here I’m relieved, very much so. I’ve stuck with Marillion since Marbles was released despite growing increasingly disenfranchised with their output. From the opening riff of the politically charged Gaza to the closing refrains of the emotionally charged The Sky Above The Rain this really is their best release in a very long time indeed. What I like most of all is the fact that there are no two songs alike and yet they all work together, seamlessly. I’ll admit I struggled with Montreal, a travelogue about H’s experiences on the journey to the last Marillion convention in that city. Then I received the deluxe preorder edition and saw the artwork, and I understood. It is also one of the best produced albums I’ve heard in a very long time. This album could teach the Clockwork Angels production team more than a few things about dynamics and the artful use of a maximiser.

2 – Anathema – Weather Systems. I used the word ‘uplifting’ earlier in this blog, and I’ve used it before when describing this, but I heard a better description of it from Kim Seviour a few days ago… Spiritual. And now I struggle to think of it as anything else. I’m a latecomer to Anathema having first heard their We’re Here Because We’re Here album and then Falling Deeper before delving in to their, much heavier, back catalogue and I’d struggle to put the two together if it weren’t for the latter, a reworking of earlier material in their new style. This album is my current ‘self help’ treatment, it really is that good, it makes me feel good about myself and there’s no higher praise for a piece of music than to say it affects you emotionally, is there?

Album Cover for my Top Album of 2012

Mystery – The World Is A Game

1 – Mystery – The World Is A Game. This one may raise some eyebrows and, to be honest, it was a bolt from the blue to me as well! Having ‘gone off’ Yes a good few years ago I was unaware of Benoit David until they released Fly From Here last year. While I liked that album I firmly believe that this is where he belongs. Like most, I assume, who were unaware of Benoit’s work with Yes, I was also unaware of his previous work with Mystery. I discovered this again through TNIMN and I will be ever grateful for this. It surpasses Fly From Here by a country mile and I can’t hear a weak point on it, anywhere. The instrument sounds are fantastic, I love the chorused, distorted guitar sound, it’s one I want to reproduce myself, I love the instrumentation, the lyrics, the writing and the production. Strangely it’s the ballad Dear Someone which I feel is the strongest track on the album, closely followed by Pride and Another Day. To say that this has been firmly at the top of this list since a week or so after I heard it can only demonstrate how highly I regard it.

So, there you have it. My favourite albums of 2012. It was another great year and I’m already looking forward to 2013 (with a couple of pre-orders already in place!). I’ve enjoyed reading everyone else’s lists and am constantly intrigued by the vast differences in those despite so many of us being fans of similar bands, it’s what makes music so interesting to me.

As a final note I’m going to tell you my top 3 EPs (in no particular order) of the year and my biggest disappointment…

The EPs

The Fierce and the Dead – On VHS. I have all of Matt Stevens’ releases and, despite being a huge fan of these, feel he has made a wise choice concentrating on his band this year. Rather than lose his solo attraction by joining a band I feel that this new format has enhanced the experience and taken it further than he could perhaps have gone on his own… We’ll have to wait and see as I’m sure there will be releases from both over the coming year.

Trojan Horse – Fire EP. I always forget how good these guys are, and then I revisit one of their releases and am blown away all over again. Their eclectic style keeps me ever interested and their interaction with their fanbase* is superb, as is their attention to detail when packaging their albums.

Craig Hughes – Hard Times, Vol. 1. This one’s the odd one out of the whole shebang. It’s dirty, low down blues with a Glaswegian bent (Sorry Craig, I know you’re not from Glasgow, but I think you’ve been there long enough to be considered such!) and it’s great! There’s everything on this, banjo, alt-blues, what I can only describe as ‘slit yer wrist’ blues, and I love it. With track titles like He Loved Her and She Sent Him To Hell and Cave Full of Woman Blues you’ll get the gist ;o)

And the disappointment…

In the 80s I liked a band who seemed to come and go in a flash. Three great albums and then very little for decades. Fast forward to the mid noughties and a band called Kino evolved which released one of my favourite albums since the turn of the century. With the exception of Pete Trewavas, who returned to the fold of Marillion, the members of Kino decided to continue as a reformed It Bites for that, in essence was what Kino were. Then there came The Tall Ships… What would IB be like without Francis Dunnery? Surely it couldn’t work? Oh yes it bloody could! The Tall Ships was utterly, utterly, brilliant. Four years later, after what seemed like an interminable tour promoting the comeback album (great shows by the way), we were told that the new album would be a concept album called Map of the Past. After Kino’s Picture and It Bites’ The Tall Ships I had extremely high hopes for this one… Unfortunately, despite trying on several occasions, I just can’t get in to it. It comes across as a flat, lacklustre and emotionless performance to me and I’m bitterly disappointed to have to admit it.

So. On to 2013…

2012 Music – Cast Adrift

It’s been another great year for music; my kind of music at least. Several bands in the 3rd and even 4th decade of their careers have released albums which, for younger bands, may have been considered as watershed albums. In addition quite a few of those bands I follow who are still, for all intents and purposes, independent artists have also released albums which have raised the bar on their previous releases. It’s made it extremely difficult to whittle the list down to a mere 10, I could easily have extended it to 20 or even 30, but where would be the fun in that?

I’ve had to depend on recorded material for my entertainment these last 12 months as not many artists make the journey to East Africa on their tours, not even the ‘big’ ones! Normally I’d be able to comment on the live experience of the material for many of the albums in my list however this year it’s based purely on the recorded material. Not such a bad thing I suppose, it allows me to concentrate on the production as well as the songwriting in its purest form, but it also means that at least one album in the final list has suffered as a result of this ‘clinical’ review.

As a result of my time spent on the Facebook group Thursday Night Is Music Night over the last few months the shortlist grew longer as the year drew to a close and several albums I had firmly in my top ten for the year at their time of release found themselves adrift as I started making my list…

Before I get into what finally made my list, here’s what I’ve chosen to drop:

Panic Room – Skin. An overall impressive album with some great songs but, in my opinion, it lacks the vision and grandeur of its predecessor, Satellite.

Mostly Autumn – The Ghost Moon Orchestra. An excellent showcase for Olivia Sparnenn with some great tracks but too much ‘colour by numbers’ to crack into the top albums.

The Producers – Made in Basing Street. Excellent writing, excellent production but overall it struggles for any one track which is ear worm material.

Soundgarden – King Animal. A welcome return for one of my favourite bands of the 90s, but too… clinical(?) in execution, I’d hoped for a return to BadMotorFinger and the halcyon days.

Muse – The 2nd Law. I love this, it’s there most consistent release in years but just not quite good enough when compared to the top ten.

Shadow of the Sun – Monument. An excellent collection of songs which I’ve watched grow from Dylan’s Soundcloud demos to a polished release. There are some belters, notably Halo and Who Cares? but as a whole the album needs something ‘more’?

Threshold – March of Progress. I haven’t given this enough listens to fully appreciate it, but I keep coming back to it which, in itself, justifies a mention in this list.

Kompendium – Beneath the Waves. A brave and bold project from Magenta’s Rob Reed this is, as intended, reminiscent of those concept albums of the 70s and 80s. Not only with the music; the packaging is something to behold. Unfortunately, despite astounding tracks like The Storm and superb performances from all involved, there are elements of this which grate and cause me to want to skip ‘bits’.

Kamelot – Silverthorn. I’ve never paid Kamelot their due despite having most if their back catalogue. I love this album when I listen to it, but struggle to remember any hooks when I’m not. Perhaps it will grow on me over the coming months and rise above the noise of everything else I’ve listened to this year?

The Reasoning – Adventures in Neverland. Written and completed during a difficult period for the band this album bodes well for the pared back version of the band we now see. My impression is that there’s a disconnect between the musical style and the vocal stylings of Rachel Cohen at the moment. I can’t define it, but the two don’t sit well for me on this release.

Each of these have songs, and in some cases the entire album, which are very strong, but when it came down to it they didn’t hold my attention to the same extent as those which follow…

Either side of the road to nowhere, Part 1

12/11/12

Driving down Mombasa road on a Monday afternoon, or any afternoon for that matter, is much like a personal game of Death Race 2000, only it’s real.

The cacophony of sights, sounds and smells  makes the long journey ever interesting…. God is Real!, God Can Set You Free, Hakuna Matata emblazoned across the rear ends of the buses (in all shapes and sizes) leave you with a sense of the inevitable brought home all the more by the reckless abandon with which the drivers hurtle past on blind summits and closing corners you find on every stretch of the ‘new’ road.

The black smoke belched from the City Hoppa buses, supported by the same from the matatus as the shiny new SUVs fly past with the devil may care attitude only found in someone sure of their religious piety and right to live, only adds to the felling of melodrama.

The colours of the buses are matched, even surpassed, by the shacks at the side of the road selling everything from tomatoes, red onions and mangoes to salad spoons, Maasai busts and various incarnations of the wildlife you search for on safari in the game reserves.

Stopping for a cup of coffee brings its own challenges with the negotiations necessary to avoid buying more salad spoons, busts and animals as the shosho parades her grandchild, beautiful, wide eyed and shabbily dressed before the mzungos, hoping to make good on our pervading sense of pity, responsibility or shame while we order a drink to quench the thirst on our journey to paradise.

After the main road the dusty tracks in the game reserve seem positively calm in comparison. Of course you need to carry out the ritual of entering the park before that, waiting 15 minutes as the burly woman enters your details on the computer to produce you with your Kenyan Wildlife Service temporary resident cards which are duly loaded with the credit for your stay only to be charged, 10 yards further on, from the same cards, for the same amount,by a surly KWS representative at the park gate… It’s the Kenyan economy at its best and something which will be repeated at the Mombasa ferry later in this trip. Unnecessary bureaucracy created to allow 2-3 jobs where one would suffice. It keeps the people happy and, as long as you’ve been here more than a few hours, you know it’s the Kenyan way; poli poli.

Inside the park the Sun is beginning to set and you drive along the dusty, corrugated roads as close to the 40kph speed limit as possible to make the lodge before the curfew sets in. Even here, in this reserve of all that is wild the Kenyan drivers still have their way; a white pickup hurtles past with a clutch of grinning Kenyans in the open back (no doubt on their way to a shift at one of the lodges) leaving you spluttering in their dusty wake as you head towards the oasis of calm in this most serene of surroundings.

Entering the gates you feel the pressure lift, there’s an air of calm over the whole place, the staff are smiling, awaiting you with warm, scented towels to wipe away the stress of 250kms of Mombasa Road and a fruit cocktail to clean the dust from your throat as you prepare for the ordeal of booking in.

Yet it does’t come to that. As you walk through the leaf gilded archway entrance into the vaulted hallway of the lodge all the troubles of the journey wash away… Before you lies a private valley, all of your own, stretching out to Mt Kilimanjaro (Kili to her friends) in the distance. The sunlight lingers, tentatively, on her shoulders as you stand there, awe struck, speechless, in this land of wonder. The hours of watching all your mirrors, at once, while negotiating the speed bumps, pot holes and suicidal drivers fall away as you stand there, staring at something framed for a blockbuster movie, full of child like wonder and the concierge walks over, hands you a registration card, advises you that your rooms are ready and says “Karibu Tsavo”…
13/11/12

The light crawls across the valley as you sit on the balcony eating breakfast, the mist evaporates leaving the hues of blue and grey to be washed away in the flood of burnt red and green as the Sun exerts her power over this land of wonder.

Driving out of the lodge the day ahead already seems like a boys own story with tales of yesterday’s sighting of lion, cheetah and leopard ringing loud in your ears. Within minutes every rock is turning its shaggy maned head to look at you from behind the acacia trees and the boulders are raising their trunks to blast out indignation at your interruption of the lands natural slumber. It doesn’t matter that you see nothing; it’s the expectation, the anticipation, it grabs you the second you’re behind the wheel and holds you, tightly, until you return, exhausted, to the restful recluse of the lodge to regain your composure ready for the next run out later in the day.

The sheer scale of it all is breathtaking. Africa’s highest mountain seems to fade away and hide behind the lava peaks of the reserve, the sky arching blue above it all seems to reach higher than in any other corner of the world. The horizon is broader and further away than even that of the widest ocean and the blanket of green and red; it goes on for ever.

Waterbuck, elephant, baboons, dik dik, Thompson gazelle, impala, guinea fowl and lizards make up the quota for today’s sightseeing and it’s more than enough. The excitement’s in the journey itself, heading off the beaten track to follow the tree laden river bed in case the ever elusive leopard decides to deign us with it’s presence, driving down Rhino Valley on the off chance that the lion and leopard spotted yesterday have decided to follow the same schedule and allow us the pleasure of their company. Every twist and turn brings a new air of expectance and with it the excitement of what might be.

It’s all too much. Even the cool, calm invitation of the swimming pool isn’t enough to prevent an afternoon snooze and, before you know it, the chance of another drive is past for the day. Back on the balcony the sun heads off behind Kili again and you’re fighting off the Scorpion King’s hordes while you enjoy a cool drink before dinner.

14/11/12

As last night’s reports of lion and cheetah ring in your ears you head off as soon as the sun rises to search for more of the ‘Big 5’. A slightly different route to the Rhino Circuit today brings its own wonder as you pass from the dusty roads to the black, crunchy, paths of the lava plain. The moisture in the air belies the fact that, at 0650hrs, it’s already passing 24 degrees under a clear blue sky. Descending into the valley you see a huddle of white safari buses in the near distance and head off in their general direction. You won’t reach them in time, there’s something to distract you at every turn. On this occasion it’s the

lone giraffe stubbornly refusing to give way on the road as he helps himself to the sweetest greens at the top of the acacia overarching the road ahead. Behind him the zebra idle around the low shrubs, helping themselves to their fill before it becomes too hot to even think of searching for food.

Further sightings of safari buses and conversations with their drivers fail to produce the goods and the leopard, lion and cheetah evade us all for another drive. He was there though, the leopard that is, we could all hear him, but he wouldn’t move into sight; remaining instead behind the low fallen tree, laughing at even the ‘real’ tourists in their elevated position out of the top of the safari buses. Even the elephant trunk sized lenses couldn’t see through that foliage!

Miscalculating the distance a little you hurtle back along the other half of the Rhino Circuit to the lodge only to round a corner and be confronted with a bull elephant making his way across the road ahead. The redness of the wildlife here is in complete contrast to that found in the other reserves; washing themselves in the dust and mud from the Tsavo plains leaves them a bright burnt ochre in colour, even the ostriches are black and red in colour.

Heading out to Mzima Springs after lunch gives the opportunity to stretch your legs as you walk along the path to the cool, shaded calm of the hippo pools. Hippo, smiling with contentment, bask in the waters while a fish eagle wait for its unsuspecting prey on the branch overhanging the waters. The crocodiles glide from edge to edge of the lower pool waiting for some poor monkey to venture down to water’s edge for a drink… It doesn’t happen at least not while we were watching.

The Rhino Reserve poses it’s own challenges. 70+ square kilometres of tree shrouded park land with visibility of a few metres before the dense foliage hides all before you. Excursions to the watering holes show tantalising evidence of the day’s visitors, footprints, droppings, the smell of urine where animals have marked their territory. Yet even a detour along a now unused portion of the track yields no return… With the fuel gauge heading South (quickly!) it’s time to head back to the scorpions, watering hole and excellent cuisine at the lodge. A mostly uneventful, yet wholly rewarding day, has passed.

Bobbing for Apple (Or shut up the ‘droid fanboys!)

I’ve just been reading this post linked to by a friend who’s a devout fan of all things Microsoft. He seems to have taken some perverse pleasure in the lack of breathtaking advances in the new iPhone 5 announced today. I don’t understand why all the ‘droid fanboys feel the need to belittle everything Apply release? Over a 1,000 posts in 24 hours? Really?

While I might be tempted to agree that there doesn’t seem to be any significant change to the iPhone with the 6th iteration of the device, I think it’s more a case of it being the fact that they got it /so/ right on the first occasion than a lack of innovation in the design team now.

As a (somewhat unlikely) comparison I’ll direct you to the Sky TV remote control; with the exception of the addition of buttons to control the DVR, it hasn’t changed at all since day one of its release. Why? Because it is perhaps the best example of a remote, ever.

The same goes for the iOS devices, in particular the iPhone which is just natural to use, intuitive, smooth and damned good to look at.

I won’t talk down Android devices (unlike the Apply haters), I just feel that, much like Microsoft and the PC builders of the 90s, there is no set standard and so you never know what you’re going to get. Every other device I’ve tried since buying an iPhone has just felt… Clunky? And that includes Samsung Galaxy’s, Lumia’s, Windows Phones…

Yes, they’re bloody expensive. Or are other devices just cheap? I think it’s probably the latter and, in my experience, the performance, reliability and interoperability of all my Apple devices are second to none and well worth that extra price tag. My MacBook Pro is now over 2 years old and I am in no rush to upgrade it, it’s still faster and more capable than most laptops of a comparable price running high end graphics and audio software I’d need a desktop PC worth several £,000s to run properly. I’ve only just stopped using an iPhone 3GS (handed down to my son) as it still cut the mustard with every function I wanted from a smartphone, my iPad 2 will have a home for several years to come as I don’t need a retina display on a tablet screen (especially with my eyesight!), I offloaded my iPhone 4 to my wife as my iPad let’s me FaceTime and she needed a phone which allowed her to do the same and my Apple TV is the centre of my home’s media experience.

Will I buy and iPhone 5? Damn right! Do I think it’s about to become the best smartphone on the market? Doubtful. What I do know though, is that it will do everything I want it to, when I want it to. And that, to be honest, is my reason for buying Apple. It does what it says on the tin, and does it very, very, well.

At the end of the day it all comes down to personal taste. And I like Apple.

The new iPad… Worth the hype?

Right… Call me silly but, is the ‘new’ iPad really worth all the hype/money? (Oh, and there is a caveat… I am an Apple addict!!)

Yes, I know there are a ridiculous amount of pixels on the Retina Display, but I always thought the 1024 on the iPad 2 were good enough… Come to that, even the 1280 pixels on my 13″ MacBook Pro are pretty good. In high quality pictures I struggle to see the pixelation on photos, movies are always crystal clear and, to be honest, I can’t remember ever thinking “Ooh, that pixelation’s unbearable”!

Then there’s the camera… Why would I want a better camera on an iPad? I have enough trouble remembering there’s a camera on my bloody phone!! I doubt I’ll ever use what is, to all intents and purpose, a laptop replacement as a camera? My main concern is the front facing camera as that’ll allow me to see my children while they’re at school or in the UK while I’m away…

It scores the same in performance tests as the iPad 2, has the same speed of processor (it’s only the graphics core which is quad core), it runs at 1.6 fps of the the iPad 2, a negligible result in my book, and has already been proven to run warm/hot due to the processing requirements/battery performance, a phenomenon never experienced in the previous versions…

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the LTE capability… While announcing this immense uplift in connectivity capability during the Keynote speech they completely forgot to mention that it will not be available for anyone outside the US, unless they travel to the US, as our providers are planning on using a different frequency for the technology than AT&T (yes, AT&T, Verizon have their own model of ‘new’ iPad!).

And I can now get a new 64GB, WiFi and 3G iPad 2 for £300-400, less that 60% of the price of a similarly spec’d ‘new’ iPad… Why bother?

Face it, it’s downhill from here!

I’m going to stick my neck out here and forecast something drastic, something I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere else. It is, however, something I have heard  and read the beginnings of in discussions between friends, acquaintances etc. I’ve also noticed the first tell tale signs, the odd statement here, the odd action here and there…

Facebook is going to go the same way as MySpace. Not now, perhaps not as drastically or as completely, but it will and sooner than anyone will expect.

12-18 months ago I recall seeing status updates from bands such as Queen, Pink Floyd and others receiving comments and likes in multiples of thousands, regularly.

Over the last week I’ve been watching again and, despite ‘Likes’ sometimes reaching a thousand or perhaps a couple of thousand, the comments struggle to break out of several hundred. And this despite (or because of?) an exponential growth in Facebook users.

It’s not a major shift, or in fact that noticeable just now (unless you’re looking) but the actual level of interaction on Facebook is diminishing. Slowly, inexorably the demise of Facebook is coming, and I for one can’t wait.

If you take Queen as an example, they have over 1.3 million ‘Likes’ on Facebook but regularly receive perhaps only 1-2 hundred comments on a status update. That’s an interaction of 0.001%. And they’re doing well. Quite often bands receive only 1 or 2 comments, or perhaps comments in a multiple of 10 rather than 100 let alone the 1,000s.

I resisted the temptation to jump on the Facebook bandwagon for some time, I opened an account, played around for an hour or two then left it. That account is still active today but never used. A couple of years later I created another account in order to run a band ‘page’ and became an addict. I didn’t want to. It just happened. Suddenly I was in touch with school friends I hadn’t seen in 20+ years, work mates I’d lost touch with over a decade of moving around and so it began…

Three years on and I still update regularly. I tend to use an alternative interface than the web site, tools such as Hootsuite, Echofon, Tweetdeck etc allow me to update and converse without actually visiting the site. And then there’s Twitter.

Say all you want, as long it’s in 140 characters or less. I couldn’t understand the allure of Twitter when I first dipped my toes into the Twitterverse. And then I found myself following, and being followed by, people with similar interests and the conversations began to flow. Not only the conversations, germs of ideas flourished, artistic collaborations got under way and all without a single Farmville, Mafia Wars, Gems (or whatever it’s called) or unsolicited friend request!

I think that’s where Facebook is failing. It started off as a walled off web based application allowing ‘friends’ and family to get in touch, it then opened up it’s API to aspiring code writers to write apps, plugins and games to enhance the experience. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however Zuckerberg et al failed in two major aspects. Privacy and Security. If you look around the internet, yes, that bit outside of Facebook, you’ll read plenty of articles like this.

There have been many stories of virii being spread through Facebook links, apps and even photos, there’s stories of it being used to stalk, harass and bully people, and it’s only going to get worse. Then there’s the fact that you can’t actually remove anything once you’ve put it up there. You don’t own your own timeline, the photos etc that you post. Over the years Facebook has continued to evolve, adding more functionality to its interface, opening up to (slight) customisation by Facebook apps, getting into bed with Spotify, adding the Facebook Timeline and it will continue to do so. Some of these were welcome additions, I liked the RootMusic app, while most were met with an all too quiet uproar from tech savvy users while the X hundred million other users (some of whom actually believe that Facebook is the internet!) carried on regardless.

But each day I read less and less on my Facebook stream. There’s an ever increasing number of “If you don’t copy this then…” posts, new games appear faster than you can block them, updates from people I don’t follow (I may have placed them in my ‘Favourite Music/Film/Book” list but that doesn’t mean that I want to see everything that’s posted about them)!

And now, with the advent of apps such as Flipboard, I don’t even have to choose between Facebook, Twitter or any of the other sites I frequent to get my daily intake of news, gossip,  music info or tech geekery. I simply flip through what I want, ‘real’ news, music news, film news, Twitter updates, Facebook Statuses etc without even having to be ‘on’ Facebook or any other site. It’s bliss and I find myself spending less time online but taking in more information.

By now many of you will be saying “But surely with 800 Million users, as a band, artist, business, individual with something to say, you’d be mad to leave it?”

Really? Think back to the figures from Queen’s stats. 0.001% interaction. Even when targeted ads are paid for the actual click-through rarely rises to a level worthy of the financial outlay (believe me I’ve done it).

I’m not the only person to see this. I know of many people who are leaving, or have left, Facebook. How easy do you think it is to get your voice heard among 800 Million other voices?

Most people who read this will think of me as a lunatic. Need I remind you of those who first said the world wasn’t flat?

Facebook’s days are numbered. And that number is a lot smaller than most of will ever realise.