Sunday, 23 January 2011
It's late evening on Sunday 23rd of January and I just realised I haven't met anyone within the past week, since my boyfriend left for his country. I mean, I was leaving the house, of course, I was seeing lots of people on the streets (living in a big city man is never fully alone, so to speak), I had many phone conversations (two of them of a longer & deeper nature), I attended one meeting about a late artist I greatly admire, where I've meet lots of friends and had a few chats with them, but mostly I've been staying at home, and my conversations or thoughts exchanges, although some of them very engaging, occured via internet. I was reading, doing research, translated 2 long texts into English, written 1 longer and couple of shorter articles, worked on my book. Seen three films. Listened to lots of music (also to write about it). Some of it was truly compelling esthetic experiences. But honestly, I can't say I had any form of deeper in-real-world interaction with other human beings (dismissed two invitations to go out in the evening because of the workload, which now I regret).
Something literally shrinked within when I thought about it, although there's nothing there that should be at any rate shocking for anyone. Lots of us live like this nowadays, especially if we're freelancers working at home (and don't have flat mates, as I do). Lots of us live online, lots of us move the working hours into the night and sleep until noon or later. Still, I'm utterly terrified that I managed to do that at all. Wasn't something in me craving for such contact? How did I manage to spend so many hours in this flat not even noticing it? Even if it's winter, it's cold, night falls at 4pm and there's not much to do in the January evenings. I suddenly dropped my work altogether, pondering when exactly did I accept, just like that, this kind of apalling solitude.
On the much praised album from the last year, "North" by Darkstar, one of the Hyperdub flag ensembles, there's a song, which was also a much youtube-played 2009single, Aidy's Girl's a Computer. Heard it many times, but must say that until today, when I played it sitting alone in my flat, it didn't struck me with equal power. (Am an ignorant as far as the technique aspects of the music are concerned, but) It starts with some torn, as if cut out pieces of a computer generated/manipulated voice. As if from the deepest, darkest of digital voids, this voice formulates first the word "I" and then "feeling", then recurring throughout the rest of the song, fragmented & layered. It at first sounds like some kind voice test, but of course in connection to the songs title emerges with a quite distrurbing meaning. There's no story or narrative in this song, and the better, because it would render it banal. as Sam Davies written in the November review in the Wire, North is an essentially synth pop album, but the song stands out, belonging to the former dubstep phase. The simple two step rhythm, plus xylophone, this song seems to me an incredibly touching rendering of the tired, solitary nights I spend in front of my computer, trying to connect with the person I love, waiting for the machine to be "on" and the heartbreaking silence that is opening whenever the connecting devices decide not to work. And towards the end of the song, the machine voice says "I'm on". Yet I cant quite describe what is so moving in this song, its autumnal atmosphere and soundscape looking so basic & flat.
Recently we stopped using skype, because my headphones were broken and my stolen internet was just not doing it, and when it was faintly working, he was saying he can hear me as a woman robot, which allegedly was sounding sexy. Now we have to be tight at phone calls because they cost fortune, but funny how one is always disappointed by a phonecall, no matter how long it lasts. In his review Sam is calling "Aidy" a "modern lament" and as effective as it sounds, it is a lament, and to avoid any pretentious metaphor at the end, it's sort of a hymn of the crap technology, of the heartbreaking unfulfilled relationship we have with it, of its broken, unhappy promises, as well.
Thursday, 20 January 2011
[picture above: Savage Progress, a pop group in the 1980s formed in Kenton, England which had hits in Germany, Austria and Switzerland]
Just been reading a review of a 1986 Neu! release by Mark K-Punk in the Wire few issues ago, where he's complaining about its untimeliness in general, comparing some of it to the "Europop British tourists will bring from their Mediterranean vacation". I was thinking about this phenomenon of Europop in relation to my previous musings, it is after all a product of certain kind of Eurovision culture, European Union, post-war thing, from ABBA to Dana International (I love them both), but also elading to lots of very, very bad music, and funny it evolved into this semi-universal code of extremely trashy & kitschy soft-porn show.
Meanwhile, I have fans of my new music approach, got a letter from the author of this lovely Europop blog. my atemopt on the analysis of the Eurovision culture grows in my mind nevertheless and hopefully will take its shape here soon.
Also, got more into the Altered Zones website, which is very succesfully hiding the fact it is by kids of the Pitchfork era & owned by Pitchfork.
here Simon Reynolds muses on the Altered Zones generation, whose flag music is chillwave, all sort of generated by Ariel Pink and lo-fi, witches-in-the-forest esthetics, wonder what is the link between this & dubstep and hauntology.
but Im absolutely captivated by this clip to the Rangers, from their album Suburban Tours (sic!) showing that love for "undead social projets of Modernism" have, unnoticed, become some kind of underground mainstream & the question is whether there really is something to it more than a passing fashion, and what does it signify culturally. It's telling, that girls and boys on both sides of the Atlantic somehow think wandering around empty, derelict tower blocks is the most hip thing to do and we can only speculate who's responsible for that! Crisis had its role in it, no doubt.
Also, investigated a bit Puro Instinct and the word "Stilyagi", which she used in a song I posted, and it turned out Miss Kaplan & other chillwavers really thought this all thoroughly out. Stilyagi were Russian, or rather Soviet youth fascinated by the West, culturally, visually, what expressed in their style of clothing, musci etc...the very precursors of the hipsters, one may say.
And there's also this relatively fresh feature film on Stilyagi, called, in translation, simply - Hipsters! frocks, songs, atmosphere. There's a direct link between the Soviet youth from the 1920, 30s, 1950s & 1980s...
Also, this is so much exactly what one needs in the grim season, when the day ends at 4pm, account is empty, internet works sporadically and the general feeling of the End-of-the-World is crawling on us.
As far as the Stilyagi-cum-punk goes, there was a whole wave of those bands, the most colorful being Bravo.
Bravo was created on the wave of teh Stilyaga culture revival, some kind of Easternized beats combined with Mods & hipsters (dwelling on real 50s hipsetrs and anticipating the later revival in the 00s as well), but to me they look more like post-punky rockabilly'ists. either way, isnt that gorgeous? they were fascinated by the Western culture, but it was coming to them already in its distorted, a bit caricaturized form. there the John Peel thesis ("strange things happen to pop in isolation") would be actually true - trying to mime the West Russians or demo-peoples in general were creating something rich and strange (hoep to show some more Polish examples soon). It also shows the beginnings of the Retro Culture in full spread - all those big beat & early rock'n'roll revivals, (followed by the neverending festival of the 80s that lasts alreday longer than the decade itself), signs of a derivative, self-eating, nostalgic culture we have now up to its caricatiral form. There it has started, in the 80s, or, more possibly, when "the history ended" in 1989, as Fukuyama put it, after the collapse of communism/The Wall, so greatly described in Joshua Clover's fantastic 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sign About. It also brings to mind so many 80s UK bands built on a similar spur: Madness, The Specials, taking Mod or 50s culture, its climat & iconography, into a new space.
At the beginning Bravo had an amazing Zhanna Aguzarova (she has a massively detailed Russian Wikipedia entry, must be a cult figure there) on the vocals, who was later expelled by the official authorities (!!!) and replaced by a geezer, to the rest of the band's fearful acceptance. Then they stopped being in "underground" anymore & turned into a very conventional pop/rock band. In their early days they remind me of Polish Maanam, which should be the next on my focus here. Which will in general become: the growth of new wave, 80's synth-pop and some disco 70's mainly Eastern bands as a social movement? we shall see.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
In addition to the yesterdays post: Owen drag my attention to this article, about a completely contemporary Ukrainian music scene, that emerged around Orange Revolution (here), focusing on a band called Fotomoto, singing in French, that were the darlings of the late John Peel. Peel wasn't exactly right saying that they were completely isolated from the Western sound ("strange things happen to pop in isolation"). What allured him was the singing in French and dream-poppy atmosphere. The idea the East lives in isolation is another stereotype that is attractive for the West I guess. The musicians themselves say they feel a part of the global world, im sure that around 2004-5 all of them were highly networked! But a strange situation: you cant get their cds anywhere, for people who were capitvated by them via Peel, they remained an air-only ethereal phenomenon. But isn't it sound great, actually?
But another thing Peel says there seems fairly typical:
'Most music I get from eastern Europe tends to be rather grim metal stuff, not awfully good, and when you see the bands live - of course this is a gross generalisation - there's always a kind of cabaret approach. There's always someone in the band dressed as a clown or a monk, and the vocals are always terribly theatrical.' But what is bad about Theatrical exactly? Of course, I'm perfectly aware how bad in general metal bands may be, but that also complicated my thesis from yesterday, the singing in English/in your native speech thing. Because precisely, just think about all those very bad metal bands, or just the absolutely horrible/fascinating form of commercial pop everywhere (be it mutation of Europop - remember Eurodance? etc). they mostly sing in their respective languages.
here more spectacular examples.
She (they?) are singing in Russian (I envy you seeing it for the first time):
and she is singing in Polish (although I'd give a lot not to understand what about)
Doda, performing with her "band" elegantly called Virgin, is a proud Katie Price of Poland. Funnily enough she's a couple with a leader of the internationally known metal superband, Behemoth, maybe one of those John Peel was talking about. Also, you'd be curious to know, there's a massive form-content discrepancy, usually. I mean, what she sings about has nothing to do with the entourage. you'd think it's all porn & all, but what's probably even worse, these are attempts at lyrical poetry. yes.
and she is singing in French
Also, one of the strangest phenomena of the beginning of 21st century: TaTu
All of them just wanted to be Madonna (rather re In Bed With Madonna than to focus her fine pop moments), or later, Lady Gaga, or emulate old times divas (P. Kass committs an unforgivable profanation of any idea of Edith Piaf, or Francoise Hardy, whenever she opens her mouth), but who actually knows what people responsible for Nikita had in mind.
It's not exactly how do you imagine national bards, is it? Nikita & Doda sing in Russian/ Polish, because there's a massive audience for that, which emerged in the strange post-capitalism times in UKR/PL, in a culture where even baring your tits in a Reality Tv seems simply not enough & being a criminalist is a cool & accepted way of life.
Some people like to watch celebrity shows or reality TV, others - read biographies of famous people or aristocratic families, others think that reading Kolakowski or the late pope JP2 will save them from all the atrocities of the world. In a way, there're no big differences between them.
Monday, 17 January 2011
Reading this interview with Piper Kaplan, from Puro Instinct (via Pop Jukebox) (the only reason I know about her is because she is from the Ariel Pink constellation), I found out about the story of this amazing compilation, containing four Leningrad bands, that was the first ever presentation of the Russian punk in the West. Released in 1986, well into the Glasnost era, it still had to be smuggled. However some of her statements sound a bit naive ("I also think that Russia is really cool, because Russia is on the outside what America is on the inside. It's really seedy, and fucked up, and corrupt. It's like the innards are exposed. I like that. They’re proud of it, and wear it on their sleeve. I think that’s pretty cool. My idea of Russia is kind’ve this weird apocalypse, Troma version of America."), I think there's a lot to it, much more than Miss Kaplan can imagine.
When in the post on Pulp few days ago I was writing about the inability of Polish bands to fully emancipate from the influence of the West (at the same time being trapped within history, that made them either be journalistic, or completely nihilistic, and no wonder why - later will elaborate on this subject), the silent premise of those statements was that of course, there were nations that had it worse as far as social and political history goes and most definitely I feel that despite being exposed to this music & culture for years, my research on this matters barely started. There's a lot to be found out. But to better imagine this entrapment of the rock/punk bands under the Warsaw Pact, it is worth to imagine how it is to sing to a music invented by English-speaking lads. I guess that the fact now everybody sings in English, what wasn't the case 30 years ago, is a sign not only of the culture's globalisation and homogenisation, but speaks about the cultural limitations of the genre itself. I know it may sound funny after so many has happened to "rock" music we can't recognise it as a genre anymore, but the mediocrity of teh current "indie", this sort of stagnation in a form set decades ago & its selling well speaks volumes about the conservatism of the current era and proves either there's still a public space generated by music to take over or that we are in a state of a total, total bankrupcy. You decide. Or that, coming back to the linguistical thing, there are always two parallel 'scenes' in the countries: one of the English singing more or less West-copyists, and another, that still struggles with the real singing-songwriting, that occurs, I think, in your Muttersprache. (Writing in English, which scene's part should I feel?)
Some of the Punk on the other side of the Curtain story I mention in the review in the current Wire magazine where I reviewed much anticipated by me alternative history of Polish punk, Generacja by Michal Wasaznik & Robert Jarosz, telling how things were especially before the introduction of the Martial Law in 1981, which I heartily recommend to you. And if I ever said that there was no more than the system vs. the youth thing, that would be an unforgiven simplification. The quasi capitalist consumption at the end of the 1970s was in a full blow and the society obviously knew numerous ways how to obtain the desired goods or lifestyles, be it smuggled clothes, food or Western records. And definitely, from the late 1970s on, the communist system was so rotten, old, flaking off, being a parody of itself more than ever before, and if the economy is a joke and the reality you live in is a joke, what do you have to lose?
The story of how the West mingled/mirrored/copied the East and vice versa has a funny reflection in a story of a "rebelled" American female punk, who was so attracted by the Russian roughness & brutality, she went there, got together with the bands and released the 1st LP of their music on this side of the curtain, and had relationships with the members of the scene, which is a funny episode of the erotic relationship between USA & USSR. So as the new generations of American girls are seduced by the Communist Chic, we can only look forward to the fruits of this love.
Monday, 10 January 2011
[a slightly changed version of an article I've written a year ago and published in a Polish magazine called Lampa (issue 1/2/2010), inspired by this piece, of course. So now, when Owen publishes his book, no one will tell I nicked my ideas from him]
Polish pop & punk bands were journalistic, Polish bands were not excelling in great lyrics. This text seeks to overcome this general opinion, and maybe come up with some new views. In the history of popular music of single countries there’s their history written, social, political, intellectual, it conserves the cultural momentum, the language, style, views, customs, morals and consciousness. I initially started writing this text in a reaction to Owen’s two part essay on Pulp - where he was overtly stating this was the best UK band of the 90s and why it was so special – but it was probably the article’s cheekiness and general flamboyancy that made me to rethink whether and why my country, Poland, never had its version of Jarvis Cocker. Because it was probably this band who captured, better than anything from that period, the zeitgeist, drowned in the Brit-pop’s crassness and cockiness, and left victorious this embarrassment that Brit pop was, without fraternization with Blair or participating in the Blur vs. Oasis thing, still topping the UK charts with Common People in 1995.
Through they style-jangling, eclectic, nonchalant (I thought at that time!), but very accessible music they were the most exciting and moving band at the time, touching upon the themes of the class war, patriarchy, inequalities, and managed to do so through very private and idiosyncratic obsessions of its frontman and lyricist, the one and only Mr Cocker. Because really, the lyrics were the most important in this band, although all of us were dancing to the ‘hits’ from Different Class.
Because there they were – and I remember very well when I bought my first of their albums, it was Common People of course, and it was a cassette, and I was thirteen, 1996, initially prompted to buy it allured by the cover and the artwork of it, pictures of the family events, weddings, communal life and this whole ridiculous slogan ‘We just want to be different’ – wondered, why exactly did they mean? I remember the initial awkwardness of my acquaintance with Pulp very well. For a girl who at that time just started reading music press – and it was a good time for the press in the still freshly free Poland, just a year before a first real popcultural magazine started, called “Machina”, a mixture of Face, I-D and Melody Maker, where I first read about William S. Burroughs, Afrika Bambataa and pop art probably – it was quite something. Don’t remember whether I even read a review of Pulp, just there they were, and I remember just being seduced by the title – Different Class. At that time I already knew and was listening to, among others, Portishead, Bjork, Blur, had few important soundtracks, like (forgive me) Trainspotting, after which I started listening to Joy Division and New Order, and at that time, in Poland, believe me, listening to (Whats the Story?) Morning Glory didn’t condemn you to the social inexistence. Au contraire, no one were interested in this music in my school or among my friends. There were just me and tons of cassettes in my room.
After that there was dozens of British bands in my life, discovered and rediscovered. The moment when I realised how much a context of a place from where the band was was decisive. If you’re from Sheffield you don’t play like guys from Glasgow, and definitely not like blokes from Liverpool or Manchester. Pulp were from Sheffield, famous for its industry and brutalist architecture, with the great social experiment that was the Park Hill complex at its front. It was to be the city of the future, there the dreams about the final industrialization were supposed to fulfill, it was a fine transposition of futurist ideas into the every day life. Cabaret Voltaire, Human League (who first performed as the Future!) or Comsat Angels were from there, among others. But Pulp does not wear significant traces of an influence of the local scene. Cocker founded Pulp aged 15, and his natural references were Roxy Music and (I guess) some influences of Bowie, with a vision of a sexy, feminized but not gay, vocalist, inclination to frocks and luxury, and refined pop.
Who is usually founding bands? Funnily enough, unlike Britain, in Poland it was rather kids from intelligentsia, with an access to family libraries and at least small financial security. Not in UK, as we know. But Cocker was hardly a working class hero. He had it written on his face he was a good student, a well read teacher’s favorite, who attended music lessons and were active in the school theatre. But he clearly wanted a success. And where the hell is a success and the access to the ladies if not in the realm of rock music. If you watch the very early videos of Pulp with Jarvis, included on the post-split Hits dvd, what you see is an incredibly tall, eccentric, quirky, nonchalant, black-humoured but perfectly aware of his uniqueness pretty boy in oversized glasses, whose every gesture, every whim on his face, seem to be perfectly directed, so perfectly it suggest his fragile and embittered ego. He desperately wants to be different, fucking Andy Warhol, combined with Bowie, and more Scott Walker than Bryan Ferry, and what not, and he will be restless and ruthlessly focused where he only wants to. He is like Cary Grant in Bringing Up a Baby – but whereas there only we, the audience knew he may be clumsy, but he’s pretty fucking hot, he’s a bloody Cary Grant after all! – this boy already is perfectly aware how bloody charismatic and special he is and how he will use it to his advantage in the music world. And what a spectacle of a man he is - and he knows it, even when he’s doing his grocery shopping. But look at him again, and then look at him a few years later. Jarvis wasn't a typical frontman, with his carefully staged video and gig persona, with his ridiculous height, thinness, overly long arms and legs...it may have appeared as even grotesque. (then we learned there was some heroine involved to this thinnes later). He looks like a Daddy Long Legs, isnt he, so fragile he would be thrown with a slight blow of a wind. If you look like that, you feel uneasy, uncomfortable, you stand out. There's no easy option for sexiness for you, you have to invent yourself. Hence the queer-but-straight, peculiar stage motion of Jarvis, his cabaret, theatrical characteristic "pointing" hands gestures, his studied as-if drunken/stoned manner of dancing, that seem like a parody of conventional male sexiness, but delivered together with this deep, baritone voice becomes Ueber-sexy...
On the Sheffield Band video, sitting together with his band mates, he seems very uncomfortable. They all, the band, love Sheffield, they really do – isn’t Sheffield a beautiful place? he asks rhetorically, equally rhetorically admitting he will never move to London. Ha bloody ha. His mind is already nowhere else.
I’m unfortunately not patient enough with describing frocks and style, if you want this, go to Jon Savage and England’s Dreaming – let me then release my inclination for sublimation and focus on the message. The message was truly ambivalent. It is hard just to put Jarvis strivings into the box of a prole resentment, because it was so much more. Pulp is a band of oppositions. Yes, of course, he was perfectly interested in making a career and fucking other bands’ chicks, but show me a 90s frontman actually more interested in the destinies of women? And with an equivalent of the quiet, but assured presence of Candida Doyle on the keyboards (somewhat a balance to the Jarvis’s flamboyancy). Another paradox is of course the nostalgia. Cheap nylon outfits, general atmosphere of tawdriness, that later was changed for the more expensive, but still far from luxurious 1930s-meet-1970s colorful shirts, velvet suits and pencil skirts. Nostalgic salubrious sound vs the epic rock, mechanical motorik referring to the Sheffield bands tradition and the sentimental balladry; cockiness and shyness. The sentimentalism, self obsessed and sexy, reeking with boredom, disappointment, resentment, inequalities, decadence, ennui, deviations, alienation, hedonism, despair. And compassion. All those girls and women dwelling those songs, from the early Little Girl, repeating the theme of a young woman, pushed into a marriage & children, and then deteriorating in a house in the suburbs. My favorite song from the early underrated 1987 Freaks album is I want you, with a metaphor of an old lover, who wants to “keep her and throw himself away” (is there a more beautiful metaphor of love?). “You could look like anyone else, If that’s what you want to do”, but she cant, he can’t look at her in any other way. Guilt, frustration, sick love, fear of love, are leitmotivs of the early Pulp. In Life must be so wonderful Jarvis continues over the sad destiny of his ex, who left the town and didn’t quite gain the success elsewhere, who he is mocking, bored to the degree he need not to even pretend anymore.
I have a quite unexplainable liking for Freaks, which are relentlessly bleak, one-note, monotonous album on boredom, unsatisfying sex and title’s “death of emotions”. Unlike other Pulp albums, there’s no playfulness, nearly no skips (apart from I Want You and What You See maybe) toward any other form or other kind of human interaction. There’re certainly pieces of art that doesn’t bring any hope, but the songs on Freaks are also badly written and produced and there’s perhaps no forgiving for that. Still, I can’t fully recover after subsequent listenings of Life must so wonderful, where there’s clear there’s something genuinely wrong with the world and our relationships. There must be a difference between sheer wallowing in our unhappiness and real unhappiness, which is total and absolute shiteness. There’s certainly a difference between acknowledging that your relationship or lack thereof is shit and eg., that people are cruel, and eg. rape and kill each other. Because one can just leave said relationship, paying probably with a few months of feeling shit or having a depression, but surely, things like politics fucking over generations after generations or mass murder are worse.
But the catastrophe of relationships in Cocker’s lyrics are not only a fault of the imperfect nature of an individual, not only of the male desire, which in the end must say “goodbye” even to a nicest and most sympathetic girl and look for another conquest, to avoid the suffocating emptiness. Or rather this emptiness takes place in a specific space: in cage-like, stuffy flats, without perspectives, among stupid and insignificant dreams, among passive women and frustrated men. The characters are usually from the lower social classes, who had a chance to have/taste some of a “better life”, which often ends in a total failure. All this is filtered through an openly misogynistic, self-ironic, monologueing hero, who is mocking his own pretension to grandeur and megalomania, which is also a side effect of a class-induced resentment. There’s no, apart from the Freaks, real misogyny in Jarvis’ lyrics, who was raised by and surrounded by women, the father left the house, and Jarvis frequently admitted he’s actually more interested in a woman’s psychic life. The misery, lack of chances and helplessness of women is a frequent theme there.
Jarvis also were fascinated by Scott Walker, who produced finally the We Love Life, album “nobody bought”, as Jarvis later said, and the whim, mysteriousness, grandiosity of his music is definitely present there, if not the most in the fragmented, whining, painful baritone of the frontman, nonchalant and full of authentic despair. These are lyrics about sex in a smaller city, like all that joyful forgetfulness of Razzmatazz or Babies. But no irony – irony was a clichéd du rigeur of the past few decades and enough of that. Jarvis’ hero may be truly a bastard, when he’s blagueing that “I wanna give you children and you might be my girlfriend”, but aren’t the alternative destinies of those girls actually much, much worse? All those stupid things, they don’t work anymore, leave hope you who cross the line of growing up & entering the society. The thing is all that is raconted from a proper perspective of time (“well it happened years ago”), and is actually told by a slightly lecherous thirty year old man, who really probably doesn’t give a fuck since a long time. Sweetness is still there though, and real sympathy.
My favorite album or rather group of songs come from This Is Hardcore recorded after the astonishing success of the Different Class. This is one of the saddest albums ever, also an album of the lost chances – made more commercial than intended, it has become a spectacular band’s suicide. Its really like in this Frederic Beigbeder book, 99 Francs, the peak of the celebrity culture, this is a nightmare of a fulfilled dream of money and fame, drowned in drugs and alcohol, with incredible 30 minutes opera (masterpiece!) of the title song and written as if from the other side, hilariously funny Help the Aged, with Jarvis flying on a wheelchair to another galactic, like in Tarkovsky's Solaris mixed with Monty Python Flying Circus. Fetishism, crime, suicide, hardcore pornography, drugs (there was heroine around, so did Jarvis get a near-death overdose or a nasty trip?), jokes about death (but you're dead already, aren't you?). Yikes indeed. This is hardcore is a post coital, post sexual, post libido, post mortem pure dreadness, that gives me shivers & a serious twist in my stomach.
Moreover, it's everything Freaks wanted to be but could never become. This is an album of an unmatched power, a hangover & existential haze encapsulated, it’s freak Hollywood drama, Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd, Hitchcockian thriller with his women fixation (the projection of desire specifically Hitchcockian here!), cinema noir, showered with modern decadence, vanity, emptiness that can only come with a career in show business. This is a depiction of Jarvis Cocker’s state of mind after a year or two of taking advantage of finally getting on the top, of constant shagging anything that moves and partying hard. It nearly killed him, psychically, but there’s something great in the way he’s subliming it. Interesting, how eg. Bowie was embracing it (although it nearly killed him too, as we know at the end of the Station to Station there's nothing short of a goodbye-to-life declaration) and found himself much more inclined to hedonist pleasures, and actually never produced anything as dread-invoking as This is Hardcore - there's never such a menace, such desire-turned-something-terrible thing. It’s truly spectacular, pushed to the utmost degree, Twin Peaks/Mulholland Drive luxurious atmosphere of dread, like you were on a Eyes Wide Shut party, going straight to hell.
Truth is that is has to come to that, and it requires shitloads of hard work just as much as partying and immense self confidence, which comes after years of giving way too much fuck. And then you realize it doesn’t matter.
Pulp - Help The Aged
Załadowane przez: Pulp. - Odkryj inne klipy wideo.
Then Cocker got married, left for Paris, had a child, recorded a weak solo album, got divorced, produced among other things, Charlotte Gainsbourg album, recorded another solo album, whose highlight song is called I Never Said I Was Deep. Slightly disappointed by the first one, I actually begun to find the joyful embitterment of the second one fun. Well, he didn’t lose the classiness or sense of humor, naturlich, but the erotic neuroticism of Pulp is long passé.
So if I mourn something lacking within Polish (music) culture, is its not enough of literacy. The lack of striving to express their frustrations in an enough of a literate way. We limited ourselves to one-dimensional punk screaming/whining how special-but-nobody-knows-about-it songs that mostly sounded like cheap plagiarism over the Western bands. We seemed condemned to the music secondariness, so what about some lyrics experimentation? Sure there were frustrations, tons of them, but no one cared to put them into an artistic, poetic way. Yes, Im more than furious with how things went in Poland, because we have such a wonderful poetic tradition, such original literature, especially after 1945. What has happened with it, why it didint infiltrate the popular music?
Do we need and why, a Polish Jarvis? why do I miss such a figure in Polish cultural landscape? Why don’t we have equally nonchalant, whimsical, eclectic music, non-stripped of emotions? I’ll pass the general esthetical dependency of Polish popular music from the foreign, which condemns us to be eternal epigones. Lets focus on the layer of expression, ideology even. All music has its own esthetical ideology, Jarvis’ ideology was some projects from the past, filtered through his personal obsessions. Well, it is better not to mention our ideology. Polish bands, in result of those, and not the other, historical conditioning, had to, first of all, fight with the mythological SYSTEM, ‘komuna’, and didn’t have time or possibility to develop the esthetical or lyrical issues.
There’s also too big difference between our perception of socialism, obviously. Big assemblies, tradition of militancy, “classlessness” of the 30 years of the after-war period in UK, and then Thatcherism, strikes, when the industry was being destroyed are quite a different thing than the assemblies in Poland, under a quite different flag, or a general atmosphere of hopelessness, bleakness and greyness, especially of the last two decades of Peoples Republic. Maybe comparing the histories of our countries is idiotic in general. But hey, when I listen to Pulp, I still regret not having this chance. That the most popular songs in Poland have to necessary be bloody protest songs; and that we always, as a nation, preferred Clash to Sex Pistols. [well, a book called Generacja by Robert Jarosz, dismantles this image, but it came out a year after I’ve written this]. Class war, well, was something completely different here, was incorporated within the rotten ideology of late communism. Polish artist just couldn’t look at the socialist equality with hope. We also do not have a strong working class artist tradition, very few of the artists, maybe more among writers, belonged to the working class, art always being a domain of intelligentsia, who had privileged access to knowledge, books, education.
Funnily enough, when another self-proclaimed dandy, Paul Weller of the Style Council, wanted to show the bleakness of Thatcherism, he came nowhere else than to the grey Warsaw and shot Walls came tumbling down there in 1985. Now we watch this clip on youtube and proudly show it to our foreign friends, because Warsaw has become this really hip place. To me Warsaw is real, true punk. Ian Curtis knew what he was doing (although he probably meant Bowie’s Warszawa more). But funny that there’s no a Bowie song called “Berlin”, but there’s Warszawa. Still, people treat us as a living museum of communism (but people, go to neighbouring Ukraine for this purpose), whereas an ideal of contemporary Poland is a fucking small entrepreneur. Because maybe one of the problems of the culture in Poland under communism is that obviously it wasn’t socialist enough, and was basically as divided as anywhere else. Also dandyism as a way of life never actually found its way or tradition in Poland and died with the romantic poets.
Another thing is our level of consciousness. Young people coming to the festivals like Jarocin dreamed mostly of getting pissed and having sex in the bushes, they thought of the freedom and emancipation as well, but not knowing how it actually should’ve looked like. Punk in Poland was still v much about filth and vomiting, there were Solidarity, but all that was immersed in the omnipresent Polish Catholicism, and the progressive or anarchic circles already were seeing it all going toward right winged nationalism and capitalism. If we had lyrics about love, sex, unfulfillment, maybe paradoxically it only happened in the texts of one band, simple Teenage Love Alternative, then T.Love, whose frontman, Muniek, born in the same year as Jarvis (1963), is one of little working class born musicians in PL, who wasn’t ashamed to write about love. Muniek emancipated himself and gained a success comparable to Jarvis. Some also say that the more contemporary, 00s band, Cool Kids of Death (named after St Etienne song, of course!) was a late heir of Pulp. Their songs are fulfilled with similar resentment, unfulfilment, aspirationism. But whenever Pulp wanted to get there (and was getting there), CKOD were singing somngs of self-hating slackers. T. Love and CKOD sung a wish ablout collectivity, that never really happened, failed youth collectivities, refusal, hopelessness – CKOD coming from Lodz, a fallen working class city, no wonder etc etc.
WE never loved life, or ourselves, for that matter. Pity. Because this comparison between cultures and histories shouldn’t go towards revengeful or regretful jealousy really. But there was and are cultural complexes in us Poles that we unsuccesfully are trying to heal through similarly inept methods, like shock capitalism, privatisation, self denial or denying that the previous system had anything worthwhile in itself.
This is a far more complicated story and I'm not going to finish it right now, the story continues…