in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Visualise This (the horror, the horror, the horror ☺)

At all times, in many different ways, music needs spectacles. Every time I keep hearing some purists talking about a return to ‘authentic substance’ – you know, ‘real’ musicians making ‘real’ music for ‘real’ audiences who ‘really’ appreciate their work, I feel like disabusing them of this twentieth century fiction of ‘authentic substance’ and directing them to the reality of ‘appropriate content’ which the overwhelming majority of people infinitely prefer, THNK U VRY MCH ☺

Anyone who went to Parklife the other week will know the score. Apart from being oversold by thousands of tickets (and thus even more rammed to the gills with flouro and tan floozies), the one (and only) other distinguishing feature (apart from the conspicuous brutality of security) was the obvious fact that almost nobody could give a rubbished electro-shouty fuck about the music. Which was a good thing, considering that most of it was fucking electro-shouty rubbish. Horrible stuff.

After the horror of a plane crash, the forensic crew (or whoever has the expertise in these macabre matters) go hunting for the black box – no, not the Italian techno-pop group that gave the world ‘Ride on Time’. I’m talking about that little bomb-proof brick that records ‘the truth’ of the accident. But what kind of truth? Surely not the death-screams of the captain, the tears of the crew and passengers, the melting of the LCD panel, or the sound of the electronic equipment crackling and burning as it bursts into superheated, avgas-fuelled flames… or is that the new Mstrkrft single? Hmm… maybe it’s just a matter of being able to read the signs, like that joke:

What did the blind man say about the cheese grater?

(wait for it)

That’s the most violent book I’ve ever read.

Probably the black boxes spit out data that looks like the inscrutable way chess games appear when ‘written down’ in newspapers. The forensic guy hooks the box up to his laptop, then waits until something like the following appears on his monitor:

‘^&[OMG]8X96!--- 35Y5{LOL}4Z5$%|^ --“= ….. !!!’

After which he giggles (due to the subtle joke the box made in the first phrase) and calmly concludes: ‘Catastrophic Pilot Error’. To ‘laypeople’ who don’t get the joke or the horror, that’s the extremely weird thing about those black boxes – we rely on them as the thing that mediates between us (comfortably vegetating on our couches in front of the news) and the ‘truth’ of the horror of the crash, but it’s a truth they only convey by excluding almost everything about a plane crash that makes it so viscerally horrific.

Nightclubs are the exact opposite – anyone who’s been the first person to arrive in that empty black room will understand that the profoundest horror imaginable (and not only for the promoters) is to be left in a black box of a room with absolutely nothing between you and the music coming out of the speakers.You race to the bar for a drink, a prop. You fiendishly message tardy friends: ‘Where RU?! There’s nobody here! ☹’ No, it’s worse than that, actually there is somebody there (DJs don’t count)… It’s YOU – left alone to the horror of your own company and the music. The horror, the horror, the horror.

Unmediated experience (if it’s even possible) is something between a terrible shock and a horrible blur – spectacles are the comforting mediators. With glasses, I can drink the scene more clearly; among friends I can avoid the things I fear more than anything else, silence and myself. When you put your glasses on, you don't see glass, you see friends. When you flip open your mobile, you don’t see phone, you see new messages – a person who loves U and UR hand enough to write: ‘Where RU?! There’s nobody here! ☹’

Parklife, as the wolfmother of all spectacles, has nothing to do with music – and thank God. Props to the props, I say. As a friend remarked: ‘Nobody was listening to the music. Everyone was just standing around in stumbling, clammy circles, utterly munted with their phones in their hands, texting or posing for pictures of themselves and their mates, which they then just sent to each other.’

‘People Who Still Go Out to Listen to Music’ are no longer even a sub-species, they’re just a minor group on Facebook. They’re a deeply unpopular, weird, old-fashioned, and (if you’re under twenty-one) slightly sinister reminder of clubland’s contemporary sequel of the Blair Witch Project – a harbinger of the horror of a lone munter trapped in a black box, frantically texting, only to find out that, being underground, there’s no signal…


Jimmy said...



David said...

it used to be about the music...

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