28/03/2011

A Platonic Guide To Inception



[LINE BREAK]




Note that all this works for Kantians too. The point is: what artists to spook their audiences, philosophers live amongst. Also: setting your film in a dream excuses most sins (plot incontinence, blunt catalepsis, hysteron-proteron, narrative-time/discourse-time looseness).


"Inception is proof that people are not stupid, that modern cinema is not trash, and that it is possible for blockbusters and art to be the same thing."
- Mark Kermode

N'aww.

24/03/2011

GIG REVIEW: Patrick Wolf @ Oran Mor, 23/3/11

(c) Claire Quigley 2011

What do you call a life constantly prey to only raptures or dissolutions?

Flanked by darkeyed redheads (violinist Victoria Sutherland, and windist Emily Fronten), our princeling comes on toting a choking croon, somewhere between Jarvis and Rufus. All in black but his hair, the colour, colour, colour of the man shoots out in all hues at all genders from track 1.


He picks up a ukelele!

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM

He sits to a halfharp!

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM

He said a thing!

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM

He took off his scarf very fast!

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM

Song's over!

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM

The song isn't quite over, but the band did quite well transitioning to that bit!

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMM


This damp-thigh devotion doesn't fit in with his old stuff (the tortured bedroom productions), and since half the set is still chambered sulky ballads, one wonders what he makes of us.

But his most part is now delirious melodramatic pop, which songs include room for hysteric responses. Patrick Wolf is playing pop nihilist dressup; he's a hyperactive Wainwright, sparkling with brutality. Photos can't do him justice, since it's his sheer motion that persuades (and keeps the crowd screaming all bloody set). The man is a sexy fidget, and has more than a notion that this is the case. In fact, he's extremely self aware - he moves through poses as if flipping mental pages in a Vogue, knowing exactly how he looks. You can still see the teen he was, even with him come this far: discomfort with oneself is practically what "indie" means. The confines of this basement make him clumsy - or, no, he is clumsy: he pulls out his amp, hits the ceiling with a misjudged hop, wings Sutherland as he flies past. There was always a distancing alien poise to Bowie, and Wolf is very different: very much an affectionate, swooning, flitful sexpot.

People who see him move first call him Pan, Puck, Perry Como on PCP. A queer hearthrob.

People who look at his instrumentography first call him "versatile" or "experimental", but they do so wrongly: his songs are homogenous - either stomping neoclassical disco or moaning café-Gothic. (Lovewolf or Sulkwolf.) The man's real experiment is his hips, shoulders and neck, not his music.

And they're replicated experiments - he's got a catalogue to flow through, drug-fast: Sally Bowles' chair, thumb in his belt, sleeves flapping, Man-In-Black baritone ukelele(!), pirouette, unironic Rat Pack arm-sweep, Billy Idol prance, shedding his coat, ripping his buttons, scrunching his hair; stare to stage lights; sing over own viola, hop through the hyperventilating crowd. Where anyone else might pause to towel themselves, he starts the song and does a boa-routine with it instead. The man can do jazzhands with his face.

Anyone who fails to catch an erotic sparkle off him ought give up this "body" lark. But note it's an unthreatening allure - preposterous just the same as it is potent - charming but not dangerous.

At one point he says, of an unpracticed b-side, "I want to dedicate this song to a woman, a special creature, in the audience tonight..." Half the room's eyes widen with leavening hope-


***************************************

The rub: Patrick Wolf is a crooner. (I don't mean to be pejorative about it.) There is a form uniting Ratpacker, lounge lizard, torch singer, MOR/AOR, autotuned Def Jam whiner, half-folk moron, bland retro-jazzer and other sentimentalists: just that voice producing that reaction. Try this on, a genealogy of sentiment:


Can you see how they play the same role with quite different work?

**********************************************


There's few breaks between songs, and when he tries to speak we see why: it's as if a light has gone off. A cute, polite, haunted boy who can only blurt "thanks" and "c'mon Glasgow" repeatedly stands there, unsure. This twit does not live in the same place as the stomping, theatrical, conceited nymph/satyr performing just a second ago. (This tells us the reach of selfinvention, but also its limits.)


The final encore, "Magic Position" is his best: it could be a lost HDH gem, so full it is of directional joy, warm breaks, and handclap soul. His second last move of the night is singing with two microphones angled up, shafts gripped outrageously. His last move of the night is an Adam Ant cross-tableaux, delivered with a wink. Well, he knows what he is.



Setlist

Overture
Time of Your Life
The Towans
The Bachelor
Godrevy Point
[b-side]
The Bluebell
Bluebells
Ghost Song
Tristan
Together
*****************************
Hard Times (Extended Bemused Band Mix)
The City
Magic Position


21/03/2011

Listen: "Remedy" by Little Boots and "You're So Dumb" by Skrewdriver



Little Boots and Skrewdriver walk into a bar.


"You know what you are?" they each say.

"You're not G." they reply.





The need to be defined by, represented in, and agree with all one's music is a disease. (One contracted by both uploaders of these songs, "KatyPerry1010" and"NAZIxHELLxSCUM".)

17/03/2011

Listen Cloze, Now: "I Can't Wait" by the White Stripes


"I can't wait til you try to come back girl,
when things they don't work out for you...
Who do you think you're messing with, girl?
What do you think you're trying to do?
Do you really think I want be laughed at, girl?
Who do you think you're trying to fool
?
...you certainly took your time..."

Melody tired. Structure predictable. Voice caterwauling. Lyrics recherché and chauvinist.
And yet!

Nirvana wrestle Blue Oyster Cult for "I Can't Wait"s heart throughout. There's a simple pun to the title lyrics - "I can't wait" (I want you, come on!) and "I can't wait" (That's it, I give up.) - an ambivalence that nothing will conclude, least of all Jack.

O course, all the White Stripes' songs are about love, but this includes love's aftershocks; the tension, resentment and sheer work involved can be heard in even, say, the sweetly canting Hotel Yorba. There's hidden derision under all his car seats and dark pews.

Ffs, where and when do these people live? In 40s Louisiana, in 60s Britain and in 90s Seattle at the same time, which adds up to... transatlantic traditionalism. They made blues-flavoured music; a drop of the essence of all kinds of things, and a referential guitar - an Eliotian bluesman! (See, "derivative" becomes "referential" just as soon as you give us a certain sort of wink.)

Complexity in art isn't valuable in itself; ornament is often utterly stupid. Meg caught some shit for her maximally primitive drum beats and occasional falter, but I double dare you to try and cover this and make the drums better.

15/03/2011

Listen Cloze, Now: "Teenagers From Mars" by the Misfits



"We need no introduction,
No visas or carte blanche,
Inhuman reproduction -
We're here for what we want
."


jes some bad ol boys from space runnin round raisin hell.

How does a Jersey boy get himself such an Evil Elvis drawl-holler? (It must be that Southernness in rocknroll is an attitude for anyone with darkness enough about them.)


The Misfits are best seen as an extension of rockabilly, tacking on the head-down-straight-line drive of the Damned (the Damned themselves just the gothic Ramones - the Ramones themselves just the nerdy New York Dolls), and schlocky refrains - "space murder!"; "blowjobs!"; "little girls!". (So they derive misogyny from both B-movies & Jeery Lee Lewis.)

So: upbeat atrocity! They keep RnB's jaunty energy, but move the lyrics from rogueish dancing and lively wine to alien assassination and paedophilia. The dissonance of this swop is far greater than the one they put on with their amps. Danceable and extreme = success.

Just as B-movies peddle a camp kind of terror, so too the Misfits are Rocky Horror Punk. Actual horror music is made by people who are themselves afraid, and the Misfits are far too macho to be scared. Jerry Only is more of a failed wrestler than a bassist, and Danzig has always obviously wanted to be the dark.


Is it worth listening harder, in such an unsubtle oeuvre? Let's say yes:

Because "Teenagers from Mars", blatantly a 2D B-movie swing-tune, is also about the inside of boys' heads. A romp through the incessant-indiscriminate sexuality and coruscating-contrary violence that forms the inner life of hormonal young men. What stops the teenage world from being even more of a ridiculous macho crapshoot than it is already is our shame, incompetence, lankiness, cowardice, and the ready availability of symbolic outlets (as well as, I like to think, a dim, tentative intimation of the feelings of others).

We all think immoral things, and I think few control their imaginations much at all: this song is a fantasised trek by young Danzig, young you, young me; tasteless, amoral and gender-crazed. We could wring our hands about the nastiness the mind kicks up like dust, but I'll not; the shrugging, slinking bassline in this points out that imagination is very distinct from motivation; and that to fantasise is in fact not to want.


**********************************************************


tbh, "Horror punk" doesn't warrant its own genre, since it consists in a community of Misfits tribute bands (e.g. The Undead, Balzac, Graves, Crimson Ghosts, Wednesday 13, The Other, Von Frankensteins, the Misfits themselves) and little else. It becomes metal when you get slightly slower, slightly faster or more histrionic, anyway.


COVERS

- A band called Teenagers from Mars playing "Die, Die My Darling". A band called Children in Heat playing "Teenagers from Mars". A band called The Hate Breeders playing "Where Eagles Dare". A band called Where Eagles Dare playing their own stuff(...)

- A comic.

- The Network (Green Day): Massively maligned, o course - heretics usually have their own dumb articles of faith - but the slowing and smoothening isn't especially offensive. The drum machine works fine.

- Buck-O-Nine: If they were any bigger, this would probably get much the same treatment; it's a goofy compression, a ska subversion in line with the original's camp.

- The Backyard Babies one is absurdly identical. (see also "Spingnota")

- Say Anything

- Black Velvet Elvis could have been great - primitive redo with a female singer! - but misses the chance to reclaim and redirect the song's specifically macho shit. (see also the Bitchfits, who, in devoting their careers to covers of very macho music, may have missed the above ideology...)

- The Von Frankensteins strip out everything that was energetic and convincing about the original, leaving the track in drudging metal. Funny how machismo works,

- A man, David Pajo does lofi and slightly aimless acoustic covers of lots of horror...

Listen Cloze, Now: 'Tiger Phone Card' by Dengue Fever





"I call you from my hotel room
I'm sitting on the hallway floor
I know that we are so, so so
So tired; my phone card just expired
."

The 60s (slink, sincerity, & sass) never died, they just went elsewhere.


(Khmercore!)


"Tiger Phone Card" is fractal, like all great songs: the story of pop, entire in popsong format. Each part's individually generic (from Zac Holtzmann's weak Belle&Seb vocal, to the funk-surf backing, and even Chhom Nimol's beguiling Asian cabaret), but it reaches much farther, manages much more. It has the contagious hope all worthwhile invention does.

They play with light psychedelia and light exoticism, but don't allow either to override the point - which is, as usual, an American's desire for a hook. Which hook comes at 0:35, 1:24, and 2:29, and good god isn't she lovely.

The narrative's just an absent international love, rendered alternately with pragmatism and soaring sentimentality. I've actually spied continuity - the same couple - throughout Venus On Earth, their third album, so let's have a crack at that, oh let's.

That sixteen-second guitar solo is bloody perfect, skirting simplicity and a giving a gurn the slip. The Stranglers organ gives it the brute force of an ad jingle, too.


************************************************************

OTHER SONGS OF ABSENCE















11/03/2011

CONSCIOUS!



"[x] started using Causes.
Causes strives to empower people from all walks of life to have a positive impact on the world in which they live. We allow Facebook users to organize into communities of action focused upon specific issues or nonprofit organizations."
- Facebook Causes




"Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new and they will hate you for it."
- George Monbiot's blog motto



I recently wrote in defence of protesting against diffuse, complex, faceless social issues. (I concluded that, yes, it's silly, but so's everything else.) We are subjecting activism to a lot of sneering and scepticism of late.



And so we should. Anything this vulnerable to tokenism and ignorant "Yeah! What she said!" posture deserves the scrutiny. What about delusory, guilt-displacing, one-click "slacktivism"? What good does raising consciousness do against:



In particular, a friend recently demanded an answer about those petitions decrying corrective rape. I'm the philosophy type - honour-bound to know exactly why I think everything that I think - so I should be able to tell her why they matter.



  • Answer #1 is just that giving a shit is important.


  • #2: Something like: "entry into discourse is a necessary condition for progress" (if not actually progress itself). This is the old admitting that there's a problem is half the battle, where we're forcing the admission. This stems from the originally Marxist idea of "false consciousness", and has that idea's attendent problems -

"they control you so effectively, you don't even know you're oppressed!"


  • #3; Some things actually can be solved just by understanding them better, like gender roles and other neuroses. (This symbolic repression is obviously highly secondary in the homophobic-rape scenario, but it happens because of brutal socialized ideas certain people have about lesbians. Giving the women shotguns would be a treatment of a symptom.)


  • Answer #4 is pessimistic psychology: some people need to be Righteous in public, others just get a kick out of it. The social validation of one's beliefs (or frottage).



  • Answer #4.1 is optimistic about that pessimism, saying that, in a world blind and hostile, righteousness is a good way to keep yourselves going.


It might well reduce down to what you think of the proposition
"I believe that ideas are powerful".


******************************************************************


"However, any activism that uncritically accepts the marketisation of social change must be rejected. Digital activism is a danger to the left. Its ineffectual marketing campaigns spread political cynicism and draw attention away from genuinely radical movements. Political passivity is the end result of replacing salient political critique with the logic of advertising."
- Micah White

This tastes wrong.




******************************************************




Even if you're not convinced (and it's not a strong case), don't go thinking that all remote support is useless.


03/03/2011

Potted History of Practical Reason



For a long while, all we seem to have had was the formula


(1) "Try."


(This is our best guess as to how ancient technology arose; blind iteration, & the occasional Black Swan leap.)


Then, someone - someone who was not even a priest - said:


(2) "Think and try"


Almost immediately she was countered by other new priestly non-priests who said:

(3) "No! Think and think!"


Thus, thanks to midwife Parmenides, Illusionism/Platonism arose. And rose, and rose...

Another one, soon after, said:

(4) "Look and think!"

But he didn't mean what we mean by "look" (he meant pigeonhole and presume).


The priests got back in then, and tutted at all these options and had a bunch of conferences, and eventually said

(5) "Solved! Now, obey."


And so we did that for ages -and didn't exactly stagnate- but our new formulae were all careful ones:

(5.1) "Argue, then obey"

(5.2) "Pause, then obey"

(5.3) "Invent easier ways to obey"


After that money-and-government racket got going properly, people tried again, with cutting-edge technology:

(6) "Look and think and try and think"

Galileo, famous for being a looker-tryer, was actually really bad at the game. (It was anyway enough.)

A bunch of well clever boys then tried to solve the whole thing at once with formula 6, but placing on the end of the recipe:

(7) "Think, think- & believe; then try."


It was risky to say even this; priests were sensitive folk, back then.


(7.1) "Think and think and think and accept."



And what most of us currently live under is not far removed from these, you know:


(8) "Guess and count and think and try and guess..."


The last great turn has not earned the crossover success of the other formulae:

(9) "Create."

It remains to be seen.


"
it makes sense if you don't think about it."
- James


02/03/2011

GIG REVIEW: Les Savy Fav @ Tunnels, 1/3/11



"No-one can hear us die down here, ya know."
said the singing shaman to the crowded underground.


He, the right reverend Tim Harrington, opens the night by chomping his hand and smearing the blood on his neck and chest.

We react accordingly: for two hours, it is difficult not to look at him. Rambling, lecherous and animated (in all senses), there he stands in tight rainbow satin, Goldilocks wig, and feathers. And then -disrobing- doesn't stand in them.

The dancefloor is just an extension of the man's stage: in his regular midsong strolls among us, we help him with his mic cord, lifting it like a bride's train (or like a bishop's). Lascivious and incoherent, he is Courtney Love in a portly Shogun's body. Or: a likeable GG Allin. Goodwill flows to him, and all about.

The crowd's sense of personal space dissolves by the first bridge in the second song, Excess Energies. Three strangers bodily embrace me. The pit is ideal; contact without impact, flow without vengeance.

Later, he puts on a mitre, and leads us in prayer; all the audience kneel around in concentric abasement, rocking gently. Rub him for luck, or he will you.

The rest of the band are mute, wry, almost nettled throughout, at least until the stage invasion. The general elation is down to their delayed pro-post-punk-pop. There's a hint of their old crunch but it's twostring four-note riffs for the main (and just as well, too). The lyrics are both charming and post-hardcore generic, full as they are of hope and lust -

"I just want you to want me now",
"We hope that we make it"x16;
"I for one am dazzled, / I don't care if dazzled blind, /
rapt, enraptured, captured / by every little thing I find."


Note to parents & first-timers: it is unwise to let one's Harrington loose in an area with a scalable ceiling. He will surprise with his posability (grabbing hold of a nearby scruff's hair for stability), and test his bulk on the Tunnel's curious aluminium (monkey-bar) roof.


He knows what he's up to, does Tim. The religiosity in a good gig is not lost on him (I think, as he sprays baptismal beer on us. In a funny hat. Walking shirtless among us). Nor is the mad fun to be gotten from religiosity.

He could so easily look contrived - "hur, look at the glam clown touchin his boobs!" - but proves simply to be free. I've rarely seen evenings so absolutely about one person. I imagine this is what it was like to know Rod Hull.


(c) brokenhive (2008)