LISTEN: 'Dear Resonance' (2005) by Even in Blackouts

(Turn it up will you?)

Histories of figurines so fresh in the mind of
Babes who were never witnesses but must relive the
Consequences in the fiber of their day-to-day.

When I thought of these incidences then,
When I thought of all these happenings then
I was thinking of now;
Gives resonance those hours I spend
Contemplating the effects of resonance.
Dear resonance, is the distance real?

Talk of war and actions that resemble such;
And I dance in this club with the guilt
Of my apathy shaking this indifference.
And then I hear Lennon’s
Imagine and the generations
Round me waltz in mockery and irony.
I want some distance!
It hurts to know history’s closeness can blow
A hole right through your guile
(Without showing its face).

The times may be constantly changing, Bob,
But what does that mean to resonance?
Dear resonance, is the distance real?

A giant mad pop ramble on historical consciousness, free will, and path-dependency. A protest song; but, protesting how confusing and horrible everything is, not anything in particular. The songwriter, John Pierson, comes from Ramonescore - the totally unreconstructed kind of pop-punk that paid no attention to post-punk or hardcore or skate-punk or anything at all after about the year 1980.

But Even in Blackouts are grandiose and verbose and double-dosed: Pierson is the most ambitious punk in his corner by far* - a 'neo-futurist' playwright and historian of third-wave punk and all. Ok, so that looks like faint praise - since, in this arena, just playing acoustic guitar is a big aesthetic choice - but I think it means something. They pull off anything. EiB songs are fiercely unsubtle, but manage to preserve dignity and even sophistication via turns of phrase and odd romantic chastity and clever commentating bass. Emo without the self-pity!

Liz Eldredge is the sharp end: she has an extraordinarily sinusoidal voice, stronger in its way than Joanna Newsom's, and even more off-putting to some people. I had to get used to the cleanliness; it's unreal in the manner of a chart song.

So: this. 'Dear Resonance' is an essay, a try-hard evocation of a certain line of thought and feeling. It is: fear of the implications of the passage of time, stealing lives, stealing meaning; worry over the uncertain prospect of utopian progress in the face of past atrocities which continue to weigh on people en masse; shapeless guilt at one's own comfort and safety.

This worry is in the same key as Adorno's vague guilt-tripping: "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. This corrodes even the knowledge of why it has become impossible to write poetry today". "Am I allowed to feel good in the same world that fucked-up shit happened in and continues to happen in?" The song doesn't answer.

EiB take this well-trodden well-meaning introspection and shoot it into a Hegelian** vision of the unfolding of society - only without that particular German's calm and ecstasy about it. The world is confusing and frightening! ("in the humor applied to ridicule, to keep what’s dreadful in the distance.") The confusion comes because historical people are both way different from us and irrelevant to us (tiny figurines screaming imperceptibly at horrors that no longer exist) and are just the same as us. They are present in the shape of the world we live in.*** We experience some of the same horrors they did (random violence, famine, cancer, death).

Ends on an apocalyptic question: “But what does it all mean when everything and all the particles in between become 'A long time ago'?". Three questions there. There's the above simple worry about the meaning of past people's lives (and our own fear about becoming irrelevant in the future). But also bigger cosmic ones: will there be any meaning after the heat death of the universe? And do things have to last forever to have meaning? Plato and Mills & Boon say yes to both.****

I say obviously not; meaning, in the sense of "the most important sort of intellectual/emotional experience", is mental and exists in the moment. So, in one sense, we are protected from whatever comes later: we are on the right side of a trapdoor function. Nothing that happens later can stop a meaningful moment from having been meaningful. People often want ultimate, objective, invulnerable meaning: well, one of those things relies on a personal God being there, ogling everything; one just doesn't make sense; but one out of three will do.

EiB faded away quickly after splitting; their blog has a princely 7 followers; Pierson has put all their albums free on Soundcloud, with surely little to lose. Even so they are a victory over nothingness (see above).

* Get it up ye, Ben Weasel.

** The band call it "zeitgeist's echo"; honestly. And/or Parmenidean - "is the distance real?": has anything really changed? And/or Heraclitean: what can generations understand of each other?

*** As long as they had children, or left artefacts behind, or were captured in the artefacts of others.

**** Like me, the existentialists say "no, no meaning at world's end" and "no, momentary meaning is still meaning" - but they do it in a way I disagree with: they still obsess over ultimate meaning and centre their whole schtick on its absence. As Thomas Nagel says in my favourite philosophical one-liner ever:
If 'nothing matters' then that doesn't matter either! We are then free to live our lives without either despair or heroic defiance.

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