Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Stunted by our early growth..."

The vocals are there immediately, something I'm not used to any more; a basic few-chord riff and rim-hits provide the only musical background, but are so innocuous you don't really notice; the voice is untrained and teenage, strangely foreign to my own deep-throat mutterings, but it gets more beautiful as its doubled by a girl's; I can't think of anyone I know personally who could sing like either of them, and it's not easy with my cloth-ear to make out the tripping words, but the line about playing "pass-the-parcel with human body parts" jogs me; the sudden whine of a violin, then bursting: a cascade of glockenspiel, insistent scrape and rhythms so digestible I wonder why I spent all that time listening to Wolf Eyes. The little line about "red stains/All over the place/But they're not blood, they're cherryade" was what first caught me: the magical taste of that stuff like forbidden fruit, that was only taken out at parties because it always made me hyper, like peyote in a shamanic ritual.

It's 'You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives', the first single by Los Campesinos!, a bunch of university students from Cardiff. Even though I got both sides free from their site, I've ordered the limited-edition-yellow-vinyl-with-free-gift-insert for the reasonable price of three pounds fifty. I almost have no idea why I did this, given I don't have a vinyl player and the damn thing was almost inaccessible - having come out on the Monday, by Wednesday it was almost sold out. And really, what's most ridiculous about it is the paucity of 'depth' - the arrangement is relatively complex, but... it all seems to be on the surface. There's nothing in the sound: you can't talk about frequencies or subtexts or 'psycho-aural alteration'. Well, I s'pose it'll have to be unconditional love, then.

It's hard not to love. The sheer exuberance, the sparkly wonder, the beauty of the massed voices on the chorus, the melancholy tinge in the line "It's your party/But I'll die if I want to" taking me back to drunken bitterness, the sheer utter humanity of it. It reminds of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, of all fucking things, but imagine if they were condensed down to two minutes from 21, and allowed to play only on toy instruments; of The Adverts, the Mekons, The Slits; of Beat Happening, Daniel Johnston and early Jandek; of the subterranean legacy of art brut; and, most of all, Bis and Kenickie.

I know all about the genealogy that stretches back to the near-mythical movement of '1997' (as David McNamee calls it in the new Plan B) but that implies evolution, ancestors. All I hear is a continuum of sound, of guitars and harmonies and sentiment - the scattered current bands formed in the shadow of '1997' (Help She Can't Swim, Das Wanderlust, Lonely Ghosts) sound like they could literally could have arrived at the same time as Xerox Girls, Period Pains, Disco Pistols, Dweeb and all the others. The sound is, in a certain way, all the same - there's a magic that cannot be grasped, that shines through the recordings, that makes them more than the sum of their parts. It's the sound of youth itself, picking up the primitive tools to hand and making what they want to; the jumping bursts of happiness and melancholy and scariness of youth, when everything small is invested with so much significance.

I don't know why exactly I'm writing about this: it can't be written about, it can't be analysed. I suppose it's at least partially because I wasn't there: I never did those things or felt those feelings. The shining enthusiasm and adventure is exotic to me, which explains the appeal; it's the undertow of melancholy that I feel I really connect with. The line on Kenickie's 'In Your Car' "I'm in heaven/I'm too young to feel so old" could have been written for me.

Perhaps I just feel it's one last chance, to claim what I never got: to jump and shout, to feel happy and sad. Help She Can't Swim and Los Campesinos! are playing dates in April. Bis are reforming for their tenth anniversary. Lauren Laverne's still alive. If those aren't reasons to be happy, I don't know what are.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I feel too... I don't know what - tired? Annoyed? Disgusted with myself? - to start Part 2 yet. I thought I'd leave some nice things to cheer you - and myself up.

Nottingham dubstep night w/ Virus Syndicate and Digital Mystikz:

Pt 1. of a This Heat performance from... it doesn't say. Check the link for the other two parts on Youtube.

And the only recent single able to actually cheer me up:

Please, for God's sakes, be happy.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bringing Down Babylon, Part 1

It is now 30 years since the year of Peak Punk: if 1976 was Year Zero, 1977 was Year One, as punk struggled to retain its autonomy and unity against the worst right-wing backlash in the 20th century. The country had struggled through '76 into the prelude to an apocalypse: to the right, punk signified a plague among the youth; to the punks, their future hung in the balance, with possibility and crushing failure both in sight. To the first-generation Rastas living in London, 1977 meant one thing: the total dissolution of Babylon on July 7th. It was widely held among the international Rasta community that - as set out in Culture's song 'Two Sevens Clash' - 1977 would mark the year when Jah, the Living God, would bring about the apocalypse set out in the Book of Revelations, smiting the unrighteous, dissolving the corrupt world and sending those worthy of it to the Eternal City of Zion.

Despite their obvious disagreements with Rasta - their love of 'sin' and lack of misogony - the punks crossed over with the Rasta culture to a great extent: Don Letts played roots at the Roxy; the Clash covered 'Police And Thieves'; John Lydon and Jah Wobble were both big fans of dub and roots reggae. There was an identification within punk of Rasta's position: its history of persecution, of being a dispossessed sub-culture, its black-and-white worldview and its sense of a coming apocalypse it is urging on. If Rasta saw Jamaican and Western culture, with its police brutality, useless government, rampant corruption and cold-hearted industrial capitalism, as Babylon, punk saw it also in the tower blocks, dole queues, police brutality and blackened towns of Britain.


Two years earlier, a 7" single was released in Jamaica. Produced by Augustus Pablo and mixed by Osbourne 'King Tubby' Ruddock, 'King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown' - the dub B-Side to Jacob Miller's 'Baby I Love You So' - was the zenith in the history of dub so far. It was so successful it was released in the UK via Trojan Records with 'King Tubby Meets...' on the A-Side.

The raw, oddly shuffling bass-and-drum rhythms and the otherworldly scraps of melodica and vocal snaking through the mix were absolutely mesmerising: it was a complete collapse of musical structure, the vocals of the author-narrator made into merely one textural element, the track's power derived from deviance rather than the precision of pop. At a time when pop music was so utterly manufactured, but claimed to centre around authenticity - the fake emoting of teen-pop, the earnest-and-boring explorations of prog - this was a subversive blow. Both soon-to-be-punks and British Jamaicans latched onto this music with the fervour of people grabbing water in a desert.

The cross-association between dub producers and roots musicians proved one of the most fertile musical patches of the 1970s for Jamaican music: mixing albums for Yabby You, The Ethiopians, Augustus Pablo, The Congos, Prince Far I, The Upsetters and so on, King Tubby, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Glen Brown, among others, created a body of work that prove a viral influence across the world.

King Tubby's protege, Scientist, once stated that his mission was to "bring down Babylon with nothing but a soundboard." The roots worldview was one of oppressed retaliation: the roots singers protested against Babylonian brutality, assaulting its values and violence, but called on Jah to do away with it in the final judgement; the Rastafarian use of ganja as a means of 'cosmic access' point to nothing other than that belief, that relying on the powers of God and holy Revelation was the only way to bring about the change. On the other hand, dub seemed to do something more powerful: it broke down the barriers of mysticism. By bringing into reality the sounds they would only otherwise hear as revelations - the collapse of musical structure in dub, the undulations and effects, matches the shifting of reality caused by ganja - dub brought into being what pious Rastas could only dream of in the future. Some of the most prominent dub mixers followed Rasta, and even those who weren't seemed to have an odd access of sound: Lee 'Scratch' Perry, if not a Rasta, has always had a rather cracked worldview that shows up in his music (his paintings on the wall of the former Black Ark were obsessed with the apocalyptic elements of Rasta theology); contemporaries of King Tubby were astonished he could think up the sounds he did without the help of narcotics. If another reality could be accessed, then this reality - the figment of Babylon - could be swept away. As Mark Stewart, Pop Group and On-U Sound member, said, "dub's destruction of a musical structure [is] a political as well as a musical statement. If you are going to question things lyrically, you should also question musical orthodoxy."


After 1976, everything seemed possible - at least in London. In the aftermath of the release of 'Anarchy In The UK', the punk subculture boiled to the surface, or leapt into view, into the sudden expanse of possibility offered by punk. It was, by its very nature, a contradiction, a riddle - the appearance of deadly earnestness in the service of sarcastic assaults - and as such, it was a blank, almost a tabula rasa. Anything could be projected into the void, and anything was: bands like The Adverts, The Mekons, X-Ray Spex, etc., were allowed to play, allowed even to be because of punk's liberating power. But this liberation came through a medium of destruction: as Nietzsche said, "In order to raise a new temple, a temple must be destroyed. That is the law." Punk's victory was one of the moment, claimed but not consolidated: they may have claimed anarchy, but the government still stood.

In 1977, the Callaghan government was close to collapse. In Britain, a country of rats, garbage, oppressive authority, rampant crime, IRA terrorism, mass unemployment, a country where socialism had turned into a sordid all-against-all culture where everyone blamed everyone else, the destructive, negationist urges of punk turned on the last remnants of the government. The Clash - alongside hundreds of other bands - released their first single, which codified their anger into the urge to start a revolution from the bottom up, not for freedom, but just for the hell of it; the B-Side picked up on the Rasta myth of "when the two sevens clash". In May, 'God Save The Queen' went to No. 1; in June, the Jubilee holiday itself, they played it on a boat floating down the Thames. July was pressing down. It must have looked like it really would be momentous, that there really was "no future in England's dreaming".

Fuck it, it sounds stupid to draw parallels between dub and punk, but they already existed. The punk subculture, at least during the utopian days of '76, was permeable to anyone who wanted to join, and this included many teens of Jamaican heritage who didn't fit into the culture of hard work their parents had come to Britain with. The viral influence of dub within the punk subculture was all too obvious to those who knew where to look: the covers of Jamaican tunes by punk bands, the DIY approach used by Jamaican labels; more importantly, the musical influence. Dub was, like punk, a musical blank, but one that, by its distorted nature, distorted what it touched; it was a musical assault of sorts, but a more low-key one, holding a sense of disorientation and freedom in the space in its grooves. Punk's negationist tendencies and musical brutality were mirrored by the warmth and positivity of dub - in both, negation created freedom, and music created negation. In 'Two Sevens Clash', Joseph Hill asks "what a liiv an bambaie [what will be left]/When the two sevens clash?" In the song, he envisions Babylon being swept away - and to him, in England, 1977, Babylon is "a housing scheme/That divide", the police, the horrors that punk sung about. It seems to be to be parallelled with the Lettrist/Situationist idea about the 'Northwest passage': a way out of the world of horror once and for all, to a world of untrammelled freedom - an idea already present in punk.

The bass shudders the walls; the drums hit like the bricks tumbling down; the sound of the patois like the moaning of the dying Nebuchanezzar.


Soon to come - part 2, in which things fall apart.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The pain... it's so wonderful

Thought I'd just leave you with a couple of things: the latest Mary Anne Hobbs show has an absolutely experimental metal mix by Vex'd vs Distance, as well as some wonderful dubstep, electronica and even some noise/gabba in the opening song.

Second, the entirety of Load Records' brilliant Pick A Winner DVD on Youtube, and a Lightning Bolt clip from 2003. Fuck, I'm moving to Providence one of these days.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dread At The Controls...

Damn. I'm sorry to say it, but the entire phenomenon of dubstep passed me by until about... ooh... November time. The first time I ever saw the word was on Pitchfork, whose the 'The Month In Dubstep' column I never read; I assumed it to be some bizarre mutation of dub and dancehall, genres I don't have much more than a surface knowledge of. I do know quite a lot about dub, being a fan of the heavier end of King Tubby's productions and On-U Sound; dancehall I had always been somewhat suspicious of (the sickening hits of Sean Paul were fresh in my mind). I then came into contact with it again through K-Punk's blog: his writings about Burial's first album intrigued me, even if the whole idea of hauntology still perplexes me. So I've come into the world of dubstep arse-first, buying an MP3 copy of the Burial album.

What disturbs me about dubstep is its freakishly alien nature to, yeah, a middle-class teenage white kid from the provinces. The introverted musical nature of dubstep is matched by a culture impenetrable to outsiders, steeped in a semi-history that matters seemingly far too much to the people involved, soundsystem jargon, and a danger that makes it more than forbidding to the inexperienced. Codified in the grooves of the records is a core alienation: the experience of black-white-whatever youth in the urban abyss, economically skewered and socially disenfranchised. The only culture they have to draw on is that of the black diaspora in Britain: dub, dancehall, hip-hop, British techno (descended from the electronic soul of Detroit Techno), roots, Jamaican DJ culture. But everything about it seems tainted and corrupted: on Burial's 'Spaceape', The Spaceape, using the toasting style and patois associated in the British mind with 'conscious' reggae (think Linton Kwesi Johnson), tells a tale of invading aliens insinuating themselves among us, slowly preying on desperation for companionship or drugs, spreading a virus through the population, they themselves being 'immune from dying'; where dub had a sense of warmth and space in its grooves, dubstep seems claustrophobic and cold. Its no coincidence that dubstep is emerging from the underground at a time when gang violence in South London has reached an odd peak (or at least a public one; undoubtedly huge amounts occurs that we never hear about), or that the breaks on Burial's 'Gutted' sound like Glocks being loaded; it's no surprise that a culture faced with such blank hopelessness should produce such dark art. Listening to the new Scott Walker album at the moment, I can't help but see some kinship: both seem like they disappear into their own sonic netherworlds; worlds of total sonic immersion where sound brings no comfort, only expression. Love is only felt as an abscence ('Wounded', 'U Hurt Me', the voices on 'Gutted', so distant and inarticulate); roots are non-existent ('Broken Home') and the cultural pool of British blackness cannot be experienced other than in the present, with the pieces disconnected from their context. That's why on the Burial album the sounds are so washed-out and distant, and why dubstep has been so susceptible to hauntological analysis: it's not exactly a diaspora culture, as such, but one based on being marooned from a past you never knew.

But this is ignoring the main point of dubstep, the reason it's so exciting to people: its nature is relentlessly contemporary. It's difficult for me to understand, because I only know dubstep in the abstract, I can't feel the reality of dmz and FWD nights, of bass and sweat. But I know that the easy availability of recording and dubplate-etching technology has allowed a DIY revolution - every day new dubplates coming out, every week club nights playing dubstep, every month new venues opening, new albums being released. In dubstep, as with dancehall and dub, at the centre is the soundsystem and the club: it's a communal thing, centred around people having a good time; as Melissa Bradshaw said in Plan B issue 12, it's about "too much beer, or is that the bass causing this giddiness?... crowds bursting into skank; frightening sounds, uplifting sounds; dark jackets, black caps; things that make you say “dutty”; the “flashpoint of an exploding scene” (Mary Anne Hobbs); bumping into The Bug, again... the buzz of a massive and familiar drop; the uncanny rush of beauty in new tracks... having to move away from the right speaker at the last FWD because the big hoop vibrating in your right ear was threatening to saw through your earlobe and your eardrum was about to fucking explode... the expression on Frances’ face upon first hearing a few live dubstep tracks at the end of a set Mala played at Bash (Loefah and The Bug’s dancehall monthly at east London’s Plastic People); the first dmz you attended, still at 3rd Bass, being completely, utterly wowed by the bass, and some feeling of having been out of space; Matty bouncing up, grinning, to you to tell you she felt like her teeth were going to come out of her skull..."
Mmmm... I remember the last proper gig I went to, the band I had actually come to see, more-or-less a metal band: the club was tiny, and when they began working the bass, it was as if this huge curtain or shroud of noise had descended; you could feel the combination of bass and normal guitar vibrating your organs and skin. I suppose that's one of the things I've sought all along through music: total immersion in noise, to the point where you stop caring about things - I've often fantasised about the total dissolution of my body and identity, but this isn't that, it's the inverse: it's a real sensual feeling, the feeling of tingling nerve endings, the kind of thing that makes life worth living. In dubstep, out of darkness comes light, to use the old cliché.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"The bourne from which no traveller returns..."

It's the end of an era: the last ever Mixing It. This was the show that first introduced me to experimental music, and has acted like a Peel Show for unfettered experimentalism for the past 16 years. Listen to the last show, before it disappears on Friday. Let's hope the BBC have something to replace it, or else there's going to be some killings.

But don't worry: the future is now. Go to These New Puritans' website: the 'Now Pluvial EP', one of the most important musical artifacts of the 21st century so far is free to download; and there's the new track 'Navigate', on the Dior Homme website. I know, I know, it's for fashion, but bear with me here: it's excellent.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

King Ink, King Shellac

I've gone mad. In the last 2 weeks I've spent precisely 26.49 on vinyl albums and singles, and I don't even have a fucking player. Admittedly, 1.50 of that was spent on downloading a single by Danananakroyd (the first time I've ever downloaded music), but still I fear for what's left of my already-dwindling sanity. But what I find more distressing is that my love of certain bands is a purely private, almost shameful thing. The whole variety of music I love with such a bizarrely-warm and fuzzy heart - and it would take too much fucking time to name them - is ignored-to-despised by EVERY SINGLE PERSON I know, every single one of my friends. The only exception to this is Gay Mark, who likes Crass, The Fall, and British Sea Power, but also likes Leftover Crack and UK Subs, and is therefore not really included. This fact perturbs me not because I'm the sort of man who likes imposing his opinion - especially if it involves billy clubs - but because, to put it simply, it isolates me. I'm an island of enthusiasm, and it's beginning to annoy me. And whilst the Internet is filled with freaks like me, all spilling their guts over Wolf Eyes vinyl or pictures of Kate Jackson, I'd kinda prefer to be able to talk about it with, you know, real people.
But this isn't what really perturbs me. Whilst buying independent music makes it more likely that money will go to the artists who deserve it, and many artists and labels are pushing entirely ethical musical product - like the Resonance FM magazine's latest CD carbon-neutral, for example - I'm still uneasy about it. As a consumer - and I have to admit I'm nothing but - of cultural product, I'm in the position of the ordinary spectator. I'm not pretending to feel uneasy about this just because of Situationist policy - the idea that being part of a typical spectator-performer relationship is 'ideologically unsound'. It's that I'm left with a certain feeling of paralysis when I think of how much music I listen to, and the actual physical act of listening, of choosing and buying and listening: of consuming, greedily, and of not in turn producing anything myself. I think about the physical nature of music, of the actual physical presence of music engraved into the pieces of plastic and silicon surrounding me, piling up.
And what's more, I think of all the ways music has affected me in my adolescence: it's been about 4 years since I got my first CD, and I have about 120 by now; if I had the money, I would have about 6 or 7 times that number, not including all the vinyl I also crave. I think of the times music has - prepare for a made-for-tv-movie treatment - helped me, how it's affected me, the times I've felt almost emotionally dependent on it: no DJ ever saved my life, I've had to rescue myself; I think how listening to British Sea Power or Slint or Danananakroyd has more or less saved me from the last despair; how The Holy Bible made me write almost 100 pages of screenplay in two weeks, and drove me into a near-nervous breakdown; how listening to Coltrane or Tchaikovsky or Pink Floyd or Morton Feldman held me in a trance, "wondering at the beauty of it all". I think of the times I've felt so in love with music as to be not merely emotionally but physically addicted, unable to speak to other people because words seemed so inadequate in the face of rhythm and crystal melody. And it seems almost shameful in the face of the near-total indifference of every single person I know. What exactly is this love of mine doing?
I have a few friends who also happen to be in bands. The quality of the music they produce veers from brittle-and-sub-par to just-plain-awful. I would claim that this is what you'd expect from 17 and 18 year-olds, but just look at These New Puritans. Jesus Christ. Personally, I blame the corrupting influence The Libertines have had on British rock. Crack-lighting, bomber-wearing, rubbernecking, mumble-mumble...
But I digress. I once read that music writers were just frustrated musicians; and I must admit, there is no musician in the world more frustrated than I. The best musical instrument I can play is the triangle. I'm not even coordinated enough to play the spoons. I've always wanted to play the guitar, even considered learning to play Arto Lindsay-style (so, not learning). The problem also comes with the fact that the sheer profusion of music I like - and, OK, I like every single genre except lounge, new age and acid jazz - means that in terms of 'influences' I'm pushed in a hundred thousand directions. And how on earth can someone even try and make music after hearing something like Coltrane's Interstellar Space or Om, or something like PIL's Metal Box or Augustus Pablo's King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown or the first Red Transistor single? And the further and further I push on through time, the more and more it seems I'll always remain on the rough end of the scale, both economically and artistically. I know from the periods of isolation that the music geek is one of the most reviled of figures.
One of my friends, Tom, has rock-star pretensions of the highest order, believing himself almost impenetrable to harm simply because he's a 'character'. Egotistical, vain, short and dressed in the prevailing fashion for 'rock chic', believing himself to have a unique and inimitable style, obviously believing himself a 'legend' due to his consumption of... um... alcohol and food, he brought an acoustic guitar with him, and tried to wield it. He has occasional stupid ideas about making a band, with him deciding who will play instruments and what songs by what shitty bands we'll cover. Seeing him sat in the corner with that acoustic, so sure of his own wonder, with myself in only a semi-cloud of booze, I felt that it wasn't only stupidity that possessed his tiny head. It isn't simply the fact that he has a girlfriend and I do not - that doesn't matter a jot to me. But watching and listening to the ridiculous long-haired kids in the school common room playing the semi-communal acoustic whilst I sit at the nearby computer, combing Amazon for a particular Mars CD, I couldn't help getting the feeling that I was missing out on something. The darkness wasn't with them - the glowering cloud of depression and crippling shyness I've had to deal with for most of my adolescence; the one I found reflected in 'Good Morning, Captain' by Slint, in the gully just before the last swell of sound. And the fact was, not a single one of them seemed to have an ounce of taste. On one occasion, I remember the kids (and yes, they were all at least a year younger than me) singing 'Living On A Prayer' as if it were a real song and not simply the disgusting lump of putrescent shit that I always knew it was. And it's not that I envy these children, but... they seem to find it so easy. (I include Tom in this 'children' category.) Whereas I have always found it so hard, obviously. They can act, whereas all I can do is think; or so it seems to me sometimes. And if that is the way things are, then what does my love for music do? It isn't merely that it doesn't help me in the slightest, the actual value of taste becomes worthless.
Such is fear.
But more than that it's been my fears about consumption: the numb and hypnotised state of my generation, held in place by the vortex-trance of the commodity. The one-way relationship between industry and consumer has left people passive, has strangled any possibility of new thought, or indeed, life. The belief that it is only the creatives - those who produce, breaking the one-way consumer-industry/media relationship - that can stop this - a nice thought, mostly salvaged from the remnants of Romanticism - has been mine since I began writing, and even before I read the Situationists. The state in which I exist then, as a consumer even of independent music, is worrying. I listen to it, buy it, and write about it.
Fuck it, though, I still do feel that what I do has something meaningful in it. It was the morning after the aforementioned party. On Youtube I found a video of Big Black performing 'Jordan, Minnesota' at their height in the late '80s. Albini, Durango, Dave Riley (I think) and Roland suffer into being scabrous rhythms; the rhythm section is tight like a garotte wire, the pulses so utterly machine-like; Albini and Durango's guitars let out bursts of broken-glass riffs over the top; they both look like the geeks who got the shit kicked out of them at school, but the noise they make, combined with Albini's odd look - wiry, scowling, clothed as fucking roughly as possible - make it clear they shouldn't be fucked with. Despite its social advantages, mediocrity can go fuck itself. No matter how much they may seem to be above me, the musicians I know will never match this; nothing can.
In an early essay, The Critic As Artist, Oscar Wilde says that "Criticism is creative in the highest sense of the word." I may not agree with old Oscar on many things, but it is still heartening to hear that "It is exactly because a man cannot do a thing that he is the best-placed to judge it." I know from musician friends - and my own experiences of writing - that it's impossible to judge your own work. It's just something that emerges, and you may have constructed it with deliberation, but you can only see it as something distinct from you. Whereas, when I listen to music, when I write, it's all internalised: "the highest criticism... is the record of one's own soul."And just as Oscar followed the doctrine of making one's life a work of art, I can help but feel that merely understanding and loving the brilliance, the soul and body's love, made into paper or digital words, or not, is enough.
Or I pray to fuck it is.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Legends Of The...

The latest post on K-Punk, here, the second part of a 3-part essay on The Fall, my second favourite band of all time. It's an absolute fucking masterclass in cultural analysis; the only shame is he didn't make the link to Gogol. Here's to hoping he explores Hex Enduction Hour next.

And in other Fall news, the new album Post-Reformation TLC is out soon. I don't actually have any Fall albums after 1986, but I may well get this one: 'Das Boot' sounds like it's a real hoot.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Last Days

There's something perversely entertaining about watching the 'crash and burn' effect in human nature, whenever it occurs in human nature, and wherever it occurs in history: Rome under Nero, Austro-Hungary before World War I, late '60s Hollywood, late '70s Britain; the Tsar just before the Revolution, Eden after Suez, Nixon after Watergate, Thatcher around 1990.

I've been out of the loop with regards to the news since about December; this morning was the first time I'd bought a paper in ages. Hearing scraps of news in the middle of listening to the Phill Jupitus breakfast show on weekday mornings, I had the vaguest inkling that Tony Blair was in some trouble, something to do with the cash-for-honours scandal. It's now become apparent to every man, woman, dog and amoeba in this fair nation that Tony Blair's administration is fucked beyond hope. The phrase on everybody's lips is 'bunker mentality'.

That phrase, I have to say, gladdens my heart, because it means we're in for a political spectacle that should, at the very least, provide some minor distraction from the boredom of everyday life. Apparently even a number of Blair's people have rejected job offers elsewhere to stay and watch the downfall. The 'bunker mentality' is the most amusing of all political syndromes: isolation, paranoia, the sense of festering and slow decline. Blair, despite his ridiculously feeble position, is apparently even more resolved than ever to remaining in office to the bitter end, most likely June or July. And whilst the Labour party MPs protest (anonymously) to the papers, that he should step down because he is doing damage "to the party", I think that, frankly, he should stay in for that exact same reason. Over the next four or five months, we'll watch him stumble from crisis to crisis, just as he's stumbled from crisis to crisis beforehand. He'll be like Lear before the storm: delusional, claiming he wants to stay around to "finish what I started" or "complete my legacy", and increasingly impotent to get anything done. The debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Home Office, the cash-for-honours scandal and the clumsily authoritarian security situation at home are only the beginning. There's going to be more trouble, more skeletons falling from the closet, because that's just the kind of administration Blair runs. And he'll be increasingly unable to deal with anything, defeated by opposition within his own party, from the media, and his own failing state. "All the lands that were thine own thou hast given away."

And it couldn't happen to a nicer man. He's sent hundreds of young men to be killed in countries whose populations and governments he doesn't give a shit about; he's devoted an extraordinary amount of attention to following the orders of his masters in America; he's tried to further wipe out what little stability nationalisation gave us, attempted to privatise the NHS, wiped out any hope of an efficient and cheap national railway system; he's fostered a culture of ultra-Thatcherite greed and ruthlessness, worsened the Thatcherite chasm between rich and poor, created the worst-educated generation since the 1900s; he's run the slimiest administration, so mired in filth - institutional racism, covert and overt oppression, under-the-counter dealing - since Reagan in America; he's filled the prisons, fixed the votes, given (or attempted to give) the police powers to kill or imprison whoever they please for as long as they please. And, to cap it all, he's holidayed at Cliff Richard's abode.

I'm counting down the days.