Tuesday, 15 April 2014

DEFINITELY MAYBE 33 1/3

Right folks, the campaign trail for this here Oasis book is starting to stammer into life, just as the 20th anniversary season approaches a point of scarcely creditable hysteria.

Apparently some North American readers are beginning to receive copies. Here's one pictured with a first edition of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov (thanks to the estimable David Soud for this):


(By the way, this is uncannily apt, as there's a quotation from the Brothers K on my epigraph page - if that seems incongruous, well, it's not, and I will tell you for why if you ask me.)

The media campaign is also up on the rails ...

Here's a comment piece published in the Guardian this weekend, which gives a hyper-condensed summary of the book's argument.

Meanwhile, a handful of speaking events have been scheduled, with more to follow. At the moment these are:

26 June, 2014, Rough Trade East, Brick Lane, London. Q&A with fellow 33 1/3 authors Pete Astor (Richard Hell's Blank Generation) and Darran Anderson (Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson).

14-17 August, 2014, Green Man Festival, Glanusk, Wales. Q&A with Agata Pyzik (author of the excellent Poor But Sexy). Details tbc.

1 October, 2014 (exact date tbc), Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London. Legacy of Britpop panel discussion featuring Owen Hatherley (author of Uncommon: An Essay on Pulp) and Rhian E. Jones (author of Clampdown: Pop-cultural Wars on Class and Gender).

More details as and when they come in. And if you'd like a review copy, or want to open high-level negotiations for an event/reading, do get in touch via the email address on the sidebar.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

SENSE AND SECTIONALITY


Reading Sterne's Sentimental Journey, I'm struck by how much its ethical guidebook for the haute bourgeoisie resembles our own RaceSexualityGender doxa. In both cases, morality is abstracted - and pseudo-systematised - through a series of jargon terms for the initiated. Whereas we have PoC, intersectionality, trigger warning, mansplaining, brocialism, the eighteenth century had sentiment, sensibility, nature, decorum, sympathy, etc.

In both cases, ethics becomes a kind of manneristic exercise to be perfected if one is to acquire maturity and attain the degree of cultivation required for social advancement (in the eighteenth century - the church, the court, the judiciary, the army; in our own time - academia, politics, the commentariat, and indeed any profession - ie. the vast majority - in which social liberalism is preached while the most punitive form of neoliberal economics is practiced).

The weakness of both systems is their largely performative aspect - using the appropriate terminology and adopting the correct standpoint today with regard to, say, sexuality, is precisely equivalent to eighteenth-century displays of sensibility (the gentleman doffing his cap or handing the young lady his handkerchief at exactly the right moment). The point is that these are what we might call courtly gestures - largely superficial acts of performance that attract applause and approbation in the short term and in the social foreground but do not extend substantially into the realm of actual social organisation. Indeed, in most cases, the former actively stands in for the latter.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

HOW HAS CAPITALISM GOT AWAY WITH THE FINANCIAL CRISIS, AND WHY IS POLITICS SCARED OF IDEAS?

Bit of a late one this, but if you're in central London tonight you could do a lot worse than come along to this event, which I'm speaking at alongside Mark Fisher, Rhian E. Jones, Dan Taylor, and Tariq Goddard.

Event info:

Wednesday 19th March, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, Committee Room 8, House of Commons

Thursday, 27 February 2014

RUINED MILLS OF LEEK


A ballad
(21st-century North)
 

We drove by the ruined mills of Leek
In the dead time of the year
When the land had become like a faded song
We could no longer hear.

Down where the mouldering sandstone world
Of the Potteries blends with the weeds,
Where the warehouses echo with wandering winds
And the enmity gathers in beads,




Where the reservoirs seep to the mere of stars
And the sick are annulled in the night, 
I was someone who failed like a light going out
In a dream on the edge of sight;




Where the powerful cling to their juggernaut arks
And the cities are sunken and bare,
I was someone who failed like a tumbling tower
On the edge of a kingdom of air.


We drove by the ruined mills of Leek
In the dead days of the year
When the land had become like a faded song
We could no longer hear.

Monday, 3 February 2014

MORE SUBLIMATION OF THE SOAR

Now this is what I mean when I get steamy about 2010s pop ...


Man called Futurebound ffs.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

INTERSECTIONALITY OF THE GUT


There's been a lot of debate about intersectionality recently. But all too often, it seems to me, what's being termed intersectionality is little more than a classic ascetic-deconstructive manoeuvre, a way of saying: okay, your argument is all very well and good, but you haven't given sufficient attention to x, and here's a more sophisticated, more rigorous turn of the screw, and another, and so on ad infinitum. Some might view this positively, as dialectical ratiocination, or simply a necessary way of conducting intelligent debate. But right now, in the current moment, in the context of the omnishambles that is the contemporary left, I think these sorts of movements are invariably negative and paralysing.

What is more (and I think this is partly why it took me so long to understand what intersectionality actually is), what's being left out a lot of the time is the "inter" part of the formulation. Invocations of the intersectional credo are most often made along the lines of emphasising - either explicitly, or implicitly through the virulence of their expression - the interests of a single section, a single ideological category. Debate then gets swallowed up by warring capitalised mega-interests - Anti-Racism, Anti-Sexism, Anti-Homophobia, or binary or triadic compounds of the same - which of course very few people in their right minds (on the left at least) would ever really consciously oppose, but which have a tendency to be affirmed in the context of frequently absurdist melodramas of debate in which people who are quite obviously in general agreement become violently opposed to each other on grounds of super-subtle sectional difference.

How, then, can intersectionality be used more positively? I think that, when we look at something like the above picture, we all know instinctively, and with a visceral certainty that relegates debate to the level of relative meaninglessness. Yes, the picture tells us, this person is undoubtedly racist. But she is also anti-feminist, pro-capitalist, and (literally) perched on the pinnacle of a system in which the labour of millions is used to furnish the airbrushed propaganda of new neoliberal Tsars and Tsarinas who differ from their pre-twentieth century predecessors only in a smattering of infinitesimal ways.

The really effective response to this picture should not be banal cries of racism of the kind that we hear from the liberal press (and which Zhukova can try to refute on the grounds that she, as a bien pensant social-liberal-of-sorts, is interested in sponsoring "anti-racist" artworks). Rather, horrors like this should provoke the counterposition of a holistic, socialist, ethical critique in which anti-racism scarcely has to be invoked because it is so obviously an integral part of a wider anti-capitalist, anti-hierarchical movement. Real intersectionality must mean the integration of sectional interests until they need to be emphasised in a sceptical, disintegrative manner only in rare instances.

At the present moment, we need a socialism of the gut way more than we need more hyperbolically nuanced debate. If we can't grasp this and act on it before getting sidetracked into endless deconstructive caveatising, then the left really is doomed to repeat the failures of last half-century, if it even makes it through to the next decade.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

POSTMODERNIST REDUX

Further to this debate about retromania (see below, here and here), there's a very interesting article by James Parker and Nicholas Croggon over at Tiny Mix Tapes, which widens the discussion into an attack on contemporary music crit as a whole.

There's a lot of very tasty stuff there, and the article is strongest I think in pointing to a sort of endemic, half-unconscious historicism right across the board in music writing from Rolling Stone to The Wire.

However, I don't quite get the conclusion:

So, the lesson of Cage, Eno, and now vaporwave, Belbury Poly, and even (if read critically) Daft Punk is that history need not be conceived of as an endless hurtling into the future. Indeed, the important thing about these musics is that they not only concern history, but assume a critical position in relation to it — they both critique certain conceptions of history and offer new ones.

Firstly, there's the obvious fact that a group like Belbury Poly is surely the epitome of retromania in its hauntological mode (and I don't buy the argument in the piece that it "makes us question our sense of nostalgia" - maybe it can, but to do so you have to run it pretty hard against itself, because I reckon most people get off on the nostalgia way more than they enjoy the implicit critique).

Also, and relatedly, I'm not sure from these examples (and from the examples of Malevich and Duchamp) what is being held up as a more positive kind of art. In fact, it seems to me - and the authors' use of the word "timeless" is a tell-tale sign here - that what is being avowed is essentially a very specific mid-twentieth century lineage of postmodernist art, the high-art canon of the last few decades of post-modern, post-ideological neoliberal orthodoxy if you like. "Black Square" and 4'33" were indeed modernistic steps forward of a kind, but they were also endpoints for modernism itself, transition works that helped to usher in the postmodern period (of which "retromania" is merely a latter-day extenuation).

As such, and taken together with the argument against time viewed as an "endless hurtling into the future", I don't really see that anything is ultimately said in the article beyond a restatement of the end of history ethos that the retromania argument takes as a starting point of its diagnosis.

What seems to be being rejected is the idea that art/music can make active, purposive (rather than passive) social interventions that impinge upon democratic forward-movements, and I'm afraid we've had more than enough of that sort of thing for way too long now.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

THE SUBLIMATION OF THE SOAR


I was geet pleased to write one of the first Quietus Essays. File under strains of tentative futurism in 2010s pop.

Hopefully there's more good stuff to come in this new series.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 POP

This was the best year for the pop single I can remember:

10. Sky Ferreira, "You're Not the One"


9. Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"


8. Lana Del Rey, "Summertime Sadness" (Cedric Gervais Remix)


7. Pusha T, "Numbers on the Board"


6. Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"


5. Naughty Boy, "La La La"


4. Duke Dumont feat A*M*E, "Need You (100%)"


3. Rizzle Kicks, "Lost Generation"


2. Lorde, "Royals"


1. Chvrches, "Gun"



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