Categories
Art Indie Rock Literature Poetry Rock And Roll

Manic Street Preachers – Secret Trilogy

I was reading Simon Price’s review of Futurology (Manic Street Preachers 2014 album) on The Quietus, & he mentions that, according to Bassist & lyricist Nicky Wire, the third song on the album, Let’s Go To War, is the “final part in the ‘You Love Us’/’Masses Against The Classes’ trilogy.” This was news to me, that a trio of disparate songs from disparate times of their career went together as a sequence. It’s difficult to believe that the “trilogy” was planned from the start. I suspect that Wire is referring to a sense of kinship he personally feels between the three songs. I thought it might be a good idea to cast a critical eye over the trio of songs from the point of view of them being a trilogy.

You Love Us (1992)

Quote used at beginning of You Love Us video

Back at the start of their career, Manic Street preachers were difficult band to pin down, ideologically speaking. Their artwork & lyrics were chock full of esoteric quotes & references. This was evidenced across the artworks of their records, music videos (see above) & even on their clothes or written on their skin in marker pen. New Art Riot, an early EP, had a several quotes printed on its sleeve. Karl Marx (“I am nothing and should be everything”) & a lengthy Andy Warhol one:

You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it…

Andy Warhol

This observation of the ubiquitous nature of Coca-Cola was reworked slightly -via contemporary slant- in the lyrics of Slash ‘n’ Burn, the opening track on their debut album Generation Terrorists, as “Madonna drinks Coke and so you can too/Tastes real good not like a sweet poison should.” It’s unclear to me whether their image of Coke as a “sweet poison” is echoed in the Andy Warhol quote, but it seems as though the Manic Street Preachers viewed it that way.

Another early single, Motown Junk channels William Burroughs on its sleeve:

Rock and roll adolescents storm into the streets of all nations. They rush into the Louvre and throw acid in the Mona Lisa’s face. They open zoo’s, insane asylums, prisons, burst water mains with air hammers, chop the floor out of passenger plane lavatories, shoot out lighthouses, turn sewers into water supply, administer injections with bicycle pumps, they shit on the floor of the United Nations and wipe their ass with treaties, pacts, alliances.

William S Burroughs, Naked Lunch

This brief sequence from Naked Lunch, Burroughs’ seminal & nightmarish cutup masterpiece, seems to be ascribing qualities to the new generation of teenagers that he wished upon his own generation. This paragraph echoes, in my mind at least, what the German expressionist group of artists known as Die Brücke were saying in 1906: “We call upon all youth to unite. And being youth, the bearers of the future, we want to wrest from the comfortably established older generation freedom to live and move.” The group aimed to build a “bridge to the future” & I’m certain that Burroughs, writing in the mid ’50’s, could see the potential of the nascent youth-movement coalescing around the equally nascent Rock ‘n’ Roll genre of music, to fulfil this promise. To build this “bridge to the future.” The Manic Street Preachers not only printed this on their record sleeve, but the concept of throwing acid into the Mona Lisa’s face likely influenced the line in You Love Us: “throw some acid into your face.”

A slight diversion here but Die Brücke weren’t the only 20th century European art movement which influenced the Manic Street Preachers in their early days. The Situationists love affair with the art of The Slogan also rubbed off on them somewhat. It’s easy to draw parallels between the slogans the band scrawled across their clothes in the early days with the slogans which the Situationist International scrawled upon walls throughout Paris of 1968. Something like “BOMB THE PAST”, written on one of Richey Edwards shirts in ’91, isn’t dissimilar to something like “AFTER ART, GOD IS DEAD” by the Situationists.

While Stay Beautiful quoted Burroughs’ friend & peer Allen Ginsberg, form his epic Beat Poem Howl!

Moloch whose Soul is electricity and banks!
Moloch whose Poverty is the specter of Genius
Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless oxygen
Moloch whose name is the Mind. Robot apartments

Allen Ginsberg, Howl! (1954-1955)

These sections from Howl! about Moloch are pure Manics. Moloch [from Wikipedia] “is the biblical name of a Canaanite god associated with child sacrifice, through fire or war.” Ginsberg was drawing connections between death, war, child sacrifice & relentless march of technology & modern society. While not directly pro-communist, it’s difficult to argue that Howl! isn’t anti-Capitalist. “A cloud of sexless oxygen” seems to me, to be one of the most beautifully poetic descriptions of boredom I’ve ever heard.

This quotational diarrhoea, while being hugely appealing to a 13/14/15 year old version of me, was a bit of a red flag for the band’s well meaning, left leaning but confused ideology. This same confusion/contradiction was as visible in the band’s music & artwork too. Musically, & You Love Us is a prime example of this, Manic Street Preachers didn’t know whether they wanted to be Punk or Hair-Metal. Songs were short, aggressive & spiky but James Dean Bradfield’s excellent singing voice & virtuoso guitar playing often lent them a ‘big Rock’ sound which seemed to shave against the grain of the Punk lyrics & rhythms. Most songs included the ‘big Rock’ moment: the impressive guitar solos which were inspired by the bands love & dedication to US hair-metallers Guns And Roses.

You Love Us seems to be a coalescence of these diverse influences & confused ideologies. There is a preoccupation with sin in You Love Us, “we are not your sinners/our voices are for real.” To sin is to be inauthentic in their minds. The latter line has an uncomfortable (& prescient) relationship with the infamous “4Real” incident. In a strangely 2020 couplet at the beginning of the second verse “’til I see love in statues/your lessons drill inherited sin.” This could almost have been written for the ‘controversy’ surrounding the destruction by protestors of statues to infamous slave traders & Confederate generals. “Inherited sin” in this case being the slave trade, the uncomfortable & shameful foundation stone supporting much of modern, western society.

There are lines which seem to express frustration with Neoliberalism (Thatcher was still in power & Reagan had only recently being replaced by Bush senior when these lyrics were written) “PR problems,” “Parliament” being a “fake life saver” & poisoning “mineral water” (a drink associated with the Yuppy movement in the early ’90’s) “with a strychnine taste.”

The other thing the Manics were unable to escape during their early years was The War. The Second World War, that is. The Holocaust in particular. The “Death Mask uniforms” of the first verse are a pretty clear reference to the skull-logo of the SS, including senior staff of concentration camps & use of the word “holocaust” itself in the second pre-chorus.

& then the final piece of the puzzle is the self-centred arrogance of the songs title itself. The Manic Street Preachers were famously arrogant in their early days. At least in the press. It was obviously all an act & designed to get good press, but it informed this song heavily. “We won’t die of devotion,” they sing in the first pre-chorus, “understand we can never belong.” Is this a hint of resignation, pessimism? Admission that they will fail at their stated plan: to sell 16 million copies of Generation Terrorists & then split up completely. This hyperbolic bravado certainly succeeded in garnering masses of attention from the music press, so job done in my opinion.

The Masses Against The Classes (2000)

“Went to Cuba to meet Castro…” Manic Street Preachers meeting Fidel Castro, 2001

Before discussing The Masses Against The Classes in any detail, it’s worth noting a cool piece of Rock n Roll trivia. The Masses Against The Classes was the first new UK number 1 single of the 21st century. It’s a hell of an achievement & one which the Manic Street Preachers will always hold over their detractors.

The Masses Against The Classes (named for a quote by 19th century British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone) was described in terms of a return to an earlier version of the Manic Street Preachers. Writing in NME, Victoria Segal described it as “an attempted return to the primordial punk slime of their birth.” Journalist Martin Power likened it to the “raucous, guitar-driven […] Pop-Punk” of Nirvana’s On A Plain. Nicky Wire claimed they wanted an “Iggy & The Stooges vibe.” It’s important to remember that The Masses Against The Classes was released in the wake of their commercial peak: the polemic powered proletarian Rock of Everything Must Go which bled into the chart-bothering late-’90’s Indie Pop of This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours.

This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours, named for a quote by the great Labour politician Nye Bevan, came dangerously close to falling into the beige subgenre of late-90’s Indie where you’d find things like The Verve, Travis, Coldplay etc. Despite the slowed down, polished up sheen of This Is My Truth, it still provided the band with some of the most compelling music of their career. Lead single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, with its flanged guitar chords & dense keyboard soundscapes, became (probably) the first UK number one single to address fighting Fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

The Indie music press, though, had written the Manics off as just another commercially successful band in the sea of beige. Contemporaries of Chris Martin & co. So, The Masses Against The Classes was seen as a rebuttal of that safe, smooth image. It was supposed to be a roar of anger against the band’s detractors & a reassuring gesture for fans that they may have lost (or come close to losing) in the post-Richey years. It is a downtempo, heavy guitar driven slice of Alternative Rock. The Nirvana comparisons are probably about spot on. The “ahh ahh ahhh ahhhh” intro is a nice enough throwback to the early days of Rock n Roll (specifically the Beatles version of Twist And Shout), which was obviously on their mind a lot at the time because one of the b-sides was a cover of Chuck Berry’s Rock And Roll Music.

Lyrically, The Masses Against The Classes feels a little shallow at first glance, especially fresh from listening to You Love Us with its dense web of references. It is however bookended by a pair of quotes. The song opens with a quote from American dissident linguist Noam Chomsky: “The country was founded on the principle that the primary role of the government is to protect property from the majority, and so it remains.” Stick a heavy reverb on that & we’d almost be in Choking Victim/Leftover Crack territory. The song closes with James Dean Bradfield screaming out an Albert Camus quote: “The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown.” The choice of quotes seems to muddy the waters of what the song is about rather than offer any clarity. This is compounded by the quotations printed on the record sleeve. Mao Tse-Tung on the 10″ vinyl (“We should support whatever the enemy opposes and oppose whatever the enemy supports.”) & Kierkegaard on the CD (“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be read forwards.”). Profound these quotes may be, but it’s hard to tie them into The Masses Against The Classes lyrical content.

“Hello it’s us again,” the opening line states, “we’re still so in love with you.” I suspect that the “us” here is the same “us” that “you” loved back in ’92. This backs up the idea that The Masses Against The Classes is reaching out to lapsed (or betrayed) fans in some way. “You” can still love “us” because “we’re still so in love with you.” It’s quite simple & transparent. On the nose. I personally miss the opacity of earlier lyrics, like You Love Us. To confuse things slightly though, the end of the first verse seems to insult the same lapsed fans they were just trying to appeal to: “You thought you were our friends/ Success is an ugly word/Especially in your tiny world.” Even in transparency, the Manics embrace contradiction.

The chorus is also quite contradictory. “The masses against the classes/I’m tired of giving a reason/When the future is what we believe in.” In the final chorus, the song echoes You Love Us completely by declaring that “we’re the only thing left to believe in.” I take from these lyrics that the band are becoming increasingly uncomfortable in explaining their politics. It’s a classic dilemma of the left. Left-wing politics based on theory, history & dialectical analysis. By contrast, right-wing politics appeals to nothing other than greed, selfishness & hate. There is no future through Neoliberalism. The masses should, logically, be always against the classes because that’s the only way they have a future. The band are tired of “giving a reason” why they’re “against the classes.” They believe in the future, that’s why. The final lines of the chorus seem to me to be a bit of copy/paste Manics mythology trivia. I distinctly remember (although have failed utterly to find) an interview in which the band state that they prefer winter to summer. The reasoning, as I recall, was along similar lines to “we love the winter/It brings us closer together.”

I’m fairly certain that the first part of the second verse is addressing the absent Richey Edwards. “So can you hurt us anymore/Can you feel like it was before/Or are you lost forever more/Messed up and dead on alcohol.” This is addressing the pain which his disappearance caused the band. There’s a probing quality, like a tongue poking at an aching tooth. Will this return to our roots hurt? Will it bring back the pain of your loss all over again? The second couplet addresses Edwards’ reliance on alcohol & wonders aloud if he’s dead or alive. The second half of the verse feeds back into the You Love Us continuation. “Hello, fond farewell my dears/I hope you hear this nice and clear/Our love is unconditional/Our hate is yours to feed upon.” Is the “fond farewell” a signalling of the end of the original version of the Manic Street Preachers? The Punkier, angrier nihilists who wrote You Love Us & Motown Junk? It seems to read that way to me, though their following album, 2001’s Know Your Enemy, included several rawer, Punkier songs, like lead single Found That Soul.

Let’s Go To War (2014)

“…here in my safe European home…” Manic Street Preachers, 2014

Let’s Go To War is the only song in the secret trilogy to not have been released as a single. It is also the one I am least familiar with. As a fan, I was left slightly disappointed by the scrappy effort that was 2001’s Know Your Enemy, & I lost touch with the band for a long time. I remember someone playing me Lifeblood & I enjoyed it, but it didn’t excite me the way their older material did. Recently, I have decided to try & catch up with everything they’ve released since Know Your Enemy. Futurology is definitely the highlight of the bunch. Recorded at the legendary Hansa Studios in Berlin (of Bowie/Iggy fame) & channelling a love of European culture & music, Futurology is thought of by many to be ‘their Krautrock album’. That’s a little simplistic & inaccurate though. While it’s clearly inspired by Krautrock, Futurology is still very much the Manic Street Preachers we know & love.

The influences actually do a lot to bring the percussion to the front of the composition process, making Futurology, perhaps, Sean Moore’s album; his time to really shine. The motorik, propellant beat of Let’s Go To War is definitely aided by having as accomplished a stickman as Moore on the drums. The walking bass & steady drumming almost bring to mind Faith No More’s powerful We Care A Lot to mind. There’s even a little guitar lick before the chorus which is eerily similar to a certain slap bass lick from We Care A Lot. Not to mention the similar choruses, composed from the same number of words & syllables. I sort of wish I hadn’t noticed that similarity.

Lyrically, Let’s Go To War seems to be almost resigned to a coming conflict. One which was both anticipated in the lyrics to You Love Us & The Masses Against The Classes, & which the Manics hoped to avoid. It’s almost like spending all of your time & resources trying to win elections, to save lives through official/proper channels, only to realise that you’ll actually have to build those guillotines & spill a little blood after all, even though avoiding that was the entire reason for your legitimate campaign.

The song lists things, in the first verse, which could be references to the legitimate campaign & the hostile opposition it faced. “All the complications/All the deviations/All the holy edicts/All the broken subjects.” James Dean Bradfield sounds almost defeated in this verse, downhearted, downcast. There’s a sense of resignation. That things are not getting better. & then you have the Faith No More lick which leads into the chanted chorus of “Let’s go to war.” “To feel some pureness and some pain […] we need to go to war again,” it continues. This certainly seems to me to be the resignation I mentioned before.

The second verse, which speaks of “working class skeletons” which “lie scattered in museums” seems to be addressing the futility of war, as well as the reality of it; that those who do the killing & the dying are from the working classes. The First World War is often viewed as mechanised slaughter of the working classes by a cabal, on each side, of bloodthirsty toffs. The “false economies” which “speak falsely of your dreams” are both the justification & the rewards of war. And all of these ‘rewards’ generally go to the rich. The “working class skeletons” rarely, if ever, see any benefits from the wars they fight in.

In the bridge section of the song we get a continuation from The Masses Against The Classes. An affirmation that despite all of the “knives they will now sharpen,” the Manics still love you. “So don’t forget we love you still,” James sings. It repeats through echoes several times, as if to underline the point. The point being that You Love Us & we love you.

& that, I believe is what the secret trilogy of Manic Street Preachers songs is about. Love & War. They love us, hope/want us to love them & will both lead us & stand by us in the vaguely defined war. Another takeaway is that despite their blurred & confused ideology, the Manics definitely mean what they say & say what they mean. Even if they don’t understand it. Or know how to properly articulate it.

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
Funk Literature Poetry Song of the Day

Song of the Day (BLM): Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Day 1 of using Song of the Day to celebrate African American music culture in solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement & support for the protests against racist police violence currently gripping America & the solidarity protests taking place all over the globe.

Gil Scot-Heron’s revolutionary poetry, set to a live funk band backing track, was one of the fundamental building blocks of Hip-Hop. Scathingly political, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, chronicles an imaginary uprising and skewers countless sacred cows of American culture.

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
And skip out for beer during commercials, because
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you
By Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle
And leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams, and Spiro Agnew
To eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theatre
And will not star Natalie Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because
The revolution will not be televised, brother

There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mae
Pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide that color TV into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not be able predict the winner
At 8:32 on report from twenty-nine districts
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young
Being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still lifes of Roy Wilkins
Strolling through Watts in a red, black, and green liberation jumpsuit
That he has been saving for just the proper occasion

“Green Acres”, “Beverly Hillbillies”, and “Hooterville Junction”
Will no longer be so damn relevant
And women will not care if Dick finally got down with Jane
On “Search for Tomorrow”
Because black people will be in the street looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock news
And no pictures of hairy armed women liberationists
And Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb or Francis Scott Keys
Nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash
Engelbert Humperdinck, or The Rare Earth
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be right back
After a message about a white tornado
White lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a dove in your bedroom
The tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight germs that may cause bad breath
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat

The revolution will not be televised
Will not be televised
Will not be televised
Will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run, brothers
The revolution will be live

Stuck for something to listen to. Here’s a playlist of the Song of the Day (BLM) series.

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
Facebook Challenges Literature

10 days/10 books Facebook challenge

After enjoying the 10 days/10 albums Facebook challenge, I was pleased to be nominated for the 10 days/10 books challenge. I really tried hard here, to think of the books which have had significant effects on my reading habits. I started with the first book I remember been introduced to by my first secondary school English teacher. In hindsight (which is 20/20), I should have perhaps included both The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend & Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl. I remember been particularly fond of these two book during my time at primary school.

Note: The cover images presented here are from the editions I personally read (or read first in cases where I’ve read them multiple times).

Further Note: I have not included any poetry in this list as I interpreted the challenge to mean 10 novels. I am now considering a 10 days/10 poems challenge too.

Day 1: Truckers by Terry Pratchett

I remember being given this to read in year seven by my English teacher, whose name I cannot remember. It was an excellent introduction to the worlds of Terry Pratchett (despite being in a different universe to his hugely popular Discworld series). I don’t remember the details of the book particularly well, which is not surprising as it was around 26-27 years ago that I read it, but I do remember taking the sequel, Diggers, out of the library and then the disappointment that they didn’t have the third and final instalment Wings. I remember ordering Wings and it taking several weeks to arrive. It was in these several weeks that I gave The Colour of Magic a try and my intense love for Pratchett’s works was cemented.

Day 2: Glue by Irvine Welsh

Glue is a book set in the same universe as Welsh’s Trainspotting, which was adapted into an incredibly successful film in the mid ‘90’s. Several Trainspotting characters make small cameos or are mentioned in conversation between other characters. The book follows a group of four lads over four decades and chronicles their friendship through the good times and the bad. The book, like other Irvine Welsh books I’ve read, is written in a combination of standard British English & Scots. This was my first introduction to Scots, and I was surprised to learn that it is recognised as an independent language, distinct from English. It feels familiar enough to read to English speakers because it originates from the same precursor languages and uses the same grammatical structures & systems. I even find myself, after reading a Welsh novel, thinking in Scots for a few weeks.

Day 3: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

When I was a teenager my mum was convinced that I’d like Stephen King and wanted me to try one of his books. She was aware of my love for Science Fiction and thought that this bizarre Sci-Fi/Horror mashup might be the perfect gateway for me into the hyperdetailed worlds that Stephen King creates. She wasn’t wrong. I was instantly won over by the creeping terror of the progressive mutations caused by exposure to the spaceship and the delightfully ramshackle creations that, main character Bobbi, makes out of junk and batteries. From dimensional teleport machines to “ray guns” made from children’s water pistols, I was blown away by King’s imagination. I have particularly vivid memories (and nightmares) about the sentry robot she creates from a Coca-Cola vending machine, particularly the scene where it kills a man by repeatedly throwing itself at him until he is dead. Covered in gore from the murder, the vending machine continues with its patrol. Horrifying.

Day 4: Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac

I’d already read On the Road, and it could very well have made this list, but I think Desolation Angels both stuck with me and influenced my own art more. I loved the bleak but inviting loneliness of the start of the book as Kerouac is writing about his time as a fire lookout on the peak of Mount Desolation. The isolation seemed to be tempered nicely by the immense natural beauty. I almost envied him, if I’m honest. After the lookout section, Kerouac details his various adventures catching up with his friends in the beat scene (albeit thinly veiled by pseudonyms and the occasional slip up which both Kerouac & the editors missed) like William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady & Gregory Corso.

Day 5: Roadside Picnic by Boris & Arkady Strugatsky

Roadside Picnic is a dark and gritty sci-fi novel which introduced some amazing new tropes & archetypes to science fiction. Most importantly, the profession of the Stalker. The stalker is a person who, legally or illegally (illegally in the case of Roadside Picnic’s main character, Red Schuhart), spends their time scavenging for exotic technology in ‘the Zone’. ‘The Zone’ is an area which was visited by an alien species and has now become infected by the visitation. Physics in ‘the Zone’ do not match the physics of the outside world and the aliens have left many artefacts behind which Stalkers can sell for a lot of money. Their profession is both illegal & profitable. The idea of a Stalker has been used in various other media such as the videogames of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series (which transposes the alien visitation to a post-incident Chernobyl) & the novel’s in the Metro series by Dmitry Glukhovsky (which are perhaps better known for the spinoff series of videogames). The 1979 film Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, is loosely based on the novel, with a screenplay written by the Strugatsky brothers.

Day 6: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

This drug-fuelled rampage across the Nevada desert and Las Vegas was an eye-opening book for me. I had already seen the Terry Gilliam movie starring Johnny Depp & Benicio del Toro when I read the book. I read the book in one night with no sleep. I can neither confirm nor deny that I was high on LSD at the time. I may or may not have taken it before going to stay over at my then-girlfriend’s house. As we were quite young and she lived with her parents, we slept in separate rooms and I may or may not have been incredibly ‘up’ from the LSD. Left alone in her room I found Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas on her bookshelf and my love for Thompson began. It was an intense night; I don’t mind admitting.

Day 7: Time by Stephen Baxter

Time is the first book in the Manifold Space trilogy. This cosmic tale is pretty high concept stuff. Genetically engineered, super intelligent squid to pilot spacecraft; network of portals which carry people between universes; universes evolved stars to turn into black holes, which is how universes reproduce; universes without blackholes are evolutionary dead ends; “Feynman radio”, which can pick up signals sent backwards through time from the far future; last vestiges of life in the universe clinging on amid the heat death by farming energy from black holes.

This book was a huge influence on the music and poetry I was creating at the time I made it and this poem is just one of many which this book inspired.

Day 8: Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

This terrifying look into the mind of a heroin addict is dark and uncomfortable to read. It is, however, also a pleasure to read. The stream of consciousness effect is used to brutal effect here and it explores the main theme through a broken, twisted, almost sci-fi narrative. Legend stated that as Burroughs was typing Naked Lunch in his apartment in Tangier, he just threw each finished page on the floor. Later when Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg & Allan Ansen visited him, they helped him organise these typewritten pages in to the 200-page Interzone manuscript, which eventually became Naked Lunch.

This was part of the legendary Word Hoard which also went on to provide raw material for The Nova Trilogy.

Day 9: The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F Hamilton

The Reality Dysfunction is the 1200+ page first volume of an epic trilogy. This is where space opera and hard sci-fi collide, head on. This is a book about colonising new worlds, sentient & organic living star ships, salvage of extinct races, cyberization and a mish mash of all of the sci-fi tropes you know and love, particularly the “scruffy looking nerf herder” smuggler/salvage agent lead character. The central plot revolves around the mysterious origins of a long extinct (or at least vanished) alien civilisation and what it means for us, humanity. There is an event which all of alien races encountered in the novel have been through which humanity is only just beginning to experience. Any more information than that would constitute spoilers.

Day 10: Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

In a near future, where the world is run by a computer known as THE MECHANISM, violent crime is non-existent. Humanity, with Africa as the world’s leading superpower, has repaired the climate and begun to colonise much of the solar system. The central characters journey to Mars in this book was incredibly influential to me. I wrote & performed a conceptual piece of electronic music about it in 2013, at a community music event with the theme of “journeys”. I found the imagery of the several month trip in cryosleep and the Martian railroad particularly evocative, basing the two longest sections on those sequences in the book. It’s a rare example of a science fiction novel with no real violence and only mild scenes of personal conflict. A positive future, a near utopia (albeit with a dark undertone) which makes a refreshing change in a genre crowded with dystopias.

Images courtesy of Goodreads

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
Folk Literature Music Poetry

“False Prophet” – Bob Dylan

My review of Bob Dylan’s new single, False Prophet.

With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Despite late-night speculation over on my Blog a couple of nights ago, Dylan today released a new single, not an album. He did, however, confirm via a Tweet that his new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, will be released on 19th June.

“False Prophet” follows Dylan’s current trend for sparse, minimal arrangements but the sound palette is very different. Consisting of a snarling, overdriven guitar and more rock-style drumming, “False Prophet” has a sleazy, blues-rock vibe, calling to mind smoke-filled pool halls and bourbon on the rocks.

Lyrically, Dylan seems to be denying that he is the titular false prophet while framing himself as a kind of underdog hero. He declares himself “the enemy of treason” and boldly declares “you girls mean business and I do too”. He’s “first among equals/second to none/last of the best/you can bury the rest”. A sliver of the carefully choreographed arrogance of the early…

View original post 570 more words

Categories
Folk Literature Music Poetry

Has Bob Dylan just teased his next album?

Edit: initially published 2am, 8th May 2020. Republished after technical issues

Bob Dylan has tweeted what many believe to be the cover art for his impending new album. If this speculation is correct then Dylan’s new album will be called False Prophets. This is presumably a clap-back to when the late Pope John Paul called Dylan “the wrong kind of prophet” in 1997. Obviously, the gutter press at the time printed headlines like “Pope calls Dylan False Prophet”.

If, as some believe, the album is scheduled to drop tonight then we can expect to see it at 9pm Pacific time. This is around 5am here in the U.K. so I’ll be finding out when I wake up tomorrow.

Following the release earlier this year of two new singles, the 17-minute epic Murder Most Foul & minimalist folk ballad I Contain Multitudes, a new album does seem likely.

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
Art Literature Music Videogames Visual

Cultural Significance in Art (Part 1)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the cultural significance of art and what gives a piece of art the kind of longevity enjoyed by the works of people like Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dickens, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso and others. I’m wondering a lot about the art that has been produced since the millennium and if that art is worthy of things like Guernica or Macbeth.

Picasso’s Guernica. Image from Encyclopaedia Brittanica

I have recently studied the concept of creativity from a linguistic standpoint and feel like this may be, subconsciously, why I have been thinking about this. My study materials offered a definition of creativity which I found useful. The introduction to the block of study titled “Language, Creativity & Humour” states that:

“for something to be creative, it must be:

  1. novel
  2. appropriate to the task at hand
  3. considered to be of high quality.”

So, this gives us a functional definition of what creativity is but assigns no level of significance or importance to it. Is, for example, Banksy’s Love is in the Bin (the self-shredding framed print which sold at Sotheby’s for £860,000) more, less or equally as important as Petscop, the mysterious Playstation game Let’s Play YouTube series? The Banksy piece is more likely to be thought of as culturally significant by those educated in art, but Petscop uses modern technologies (Playstation, coding, YouTube) in novel ways which are “appropriate to the task at hand” and the cult-like following, or fandom, on forums such as Reddit and YouTube certainly perceive it to be of high quality. Saying that, by incorporating a shredder into the frame of Love is in the Bin, Banksy too used technology in a novel manner.


Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

How much of a factor in this is marketability? As previously noted, the Banksy piece managed to fetch £860,000 from obviously wealthy art collectors. Petscop, meanwhile, made by one person who had an idea for a mystery story and the skills to make it work, didn’t make any money as it was just released to the public free of charge. This reinforces observations I have made (and heard discussed in various media) about working class voices being frozen out of the arts. Working class people cannot afford to take the time, let alone the materials, to create engaging and well thought out pieces of art. This, however, is a topic for a different discussion.

The reason I chose these two pieces to discuss is because they are both very recent. Petscop ran between 2017 and 2019 while the Banksy piece was made in 2018.

People in the 21st century appear very reluctant to assign cultural significance to art, myself included. I can only think of a small number of pieces which I find possess that strange quality which lends cultural significance to something. I intend to write more about this going forward but, for now, here are some of the pieces of art made since the start of the 21st Century which I feel have enough cultural significance to carry them forward into the future in the same way as a Shakespeare play.

Petscop (2017-2019)

Petscop is a gripping mystery told through a new artistic medium: the YouTube Let’s Play video. The story goes that the narrator, Paul, found an old PlayStation game (with an important note) and decided to record his playthrough. What starts out as a colourful ad childlike game about catching pets soon turns into a dark and sinister mystery involving murder, child abuse and allusions to real life crimes. The series ran for 3 years and the creator, Tony (@pressedeyes on Twitter), planned, developed, coded, scripted and performed the whole thing. He even built that actual game (using it to record the videos rather than merely animating them) from scratch, using only technology and styles which would have been available for a PlayStation game.

Bob Dylan – Murder Most Foul (2020)

Released at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in the US & UK, Murder Most Foul is both a poetic retelling of the assassination of JFK and a mournful goodbye to post-war age we appear to be finally exiting. I wrote a review of this when it was released on With Just A Hint Of Mayhem.

Undertale (2015)

Undertale is a videogame that I am still playing but I am already convinced of it’s status as a masterpiece. I am already blogging about it regularly:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Going forward with this series of posts, I will consider other pieces and if they fit into this ideal or not. An important thing to consider is that the evolution of the technologies we use to produce art & entertainment will force us to not only create art in different ways but also give us more things to express and address in our art.

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
Literature Poetry

Mayakovsky, A SLAP IN THE FACE OF PUBLIC TASTE

A SLAP IN THE FACE OF PUBLIC TASTE is the 1912 manifesto for the Russian Futurist movement. The word ‘manifesto’ is intended to be used loosely. I love the abstract poetic feeling of it, personally. Ive encountered it published, as a poem, in a collection of Mayakovsky poetry. At least 50% of my motivation for buying this particular volume was the glorious collage style cover artwork. It gives me  something of the feel of a punk or indie rock fanzine. The writing too resembles my ideal, stylistically speaking, of an imaginary punk fanzine writer if they were writing in the dying years of Tsarist Russia.

Written in the style of an open letter to society at large and, more specifically, to the art world, A SLAP IN THE FACE OF PUBLIC TASTE is a hugely influential and important piece of literature. I particularly appreciate the demand to honour the “rights of poets” and the humorous broadside against Maxim Gorky etc. As explained in the footnote below, the writers were on good terms with the Futurists and the broadside was received with good humour.

That footnote from the first image:




Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
History Literature Politics

Contemporarily relevant dialogue by Chernyshevsky

“Your books say that we’re not supposed to live like this. Don’t you think I know that, Verochka? But in those books of yours it says that in order not to live like this, everything has to be organized differently; now, no one can live any other way. So why don’t they hurry up and set up a new order? Hey, Verochka, do you think I don’t know anything about those new systems described in your books? I know they’re good ones. Only you and I won’t live to see them! People are really stupid—how can you set up a new system with the likes of them? So let’s keep on living in the old order. That includes you! What sort of a system is it? Your books say that the old order is one of filching and fleecing. That’s true, Verochka. So if there’s no new order, let’s live by the old: filch and fleece. I’m telling you all this because I love you, becau . . . zzzz.”

Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What Is To Be Done?

Let us remember though, with the looming environmental collapse, we are on a deadline. If we don’t introduce new systems and ways of doing things soon, it will be too late. We are literally on a deadline here. Planet Earth cannot sustain capitalist models of society any longer, that is the only certainty we have now.

Let us “filch and fleece” no more. A kinder gentler world is not only possible. It is imperative.

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
Literature Music Poetry

David Berman Interview and Pics

On August 7th of 2019, Indie rock poet laureate and enigmatic Silver Jews frontman David Berman took his own life. For years previous he’d struggled with what he referred to as “treatment” resistant depression. A particularly sad aspect of his suicide is that a month earlier, on July 12th, Berman had made a triumphant return to the indie limelight with a new album from a new project under the name of Purple Mountains. This followed a ten-year hiatus following the dissolution of Silver Jews in 2009 after the release of their final album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea in 2008.

Purple Mountains is a particularly bleak record. His depression, the death of his mother and recent separation from wife, Cassis Berman, all explored in forensic and often uncomfortable detail. Despite this, he seemed to have benefited from cathartic release of all of these pent-up emotions and was even looking forward to the upcoming tour in the August of 2019.

His suicide was felt keenly by the indie rock world. J Mascis, of Dinosaur Jr, succinctly tweeted “Fucking Shit, come on man this is BullShit” alongside a photo of Berman. Others, like Kurt Vile, Cat Power wrote long, thought provoking pieces about how much of an inspiration he was. Former Silver Jews members, Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich also tweeted in remembrance of their friend.

In June, he gave an interview to the Kreative Kontrol podcast, linked here. Berman gives a candid interview in which he discusses his father (ultra-conservative, union-busting lobbyist, Richard Berman), his depression, bereavement of his mother, separation and much more. Despite the subject matter, he sounds upbeat and optimistic about the future, especially in regard to his upcoming tour. If you have time, and you’re a fan, I strongly suggest listening to the interview as it is incredibly insightful and comforting to hear him sound almost comfortable with himself.

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00

Categories
Literature Politics

Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? – Bureaucratic bungling

The extraordinary circumstances surrounding the publication (and circumvention of censorship) of a landmark in 19th century subversive Russian literature.

In late 1862 Chernyshevsky asked the prison commandant for permission to begin work on a novel. His request granted, he set to work and produced the entire novel within four months, between December 14, 1862, and April 4, 1863. The first part of the manuscript was then submitted to the prison censor, who, whether carelessly or for devious purposes, passed it and forwarded the manuscript to the censor of the journal Sovremennik. Passed again, the novel was sent to the journal’s editor, Nekrasov, who promptly lost it in a cab. He managed to recover the manuscript only after advertising in the official gazette of the St. Petersburg police. With what is perhaps the greatest irony of Russian letters, the novel that the police helped to retrieve turned out to be the most subversive and revolutionary work of nineteenth-century Russian literature. Its publication has aptly been called “the most spectacular example of bureaucratic bungling in the cultural realm during the reign of Alexander II.”

Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done? and the Russian Intelligentsia,
Michael R. Katz and William G. Wagner

Buy Tom a coffee?

Tom loves coffee. If you’ve enjoyed any of the content he’s created then please consider donating a few quid to buy him a cup.

£3.00