The album also addresses White’s take on modern technology. The spooky, 22nd century-style, malfunctioning public service robot voiceover on “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” feels like a stab at knowledge in the information age, while “Ezmerelda Steals The Show”, which sounds like a Lewis Carroll story read over White’s twinkling guitar, ends with the line “you people are totally absurd.” Given the music media characterization of White as a staunch technoskeptic, it’s easy to imagine that this line is directed at anyone with an iPhone.
But his take on technological advancement is much more nuanced than commentators give him credit for: “Over the years people have boxed me in in different ways. They want me to be cranky, they want me to be old-fashioned,” he explains, adding, “But there are so many things I could play them that would show them that they are completely wrong – that I’m actually the complete opposite of that.” Most of Boarding House Reach, with its synths and drum pad beats would qualify. “There should be a new progressive way of looking forward, not just saying ‘look at the past, wasn’t it great before this’ but actually saying ‘these phones are great inventions, let’s take what’s good about them and use them, but not let them consume every part of our existence.’”
Nevertheless, it’s unsurprising to find that White enjoys Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. “As a timeless thing to scare us into making sure we’re very careful with how we progress, George Orwell’s 1984 is always going to be the best example. Black Mirror is the best example in modern times, of how technology can be used for evil rather than to help society.”
As we continue to learn the role of technology in the election of Donald Trump, it’s impossible not to subscribe to Black Mirror narratives. “Living in America now, with Donald Trump [as President] it is a type of dystopia. There’s one person with their hand on the button that could destroy humanity, we’re finally realising how scary that is. Maybe we needed to come this far before we realised how bad things could be.”