True Gripes: Babble at bedtime: DJs are the bane of pirate radio

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There are times when I get tired of Book at Bedtime. There are nights when a radio producer's attempt to pack me off to beddy-byes prematurely with a plummy narration or interminable phone-in stirs me into action. My finger reaches for the dial in the hope of finding something, anything, to remind me that the city is still kicking.

The automatic searcher runs along the FM frequency and lands with a thump on a blast of techno music. At last, a pirate radio station, something a bit more urban, un peu plus upbeat. Tune into the subculture. Except, of course, that the radio is never completely tuned in; the urban sound is more a fuzz, accompanied by a low whine and incessant hiss. The frenetic beat does not so much pound away as bravely soldier on.

But having a second-rate transmitter is part of the allure of the pirate broadcaster, a sign of his or her all-but- muffled independence. The interference that makes the whole thing sad and cheap and pointless comes from the DJs themselves.

You may not think it possible to ruin techno, but when you've heard, for the umpteenth time, the phrase 'Big shout going out' (to apparently well-known people called 'John' or 'Gary' or, more sinisterly, 'the cruiser' and, more cornily, 'all the ladies'), you think again.

It's probably that the boyz are bored or combating repetitive beat syndrome - no punter can actually be relying on their music to dance to, can they? - but instead of conjuring up a world of mischief and youth, listening to DJspeak is about as much fun as listening to nextdoor's tone-deaf granny singing in the bath.

There are, it has to be said, moments of lyricism, where cult words like 'massive', 'rudeboy' and 'respect' are mixed in with poetic sentiments ('the jungle is the provider') and political statements: 'Don't fuss and fight/Time to unite'.

There are even odd moments of intentional comedy, where the DJ subverts the usual form. The other night I heard 'Big shout going out to Liz in, hospital . . . in the psychiatric ward, where she belongs . . . nutter.' Made me laugh. But only briefly. The serious dance jargon falls flat beside solemn requests for 'Sexy Sara' to phone 'Steve'. It soon becomes impossible to dispel the farcical image of a couple of lonely teenagers messing around with their record collection, waiting for friends to drop round and talking tough.

One day I'll get round to phoning one of the mobile phone numbers they rattle off and telling them to shut it. 'Show the music some respect,' I'll say.

In the meantime it's back to clearly-transmitted establishment broadcasting. You know where you are with the late-night shipping forecast.