Sunday 4 November 2012

Protect And Survive

I was never very impressed with Cabaret Voltaire when I listened to them during my early teens. By the mid-eighties their grainy, early stuff sounded outdated and cheap, and by the time they'd upgraded their synths for their entryist phase, they just sounded a bit bland. That said, I've recently come to appreciate what they were philosophically pointing to.

What I hear in them now is the connection between the Cold War and institutionalised child abuse, that connection being one of pathological secrecy. The Cabs intuited the bond between the redbrick public toilet and the nuclear bunker, between the North Wales cares homes and Porton Down. Compulsive habits reinforced and looped through rationalised institutions, veils being drawn over what the public didn't need to know. Gagging orders and D-notices reining in a torrent of psychic effluent. Power digging deeper and more byzantine channels through which it could enact domination.

And yet, toxic fumes were continually emitted and settling over the landscape. Like News from Nowhere, the culture of silence meant nobody could quite intuit where they were coming from. As with shortwave radio signals from a foreign propaganda station they crackled in and out of consciousness, leaving a distant trace of menace that was impossible to pin down to a physical location.

You could hear the screams, but you couldn't see the victims.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Freakbeat (Slight Return)

Just as the original sixties mod scene generated its extreme fringe of bands who journeyed further into noise and psychosis than hitmakers like The Who and The Small Faces, so the Mod Revival of the late seventies also produced its avant-garde shadow.

A prime example were The Cigarettes, who bore the same relation to The Jam that The Eyes and The Creation did to Townshend and co. They took Weller's Spenglerian domestic dramas and added a distinct post-punk chilliness. If Weller was absorbed with the personal battles of psychic survival that afflicted the working class of his era, The Cigarettes depicted the inevitably bleak aftermath, as the overpowering forces of the market and the state crushed any individual resistance.