“They keep calling me”
Amidst the pretty stark turbulence I experienced as 2015 began I became obsessed with trying to write something about Joy Division’s eternal-presence in my life. But I never got anywhere, convincing myself it needed to be a project of a sizable, I-know-everything-about-Joy-Division, quality due to the task of writing about one of those bands guarded with pitchforked-opinions by musos. But it felt crucial for me to write something both for myself, and for the reason brilliantly articulated in Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life: “If Joy Division matter now more than ever, it’s because they capture the depressed spirit of our times. Listen to Joy Division now and you have the inescapable impression that the group were catatonically channeling our present, their future. From the start their work was overshadowed by a deep foreboding , a sense of a future foreclosed, all certainties dissolved , only growing gloom ahead.” (Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life, 2014).
Ben Hewitt’s article Joy Division: 10 of The Best, in the guardian this week, gave me an motivational template: I’d use a selection their songs to expand on all this stuff about the band that I have been driven to tell people in pubs for the past 3 years. But I don’t have any desire to write about a fave song list per se: the album tracks I reference gain a great deal of their significance when listened to within the context of the entire album (this should seem obvious, but in the Ipod age, the ‘shuffle’ features heavily in the way we listen to music). I also wanted to use individual tracks to explain how the din of their resonance seems to get louder and louder the further we (in UK terms) descend further into the Thatcherite experiment that may finally be coming to end… “this dream it takes too long”. And although I found only managed to write about 7 songs, they were more than sufficient. Thus I have proceeded in writing the blog I’ve been wishing to write all these years.
In the past few years it seems overwhelmingly the case that we are looking back to a certain time for answers to a present day inertia. Yet we don’t seem to realise that this is what we’re doing, and so just continue doing it blindly. Cultural artifacts from the 70’s into the early eighties seem to be constantly at hand for reference on all media platforms. For example, Ben Hewitt’s article: although I think it’s brilliantly written in its own right (far more imaginative use of language than I could ever achieve), and it creatively touches upon material that relates to their ‘channeling of the present’, it also seems oblivious to it. When he writes of Dead Souls that “…Curtis sounds like he’s being pulled by ghostly apparitions, trapped in a place “where figures from the past stand tall / And mocking voices ring the halls”…” isn’t the most ghostly aspect of all in how this perfectly describes our relationship to Joy Division in the 21st century? Such articles and documentaries don’t seem to understand the motive behind their accumulative coming-into-being 35 years after Ian Curtis killed himself. Of the 7 Joy Division songs I have picked, I have tried, when possible to introduce them in relation to personal experiences, 1. Disorder
“Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?”
It must have been 2010; in that murky moment between something bad (New Labour) and something worse (all-out-Tory Class War-disguised as ‘the coalition’). Up until now Joy Division had been off my succession of cheap mp3 players for a few years – having told myself that the obsession I had with them in my early 20’s, some five years back into the thick of Blair’s Britain, had been a sign of immaturity, and that they’re subsequent increasing popularity was no more than a Topshop accessory. As the fall of 2010 arrived with the threat of immobilising snow storms entrenching a deeper existential inertia, it all reversed, and I found myself hurtling back towards some kind of early 20’s point.
We were drinking at a friend’s flat in the back-end of Barnsley- one of those new-build apartment complexes, squeezed in amidst unhappy-looking Victorian terraces still stained by the soot of a vanquished industry. A few cans downed and then it was time to head into town, myself regrettably still hooked the mirages of fulfilled hopes and dreams that coated the shell of the so-called Blair-year Party-times. But this was now descending into its zombie stage.
We came to an agreement that we needed a ‘going out song’, and we chose Disorder. The throbbing beat of the bass drum kicked in, and the trance-like state took over for the first time in years. This wasn’t a flashback, as I was back there again. The way my slightly inebriated friends were moving around the room, getting seduced into the whirlpool-like nature of Disorder when played at volume, made me realise that this wasn’t some “Lets all dance to Joy Division” indie-cool trend: this was real. My early twenties-daily dependency on Unknown Pleasures didn’t seem so weird any more. My friends may or may not have been depressed, but they existed, like me, in secretly-depressed times. At that point, despite differences in opinion of the severity the global and social issues outside the window, Joy Division felt like understanding of life that we all shared.
The insightful left-wing group Plan C convincingly argue, in their essay We are all Very Anxious that anxiety is the dominant ‘public secret’ of this current stage of capitalism (which doesn’t mean to say that other negative emotions have disappeared, just that this is the definitive one of our age). By ‘public secret‘ it is meant that it is “…something that everyone knows, but nobody admits, or talks about. …[W]hen discussed at all, they are understood as individual psychological problems, often blamed on faulty thought patterns or poor adaptation”.
I would add that there are two public secrets; the anxiety we endure being the first, and the second being that we exist in ‘depressed times’, and many of us spend much of our lives rocking painfully back and forth from anxiety to depression. But what is incredibly important here is that Joy Division share the public secret with us, ‘catatonically channeling our present’ as Mark Fisher says. What makes Disorder so [Unknown]pleasurable is that it shares that publicly hidden anxiety with us. It speaks about something we normally have to hide. The guitar riff between verses is so riddled with panic it is intoxicating, it recognises the pain that is otherwise barred an outlet.
From 2010 onwards I remembered what this music did for me. How it’s darkness was often a life-saver. Perhaps a necessity as I stared down the barrel of a nastier, more Tory reality. As the drums continue to smash out in a death-drive whilst the rest of song exhausts itself into finitude, Disorder becomes an introduction to a record that makes no emotional compromises; doesn’t pretend things are OK; makes no effort to pretend it sees a bright side to life. And this is why from this point onwards it resumed it’s place as a make-shift prescription tablet ‘day in day out’, from 2010 onwards.
“I’ve lost the will to want more, but I remember when were young”
The mid years of New Labour were a weird time for those of us in our late teens and early twenties. So many people I thought were sorted were actually in a real mess, trapped between small-town college courses they had no interest in and bleak job prospects, propped up by bi-weekly drug or drink intake. I never put 2 and 2 together at the time. One friend from back then spoke of his recent depressive spell: “It’s like somebody flicks a switch, and I’m gone for days on end.” The minute-long opening to the track Insight has something of the uncanny about it. The soundscape of lift-shafts moving and doors locking is so close to epitomising the nausea-like continual-return of depression it’s almost an unreal sensation as the shivers go down your back and you think “fuck me, that’s exactly how it is!”.
I was pleased Ben Hewitt included it in his list of songs, although it’s with tracks like Insight that I come to realise that listing album songs merely for their individual qualities is somewhat lacking. Insight’s intro is the seminal moment in Unknown Pleasures. Even after the self-destruction of Disorder, and building terror in The Day of Lords, there is still potentially room for another world, another way. But Unknown Pleasures is the world of the depressive; once that door locks the depression sufferer knows all-too-wll what world we’re in; he/she knows that feeling of that ‘locked door’, once you’re inside “gone for days on end”. Insight plays the pivotal role in signifying that this is no ordinary record; you’re entering a specific world, at which point sufferers of repetitive bouts of depression have a moment of strength due to being able to invite others into it. It has much the same relationship as Heart and Soul does on their second album ‘Closer’ – the position of the sorcerer’s hand, dictating the overall direction of the record. Their producer Martin Hannett was clearly quite unique, his ability to conjure the soundscape around Joy Division’s tracks is so fitting the only word you could use in hindsight of what Joy Division became is ‘perfection’. It now almost seems like he was electronically connected to Ian Curtis’s emotional state, forcing him to be the cypher for our present day cyberspacially-fucked subjectivities.
Insight makes sense of what has been and what is to come from the viewpoint of clinical depression. But if we are to conclude that we live in a secretly-depressed time, then that sense seems far more wide-spread than merely being down to personal shortcomings. Insight really does channel something. The world they and their post-punk contemporaries saw/foresaw, one where social democracy was crumbling under a return of more powerful and relentless capitalism, where industry no longer needed them, no longer of value to society, well all that never went away. All that happened was that it was buried under the incessant command to be positive and proactive in the market fundamentalist economy that requires us to be market individuals, where opting out of the game is all but impossible without dying as it seeps into all potential waking (sleeping) moments due to computer technologies. This sense of having “no future” actually intensified, but was barred an expressive outlet amidst an intensifying downpour of aspirational dogma. I think this is why these days we so often find ourselves praising certain artists from the Post-Punk-New Wave crossover of the late 70’s to early 80’s, because that period seemed to be a ‘breathing space’ for raw emotional response to the early days of the Thatcherite transformation, before it became so entrenched that raw expression became so much harder to articulate; a ‘reflexive impotence’ (Fisher) that not only affects our ability for political engagement but also our emotional expression – “smile or die”.
I have previously written about this uncanny-like-relationship music from this period has with our contemporary situation. It’s like what happened from then onwards was some sort of icing over, and that we now stare at these voices as if they have been frozen in time, floating underneath the ice. I wrote previously of Kate Bush and Joy Division in particular. I think of the music video to Kate Bush’s Breathing (based on nuclear war – another issue that, although as relevant today, seems frozen into a 70’s/80’s time-pocket), and the images of her trapped behind the see-through skin of the bubble she is encased in seems to pretty-much visualise what I mean here. Perhaps the drive towards retrospection in this current moment is due to a slow-awaking to the horrifying future-less reality we actually exist in, finding ourselves with no choice but to push away all the hyperbole that disguised this truth to us from its onset there-on-after? 3. Novelty
“You’re on your own now, don’t you think that is a shame, but you’re the only one responsible to take the blame…so what you gonner do when the novelty is gone, ?”
A sense of loss. Novelty was actually one of the first Joy Division songs I ever listened to. Aged 18 (2002), it was a cassette featuring a Joy Division compilation on the one side, and Television’s Marquee Moon on the other. It signaled the end of teenage life. I was experiencing my first ‘They Live’ moment (where he puts on the sunglasses and sees the Real), when the comforts and sugary surface of the social construction fell away, leaving me shit-scared of a world my nervous system has no way of coming to terms with. It resurfaced into 2012 when my messy inability to adjust to a Masters course in 21st century London made me face the truth that I my youth had now come to an end, with no progression to another stage of life on the horizon.
I reference these two points because I think it is arguably most tragic of their songs, because it seems to document the point of loss – that point where a little something of you dies inside, from which ‘New Life’ proves impossible for many. Mark Fisher in his 2005 Kpunk blog The Nihil Rebound (published in Ghosts of My Life, and probably the strongest piece on Joy Division I know of) writes that “what separated Joy Division from any of their predecessors” was that their “bleakness was without any specific cause… …crossed the line from the blue of sadness into the black of depression, passing into the ‘desert and wastelands’ where nothing brings either joy or sorrow…Curtis sang ‘I’ve lost the will to want more’ on ‘Insight’ but there was no sense that there had been any such will in the first place”.
Yet I don’t think Novelty does this: it is even more tragic in that it evokes the act of loss. For me Novelty shares the same emotional space as The Smiths’ This Night Has Opened My Eyes (“and I will never sleep again”), the result of which Morissey sang he neither “happy or sad”, just numb. The songs evokes a point of departure. The Smiths, hailing from the same city, would (in my opinion) not make a song that came as close to the point of bleakness as this, whilst for Joy Division it signals the point of departure to “a bleakness without any cause”. 4. Digital
“Feel it closing in. Day in Day out”
As 2005 got messier and messier, I briefly entered a wider social group including of a group of lads from the incredibly-deprived former pit villages of the Dearne Valley (Thurnscoe to be exact), and a group from former mining communities straggling between Wakefield, Barnsley and Hemsworth. All of the places somewhat left abandoned after the pit closures, and which saw our area of South/West Yorks (Darton) as posh – a consequence of us getting the M1, and it becoming a split community of tepidly-affluent commuter houses at one side and council houses built for coal miners at the other.
Sections of this wider group would end up fighting and momentarily-despising each other (mainly over women), and each constituting a more-or-less ‘with it’ group leader and many emotional or physical wrecks. The Dearne Valley lot had no time for Joy Division’s near-death finale Closer, but were obsessed with Unknown Pleasures (and the album tracks most akin the Unknown Pleasures sound), even wearing the album-sleeve t-shirt. I would’ve thought it a fashion accessory back then, until I realised how much of a ‘fucked up’ generation I belonged to, and why such music may just appeal to these people.
“Let’s All Dance to Joy Division” was a track by a then in-vogue indie-cool outfit The Wombats (to which you WON’T find a link on here). It seemed to treat their surging popularity as something with a comical tint to it, as if we were all easy-come easy-go hipsters unaffected by REAL shit. But I saw no joke in what these tracks meant to me, at a very turbulent point, and even 25 years after they ceased to be. Before the death of small town student nights, the customary dingy indie night club would play non-album-track Digital for us every Wednesday, demanded as necessity and eventually granted.
If it weren’t so minimal the message would be lost. The song is like a drill piece, which, like the outro solo to Shadowplay, is violently unwilling to divert from it’s acceleration towards a dead end. It is 3 minutes of medicinal joy, an energy-release from the general continuity of mild-distress. “I feel it closing in”. If one sensation is necessarily put to the back of the minds of those who hit their twenties in the post 9/11/post Iraq invasion world of increasing cyberspace-interpenetration, it is one of being on borrowed time; where the future has imploded and is hurtling back towards us. ‘Stay young – what else is there anyway?’. With our hands perpetually hovering over our panic buttons, and our feet walking a tightrope above depressive dysfunction, Joy Division’s chaotic hell begins to arrange the look of the world in a way we can deal with. A way we could deal with, back then, when I for one most certainly relied on their music for survival at the most unstable of points. And yes, we did dance to Joy Division. 5. Decades
“Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders”
Decades, the final song on their second (and last album) begins with a soundscape the feels like entering some sort of bone-yard-remnant of unquantifiable suffering- but a suffering being undertaken with total indifference. Again, Hannet’s soundscaping seems, in hindsight, so close to a putting the seal of inevitability over Curtis’s then-imminent suicide, that you often wonder if he truly was a man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time: a tortured pop artist, radical to the cause, caught in the crusher of one huge transformation paving the way for the a much worse world: one lacking a future. The chilling intro conjures to mind a scenario similar to the raising of the skeletal dead from a parched graveyard on one of the most unnerving of Ray Harryhausen‘s stop-frame-motion scenes in the 1962 film production of Jason and the Argonauts.
Decades doesn’t just seem to drag behind it the weight on the shoulders of the punk/post-punk generation, it seems to drag the ghosts of all previous proletarian generations, embodying the destruction of all that the working classes had worked for/fought for. Not only do Curtis’s vocals sound like the voices of the dead accidentally picked up on a tape recorder, but it is as if our forefathers are raised, bent and buckled by two centuries of exploitation, to see the future they believed they were building for their grandchildren crumbling into wasteland.
“I guessed they died some time ago” (Interzone, Unknown Pleasures)
Joy Division were beyond a cause, and weren’t political, even when Curtis sang of the worst excesses of unaccountable power. But without meaning to or not, they remain a cypher for the collapse of a humanist future, the swansong of a post-punk movement that woke up to the depressive reality of the no-such-thing-as society-nihilism that was Punk’s rallying call; the ‘spirit of ’45’ had been buried and a new nastier phase was on the cards. Curtis’s own political leanings and obsessions were more collateral damage than anything, conveying a sense of despondency with the course being taken by humanity, who seemed too far gone to be able to threat any longer over rights and wrongs. As I said before, this despondency articulated by post-punk never went away, but has been largely denied a contemporary articulation due to appropriation of any idea of individual expression into ‘market individualism’. Consequently their legacy grows larger and larger. Collateral damage indeed.
Ten years later The La’s, a Liverpudlian band, fronted by Lee Mavers, who was hell-bent in trying to make the best pop album in years, closed their only album with two tracks that seem to be living through Post-Punk’s anticipated breakdown in a city smashed by the Tories, Failure and Looking Glass. After the defeat of working class solidarity by Thatcherism in the 80’s, The La’s’ self-titled album now seems to make more sense in 2015 than it’s more lauded ‘Madchester’ contemporaries whose energies were far more easily subsumed into a more omnipotent capitalism’s demand that we enjoy our servitude. Although stylistically following the late ’80’s guitar-band tendency of looking back to the 60’s for solace, the lyrics to the La’s’ Failure “So you open the door with the look on your face. Your hands in your pocket and your family to face, and you go down stairs and you sit in your place” could easily have found a fitting place within Decades. But the incessant demand to ‘dance, dance, dance to our servitude‘ of neoliberal capitalism is wearing thinner and thinner by the day. I think the increasing popularity of Joy Division with young people is a sign of this, even if there little self awareness of the motive.
“there’s a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold/heaven knows it’s got to be this time …..avenues all lined with trees.”
It’s early 2002. I’m a anti-social 18 year old, plugged into his cassette tapes, still capable of day-dreaming in the learning centre of a now-demolished college. A tune comes back into my head from some early childhood point. This was a few years before the days where a tune could be found in just a matter of seconds after remembering it. If this could be classed as memory at all: as memories for me seem more akin to the pre-digital-tech cassette player, in how the original pitch of a track always seems to be lost in translation; a memory/cassette-tape error that allows for a unique relationship with a tune. This only really became apparent after I recently re-watched the film Donni Darko; Love Will Tear us Apart features on the film, and I am convinced that it plays at an higher pitch, which incidentally makes it sound like a cassette tape version.
The tune I remembered in 2002 was Love Will Tear us Apart. But it took me until the summer to actually manage to listen to it again. Thereon-after, as my teenage inertia was superseded by a young-adult inertia (based around what I would come to see as ‘Depressive Pleasure-seeking‘.), Love Will Tear Us Apart became an staple in The Retro Bar at The End of Universe; former bars would be replaced by future former bars, with their only continuity being the ‘stuck record’ of the ‘Indie Disco’. The hair-raising synth and drum outro feels like it could stretch out into eternity, due to perpetual dependency placed upon music that was new when capitalism’s ‘slow cancellation of the future’ was only just beginning. The ‘eternal present’ of our capitalist reality has to come to an end, in some form. But the end cannot be seen from within. But, my god, it is longed for.
As with Atmosphere and These days (written at a similar point) Love Will Tear us Apart and Ceremony (although properly recorded as New Order, after Curtis had died) share the same sense of painful longing for something that never materialises – “this dream it takes too long” as Curtis sings in 24 Hours. Ian Curtis’s lyrics may have been most directly attributable to the specificities of his collapsing personal life, but it is clear that there’s a longing here for something that stretches far beyond these confines, towards a promised world, perhaps? the dreams of postwar optimism, now falling into tatters in front of the atomised, lonely type of Utopia offered by Thatcherism. It is inconsequential whether Curtis voted rightward or not, he was caught in the headlights of a pivotal moment in history and expressed an anguish an increasing proportion of us identify with.
I listen to Love Will Tear us Apart and Ceremony with that sense of longing that other Joy Division’s songs do not allow for: the social world I long for, not the one being blown into atomized, lonely pieces by the end-game of neoliberal (market fundamentalist) political economy. It’s an in-the-making conclusion that I never thought I’d come close to making when listening to Joy Division; that there is a longing in some of their final songs that looks for an escape route from certain-demise, a last gasp of life. Ceremony’s “Heaven knows it’s got to be this time”, is a plea: that ‘I want another chance to live!’. “Avenues all lined with trees”, a social world of vitality, for our families, that we once saw as a guarantee. For me, in this past year, these lyrics have served as a mute wish I carry around with me to supersede this awful stage in something I have no embarrassment in calling ‘the human project’. You see, with all these documentaries, and articles, we are looking back to Joy Division to trace our steps back towards a future that was stolen. We want it back.
Even though I intend this blog to be about my own responses and reflections on music that has informed my understanding of life during the past 20 years, I have been motivated to write it in the first place due to being captivated by the thoughts of many cultural theorists ; in particular, Mark Fisher and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi. It is very likely that their thoughts on popular culture within the past 60 years have prompted me to internally revise my responses and reflections on music that has made an impact. But also, as in the case of Fisher’s writing on Joy Division, it has given courage to previously ‘unsure-of-themselves-thoughts’, realising certain drug-like-dependency-responses to the music (of Joy Division) weren’t an oddity, and immature as I’d previously dismissed them as being.
So… Here I have attempted to gather together songs that evoke in me a sense of a world once imaginable. A sensation that is both personal and social, because it is both within my lifetime and also stretching back beyond my life, fed into my understanding of the world as a young child, even as these ‘alternative worlds’ were fading and dying by the time I was born (1984). Sensations that once felt alive and now just have an haunting presence.
When did things begin to feel like they were no longer alive? And are wider cultural impacts internalised and lived by individuals acting within that society? I believe so, and I am convinced that I have indeed absorbed the wider mood into my own character.
During the past 35-40 years society has gradually become almost-totally saturated with the postmodernist logic. However, a term I find far more appropriate to describe this process would be Mark Fisher’s term ‘Capitalist Realism’: a cultural infliction that sustains an inability to be able to imagine a world beyond this increasingly stale, yet frightened, ever-present .I’d say full saturation happened somewhere between the late 1990’s ,the 9/11 horror spectacle, the damaged done to the belief in democracy due to the ineffective 2003 anti Iraq-War demonstrations, then to be compounded by the farce and global insult of the 2008 financial fiasco. This is certainly the case here in the U.K, if not most of the world.
I say this because even after Thatcherism’s ‘There is no alternative’ agenda (TINA) reigned triumphant in the 1980’s (that precipitated the dictatorship of individualism that began to make people ideologically blind to all things but their own reflection) there was still space for a rejuvenated feeling of a better world on its way in the late 80’s to mid 90’s. I think it is safe to say that this was largely instigated by events such as the fall of the Berlin wall, that symbolised the end of a globally disliked Soviet order/the cold war, and then a few years later what seemed like the end of Apartheid/the freeing of Nelson Mandela. But it was also instigated by the utopianism surrounding the beginnings of the digital/Internet revolution (before the very troubling realities became a spectacle spreading disbelief, from where nothing shocking could shock any longer). Basically a culture-wide naive optimism (blindness to the vacuum behind the big new brands that were promoting a golden new dawn; New Labour for example) led us to imagine and put expectation in what would slowly crack, break apart and melt away as we passed through the first decade of the 2000’s, revealing the cold and harsh real in ‘capitalist realism’. Now we are surrounded by the ghosts from these times; a faded colour, like the advertisement holdings left behind after the 2008 meltdown, fading away in the sharp light.
Basically, I (and probably nearly everybody else alive today – if they truthfully asked themselves) would wish the world to be different to how it is now – very different. I firmly believe that it shouldn’t have to be the way it is. And I will never be truly satisfied until it is no longer how it currently is – if that change occurs in my lifetime. Music that makes an impact on us can enable us to imagine the world as a different/better place, but for me at least, these days music is much more an enabler of a feeling that it just shouldn’t be like this (as it stands now). Thus music from a time in social or personal history (and I do my best to stress that both are infinitely interconnected) that evokes a feeling of the world being a different one, from the decaying social structure under capitalism that we feel stuck, haunts us, fills the space with these ghosts from the past. I suppose, before I go on to list the songs, the that this leaves me little choice but to stress the importance of popular music can play in our wish for a better world. Music cannot start a revolution (and in our times when we feel trapped in inaction, music that is angry with the state of things can often be merely cathartic; providing the feeling of action,rather than action itself), but it can, and has before, been a way of enabling an awareness of the possibility of change in society.
These songs either evoke a feeling of something lost, that seems irretrievable, or of a time in my life when I had optimism for a better world, that eventually dries in the successive vitality droughts brought on by let downs/disappointments. I have attempted to club the songs together where they relate to experience.
Kate Bush: Wuthering Heights.
On Youtube there exists a digitally stretched-out video of Kate Bush’s mystical-masterpiece Wuthering Heights – slowing down the track so that it lasts 36 minutes. I have never listened to all 36 minutes of it (I think I found the time to get 30 minutes through), but 4 minutes is enough to experience a strong hauntological presence in Kate Bush’s music – a background element that the stretching out of the song brings to the foreground. There is something of the uncanny about Kate Bush’s (specifically early) music, how it seems to be very much at home amidst the then-contemporary music of the late 1970’s/early 80’s, yet how it also seems to expand into a mythological England of yesteryear, whilst also seeming to stretch into a utopian future; a ghost in the machine/the record player.
I’ve heard the original record so much. It has been etched into my mind that it is a song I love. Yet the reasons for this are no longer conjured up by listening to it, as if repetitive playing on personal music players has drained these connections of vitality. Unable to access what made it sound so good all those years ago, I find this slowed-down version, whilst not being incredibly ‘listenable’, has hauntological traces of the impact the original record had on me, first as a very young child, when it became woven into my understanding of what good music is, and then aged 19/20 when it (and the rest of her earlier recordings) synchronised itself with a rejuvenated sense of vitality within me, largely based on the confidence making art gave me, and a naive belief that I had overcome the heavy negatives within me. Hauntology – as traces of something no longer present: I can no longer access what made the original sound so good to me, because they clung to a vitality that belongs in the past.
Some chart-moulded, nightclub-driven, songs accidentally reveal what they most commonly try to blot out of the audio-visual horizon: real melancholia, real loss. Informed by the hauntological revelations the stretch-out version of Wuthering Heights gave me, and the presence of (what sounds like) samples of upbeat songs from the (surface-level) upbeat 1990’s in the music of Burial, I wanted to play around with certain songs to unlock the hauntological ‘particles’ I was certain were present within them. With Every Heartbeat was one track I has been eager to stretch-out.
I recall hearing the late 00’s chart song some months after its release. It struck a chord with a peculiarly satisfying point of sadness/let down that came over me whilst I was waiting for friends returning from the bar in a expansive chain pub in Barnsley. The video for the song was playing on large screen whilst I sat, strangely captivated and moved by visuals that were incredibly ‘production-line-pop-music’. Yet it stuck, as it isn’t supposed to for a person who (at least then) still dressed and wrote music as if there was still a genuine oppositional alternative culture to a conservative mainstream.
Hearing it thereafter, it strangely became synchronised with the 2008 financial collapse and the resulting reality just a few months down the line from the aforementioned moment in the pub. It became a sound to represent a party that was just about to end, a party that had nonetheless frustrated most of its attendants (UK society), by being the only thing that there seemed left to do in a public-space-deprived, capitalist realist, credit-sustained existence, which often ended in tears and regret. It frustrated because during this period, the big night out had become the unacknowledged ‘dream-keeper’ of society; promising to fulfill or at least find us those human needs of love, happiness, meaning. Even before the crash this song felt like a sad wave goodbye to all this, as if you could sense it was over; “at least you gave us dreams, but I know now they’re about to go“. Of course, most UK towns still exist as the heavy-drinking wild-wests (at least to the sober) after 6pm, but it’s with an intensified bleakness, as if an entire scene could resemble one person’s drawn-face and lifeless eyes; we’re now just ghosts of our past reveling-selves, even more future-less than before, haunting places that once at least promised something, just going through the motions. With Every Heartbeat thus becomes very painful in this light.
Annex and Genetic Engineering – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [OMD] from the Peel sessions recordings
Jacques Derrida describes hauntology as “the accumulation of ghost-like traces of the past as we move further into the Future”. These Peel session recordings already sounded like a past I remembered from my early childhood when I heard this record in 2009, even though they are sounds that evoke an era that was more or less ending by the time I was born (but there again why is it that childhood memories seem to absorb things you can’t possibly remember because you weren’t born then? It is as if the preceding years come pre-packed in you, from your family and the surrounding environment). The sonic structure, the synth sounds that evoke a future which often feels like it lost the will to materialise, remind me of a 1980’s I was in reality too young to remember.
“These are the lies they told us, that this is the only way” – Genetic Engineering. “This is the only way” is more than certainly an highly concerned ‘NO’ response to Thatcherism’s “there is no alternative [to capitalism”] assertion. Back then, however, it was an assertion, now it has become a cultural reality. In the summer of 2009, I was listening to this record whilst making my drawings in a studio in South Yorkshire, mixed with day trips to the nearest big financial and consumer centre, Leeds. I regret what happened that year, I regret what was probably inevitable in my life as if it wasn’t inevitable at all: the loss of the last bits of my early 20’s vitality, as I forced myself to take the issues seriously that has been running around my head for years, which forced me to look deeply into capitalism, climate change, and thus having to face the harsh truth that life will get less and less bearable by the year, unless something drastic changes.I am certain that the ghosts in the OMD-machine from the pre ‘capitalist realist’ gravitated towards the ghost-in-becoming of what died in me in 2009, and now listening to Annex and Genetic Engineering from the Peel Sessions is an haunting of both of these things as if they were the same thing.
Trans Europe Express, and Autobahn by Kraftwerk
Despite the Middle East oil crisis of 1973 – the impact it had on culture that would now have to take seriously the fact that resources and material advancement may not be infinite after all – Autobahn from 1974 seems to evoke a time when those things were firmly believed. The lush, superrealist album cover, and the bold step into ‘synthesiser-world’ look forwards to the future with wonder and excitement. Kraftwerk’s 1970’s work oozes the modernist impulse, and sometimes feels like music that could accompany modernist painting from 50 years prior to Kraftwerk. More than anything it sounds like a future that never came. Listening to Kraftwerk is (to paraphrase John Berger) nostalgia for the future. In current times, not even cultural products labelled ‘Science Fiction’, pulped into cultural white noise by an over-emphasis on CGI graphics, can generate a feeling of a future.
Kraftwerk’s music is music that carries ‘the new’, and, like the darker-underbellly-of-progress synthesiser music of John Foxx, it still maintains the essence of something new now. It has almost remained frozen, in radiant youth, in the age of retrospect and re-hash that came into being afterwards. I heard both of these albums at different points of ‘fresh feeling’ within myself. Stepping onto one of few the trains that arrive on time, and listening to Trans Europe Express I could half convince myself I was in a future that took a different track (no pun intended). In a similar way to the aforementioned OMD tracks above both the idea of a an era of new, and a feeling of the new within me, became attached and synonymous: the music now evokes the traces of them.
Dog Shelter and Unite by Burial
If I am to use Burial’s music here, it is to state with honesty, that my a lot of interest in hauntology was inspired by reading Mark Fisher’s thoughts on Burial, and my subsequent interest gained in the music itself. But the haunting feelings I had when I listened to the music were quite specific to my own personal experiences. Dog Shelter, a track from the Untrue album, particularly evoked this feeling. It now evokes memories of sat waiting for train in Sheffield train station, early summer 2012. Trying to think about whether or not I can make it to south London to go and study a masters. Burial is from South London, apparently. This made the music stick more.
Was thinking about my past, my memories of my ‘worldly-outlook’ in the early 1990’s; that this song seems to have ghostly traces of certain ‘feel good’ songs that remind me of the early 1990’s, even if what I remember was mostly the mainstream music from this period. It’s My Life/Rhythm is a Dancer/No Limits/The key The Secret; a chunk of early 1990’s optimism poured into the mind of a 8/9 year old, for whom previous to that remembers all people projected into the living room from screens as stale, white, head-teacher-like people (in hindsight, probably Tories on the Sunday politics shows of back then). Whilst also these projected music videos seem to include mixed-race, exciting-looking (largely) females, especially from someone coming from a town where there must have been only 1 non-white person for every 1000 inhabitants. It was an exciting future, that slowly dried up, not least down to (what is clear in hindsight) the white public schoolboy culture-coup ‘Britpop’ that basically banished all that wasn’t white boy guitar music, that (again in hindsight) belonged in the past, to ‘towny’ (soon-to-be ‘chav’), ‘degenerate’ music, and helped tear up a future Britain in exchange for a Britain based on an idyllic collage of its past. Burial, two decades on, seems, for me to be a ghostly ‘what-the-hell-happened-to-that-early-90’s-vitiality’ ode, mixed with the dangers of an uncertain age of climate and political uncertainties. Listening to it before I went to London made me feel really solemn about the past, and how all that feel good optimism has vanished. But that a new start was needed, maybe to leave the past behind now; stop letting it haunt me. The plan to go to London was not successful though, and Burial’s music has subsequently taken on another layer of traces of a lost energy.
Unite specifically evokes a chilling feeling of the near future, regarding the threat of climate change, political/social chaos in the near future. Memory of song: early Spring 2012. An haunting sound,(like sound of long-gone city rippling through time) that gave me image of people finding love, as things begin to fall apart – gave me the chills. Like a musical response to Jean Baudrillard’s ask, specific to our postmodern time, to see apocalypse as something that has already occurred. Faint noises,like trains at night,are like the memory of having dreams, having a future. As if we’re now just going through motions until it peters out.Music that is in its essence brave, the noise of facing the storm not burying one’s head
Coming from someone who’s life lived has bared witness to the slow decline, stagnation, and retreat of progressive dynamics in pop music, this song almost seems to sound as if it is a vessel carrying all the break-neck-speed at which pop music progressed from the 1950’s to more or less the date the album Dare (which contains Seconds) appeared (in 1981). It is powerful, energetic, yet strangely tear-jerking at the same time. The sadness doesn’t lay with the song’s subject matter because of a famous president (John.F.Kennedy) being shot, but because the assignation itself is one of a few 20th century horror-spectacles that seem to capture the tragedy that befell the century, as the expectation of progress (that a “better world is around the corner”) collapsed.
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi writes about how “in the last three decades of the [twentieth century] the utopian imagination was slowly overturned. and has been replaced by a dystopian imagination”. Although the assignation of John.F.Kennedy was in the early 1960’s, still a point of ‘high modernism’, retrospectively it literally appears as one of a few bullets that eventually brought the belief in a future crashing to the ground; and I am in no way arguing here that John.F.Kennedy himself was a man who would have been a major player in this, if at all, just that his killing was one of civilsation’s ‘disaster spectacles’. Pop Music’s progressive, modernist impulse was a short-sharp surge in comparison with the rest of modernism. But, again retrospectively-speaking, Seconds by the Human League is a song that visualises something like a bullet fired into the heart of a past world that believed in a future.
In his recent film ‘A Perverts Guide to Ideology’ Slavoj Žižek ends the film by quoting Walter Benjamin from almost a century ago, saying that “every revolution (if authentic) is not only directed to the future, but it redeems also the past failed revolutions. All the ghosts…the living dead of the past revolutions, which are roaming around, unsatisfied, will finally find their home in the new freedom”. To return to what I said earlier, I would not consider for one moment that music could play an active role in a revolution (that in our times when we feel trapped in inaction, music that is angry with the state of things can often be merely cathartic; providing the feeling of action,rather than action itself), but isn’t Žižek’s above use of Benjamin’s quote most noticeably happening right now in our times through our audio/visual culture, the still mainly consists of cultural products made 30-50 years ago? Are we not at this moment surrounded by most ghosts from past failed revolutions that any other time in human history? The question is then, will these ghosts “find their home in [a] new freedom”? Or will this state of long decline just continue to be a dumping ground for them?
Here is a jumble of songs that defined by 20’s. In order of the years I have tried to list the ones that super-glued themselves to those times in my mind. Thanks to Lee Garforth for providing probably almost half of the CD’s from which these songs stuck themselves to me. Music has a phenomenological potency; often you find lyrics and sounds creep into your head from certain time periods just because you’ve looked at something totally unrelated that is listed as being from that year. Remembered lyrics cut loose from the original song meaning and begin to mean something to your life at that time and place.
spring/Summer: “Your sun’s coming out”
Orange Crush – R.E.M, Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers, E-Bow The Letter – R.E.M, Stay Together – Suede, These Four Walls- Cast, Babooshka – Kate Bush, Army Dreamers – Kate Bush, Blow Away (for Bill) – Kate Bush, From Safety to Where? – Joy Division, Novelty – Joy Division, Sit Down and Stand Up – Radiohead, Sail to the Moon – Radiohead, Dream Brother – Jeff Buckley, Talk About The Passion – R.E.M, My Descent into Madness – Eels, Spring Healed Jim – Morrisey, Beautiful Mind – The Verve, Molasses – Radiohead, Anywhere – Dubstar, Breathing – Kate Bush, Wow – Kate Bush, Cloudbursting – Kate Bush, Komakino – Joy Division, Flaming – Pink Floyd, Interstellar Overdrive – Pink Floyd, Rabid Dog – Super Furry Animals, Palo Alto – Radiohead
Autumn/Winter: “I’ve been sound asleep for twenty years, If I’m sound asleep a hundred years”
Any Day Now – Elbow, Digital – Joy Division, Oscillate Wildly – The Smiths, Red Sleeping Beauty – Mccarthy, Should The Bible Be Banned? – Mccarthy, Stumble and Fall – Razorlight (I do regret having ‘Tony Blair-Rockstar-Borrell’ in here, but unfortunately this song has attached itself to some rather fond memories), Ommision – John Frusciante, Guiding Light – Television, A Forest – The Cure, Hairy Trees – Goldfrapp, Presuming Ed (Rest Easy) – Elbow, Black Dollar Bills – Hope of The States, Pounding – Doves, Close to Me – The Cure, Cirrus Minor – Pink Floyd, Julia Dream – Pink Floyd
Winter/Spring: “Something always goes wrong when things are going right, you swallowed your pride to quell the pain inside”
“How could anyone know me, when I don’t even know myself?
These Days – Joy Division, The Big Sky – Kate Bush, Watching You Without Me – Kate Bush, The Sound of Music – Joy Division, The Only Mistake – Joy Division, Nehemiah- Hope of The States, Me Ves Y Sufres – Hope of the States, Sick and Tired – The Cardigans, This is the Day – The The, The Sinking Feeling – The The, Charly – The Prodigy, Papa new Guinea – Future Sound of London, Sweet Harmony – Beloved, Almost Forgot Myself – Doves, Frans Hals – Mccarthy, Soul Mining – The The, GIANT – The The, NYC – Interpol
Summer/Autumn: “So I wrote it all in a letter, but I don’t know if it came”
Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down – Interpol, Leif Erikson – Interpol, Spellbound – Siouxie and The Banshees, Into the Light – Siouxsie and The Banshees, Abba Zabba – Captain Beafheart, Out of The Blue (Into The Fire) – The The, Angels of Deception, Prozac Beats – 18 Wheeler, Effil’s God – Eels, Strange Currencies – R.E.M, Slippage – Goldfrapp,Penny Royal Tea – N irvana, Nocturnal Me – Echo and The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain – Echo and The Bunnymen, Climbing up To The Moon – Eels, Sexual Healing – Kate Bush(a cover), You are The Everything – R.E.M, Uncertain Smile (single version) – The The, Perfect – The The, Winter – Tori Amos
Winter/Spring: “This is not really, this is not really happening. But you be your life it is”
Lorelei – Cocteau Twins, Sweet Adelene – Elliot Smith, Pitseleh – Elliot Smith, The Red Telephone – Love, Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale – Love, Deeper Understanding – Kate Bush, This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush, Back of Love – Echo and The Bunnymen, White Devil – Echo and the Bunnymen, The Infant Kiss – Kate Bush, Glosoli – Sigur Ros, Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos, the Upstairs Room – The Cure, Lament – The Cure, Yes – Manic Street Preachers, All We Ever Look For – Kate Bush, I Me You I’m Your – Jim Noir, Tower of Love – Jim Noir.
Summer/Autumn: “I’ve got a ton of great ideas, I’m really worked up, I’m on a good mixture, I don’t want to waste it…..I wait for the click. I wait, but it doesn’t kick in”
“I won’t fuck this over”
Mother. Sister! [Peel Session] – The Fall, Put Away[Peel Session] – The Fall, No Xmas for John Quays[Peel Session] – The Fall, Quiet Man – Jim Noir, The Only Way – Jim Noir, Don’t You Forget about Me – Simple Minds, Mad World – Tears for Fears, The Man Machine[full album] – Kraftwerk, A Friend of Mine – The National, The Hurting – Tears For Fears, Ideas as Opiates – Tears For Fears, Pale Shelter – Tears For Fears, Twilight of a Champion – The The, The Mercy beat- The The, Alcoholiday – Teenage Fanclub, Is This Music? – Teenage Fanclub, City Middle – The National, Mr November – The National, Suffer The Children – Tears For Fears.
Winter/Spring: “If I could go back to where I began, I would Yeah – if only I could. I`d never do no one no harm. Wear a halo So heavenly I`d grow”
There is No Love Between us Anymore – Pop Will Eat itself, Poison to the Mind – Pop Will Eat Itself, Hello I Love You – The Doors, B-line – Lamb, Fly – Lamb, Look! Know! – The Fall, Autobahn [entire album] – Kraftwerk, Air – Talking Heads, Drugs -Talking Heads, Don’t Worry about the Government – Talking Heads, Polyethelene – Radiohead, Sympthony in Blue – Kate Bush, Coffee Homeground – Kate Bush, All Ablaze – Ian Brown, Chicago – Sufjan Stevens, Abel – The National, Armageddon Days – The The
Joga – Bjork, Human Behaviour – Bjork, Wolf at The Door – Radiohead, Soma – Smashing Pumpkins, Good Morning Beautiful – The The, The Violence of Truth – The The, YmweLwyr A Gwrachod – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Magical World – Eels, Suicide Life – Eels, Come on Feel Illinois! – Sufjan Stevens, Jacksonville – Sufjan Stevens, Decatur, Or Round of Applause For your Stepmother – Sufjan Stevens, Ocean of Noise – Arcade Fire, Windowsill – Arcade Fire, No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
Winter/Spring “Do you think there’s someone out there? Do you think that they might know? And if they don’t do you think they should be told? Cos she’s living in a nightmare”
Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens, Body Snatchers – Radiohead, House of Cards – Radiohead, Unravel – Bjork, One Day – Bjork, Friendly Ghost – Eels, The Sprawl – Sonic Youth, Dirge – Death in Vegas, Soul Auctioneer – Death in Vegas, Acrlliyc Afternoons – Pulp, Joy Riders – Pulp, 100 Years of Solitude – The Levellers, The Likes of You and I – The Levellers, Happy Endings – Pulp, Garden – The Levellers, Nothing Left – Orbital, Impact – Orbital
“The artist fell in love with the reflection of himself, and suddenly the picture became distorted”
“But it was only fantasy, the wall was so high as you can see. No matter how he tried he could not break free. And the worms ate into his brain”
Burning Wheel – Primal Scream, Stuka – Primal Scream, Long Life – Primal Scream, Perfect (Original Version) – The The, Hit The Hi Tech Groove – Pop Will Eat Itself, I Think I’m in Love – Spiritualized, Stay With Me – Spiritualized, Come Together – Spiritualized, Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express [FULL ALBUM], The Wall [FULL ALBUM] – Pink Floyd, John Foxx – Metamatic [FULL ALBUM], Gustav Holst – The Planets, Glimmer – John Foxx, Ohm Sweet Ohm – Kraftwerk, John Foxx – Miles Away, Computer Love – Kraftwerk.
Winter/Spring “They promised me paradise if I fell under their spell….they are many, we are few (is there no way out?)”
Computer World – Kraftwerk, Numbers – Kraftwerk, Me I Disconnect from You – Gary Numan, When The Machines Rock – Gary Numan, Are Friends Electric? – Gary Numan, Well of Loneliness – Mccarthy, Keep an Open Mind Or Else – Mccarthy, I’m Not A Patriot But – Mccarthy, Speed of Life – David Bowie, Sound and Vision – David Bowie, Babasonicos – Ian Brown, Green is The Colour – Pink Floyd, Cymbaline – Pink Floyd
Summer/Autumn “These are the lies they told us, the future’s good as sold”
Julia’s Song [Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Electricity – – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Dark Side of The Moon [full album] – Pink Floyd, Pretending To See [Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Genetic Engineering [Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Of all The Things We’ve Made[Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Animals [full album] – Pink Floyd, 4st 71b – Manic Street Preachers, Computer Love (again) – Kraftwerk, Let Me In – R.E.M
Winter/Spring “I want you as the dream, not the reality … and I know that this will never be mine”
Never Be Mine – Kate Bush, Deeper Understanding (again) – Kate Bush, All I Need – Radiohead, The Reckoner – Radiohead, Scatterbrain(as Dead as Leaves) – Radiohead, There There – Radiohead, Spinning Plates (live) – Radiohead,
Summer/Autumn “Does Will Smith Lie? Does he ever cave in and cry?”
Everything in it’s Right Place (I might be wrong EP) – Radiohead, Pearly – Radiohead, Presidential Suite – Super Furry Animals, Fragile Happiness – Super Furry Animals, Don’t Fall – The Chameleons, Second Skin – The Chameleons, Thursday’s Child – The Chameleons, Porcupine – Echo and The Bunnymen, Bluer Skies – Echo and The Bunnymen.
Winter/Spring “you have tried your best to please everyone but it just isn’t happening… this is fucked up, fucked up”
High as You Can Go – The Chameleons, Black Swans – Thom Yorke, Failure – The La’s, Looking Glass – The La’s, Harrowdown Hill – Thom Yorke, I Walked – Sufjan Stevens, Atoms For Peace – Thom Yorke, Beverley Hills Cop Theme Song – Axel F (this is due to spending hours working in an exhibition where this was played over and over, Black Dollar Bills (again) – Hope of The States, Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers,
Summer/Autumn “…a powerful feeling that the American system is failing to deal with the real threats to life…”
2 Weeks – Grizzly Bear, Buddy Holly – Weezer, Digital Love – Daft Punk, Crescendols – Daft Punk, Dummy [full album] – Portishead, Going out of My Head – FatBoy Slim, Veridis Quo – Daft Punk, Ce Matin La – Air, One and One – Robert Miles, Let There Be Flutes – Bentley Rhythm Ace, Midlander (There Can Be Only One) – Bentley Rhythm Ace, His and Hers – Pulp, Animal Nitrate – Suede, Insight (Peel sessions) – Joy Division, Fugeela – Fugees, In Your Face – 808 State.
Winter/Spring:”Heaven knows it’s got to be this time, Avenues all lined with trees…”
Ceremony – New Order, In a Lonely Place – New Order, Return to Hot Chicken – Yo La Tengo, Belagusi’s Dead – Bauhaus, Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club, Wordy Rappinghood – Tom Tom Club, The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson, Born to End – Manic Street Preachers, Love’s Sweet Exile – Manic Street Preachers, All Too Much – The Beatles, Across The Breeze – Sonic Youth, One of These Days – Pink Floyd, Forgive – Burial, Unite – Burial, Private Psychedelic Reel – Chemical Brothers, The Glorious Land – PJ Harvey, In The Dark Places – PJ Harvey,
Summer Autumn: “What you gonner do, what you gonner do when it’s over?”
Raver – Burial, UK – Burial, Dog Shelter – Burial, WitchHunt – Zomby, Natalia’s Song – Zomby, David’s Last Summer – Pulp, Oxygene – Jean Michelle Jarre, 21st Century Schizoid Man – King Crimson, Genetic Engineering – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, There’s Nothing I Won’t Do – JX, Novelty (transmission session) – Joy Division, Set You Free – Ntrance, A Forest (live 1980) – The Cure, Love Action – The Human League, Take me To The Hospital – The Prodigy, Pandemonium – The Prodigy, Temptation – Heaven 17, Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads.
Winter/Spring: “On a clear day I can see solutions, to all the heavy shit facing revolution…. dry as matt emulsion”
The Trick – The Prodigy, Everything is Borrowed – The Streets, The Irony of it all – The Streets, Wounder – Burial, Fostercare – Burial, The Escapist – The Streets, Stolen Dog – Burial, Raquel – Neon Neon, Aladdin’s Story – Death in Vegas, Trick for Treat – Neon Neon, Steel Your Girl – Neon Neon, Street Halo – Burial, Michael Douglas – Neon Neon, Open Your Heart – The Human League, With Every Heartbeat (at Ghosts of My Life tempo) – Robyn with Kleerup, Seconds – The Human League, Souvenir – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Summer/Autumn: “But as the world turns I learned life is Hell .Living in the world, no different from a cell… I guess that’s the time when I’m not depressed, But I’m still depressed…”
This year was always going to be one of re-building/coming to terms with falling back into a place that I felt I had to escape (believing it to be now or never) and realising it wasn’t the end of the world after all. This requires one to put things into perspective, not by comparing oneself to those less fortunate (not that they should be ignored) but in realising that nothing matters more and than obtaining that next inhalation of oxygen.
This has been a strange time, where initially the outside world fell away, to the extent that my life felt like it was in a momentary suspension from them, haunted by the (friendly-than-usual) ghosts of my past, and future. Almost felt like I was a actually a ghost hearing the sound of my life passing through the house where I have spent most of it. (The most appropriate musical soundtrack being Kate Bush, who’s music is quintessentially dream-like; but a certain type of dream, a dream where you wake up feeling you have left something behind in it; an haunting from the past, future and an unreachable present. The most apt song being Watching You Without Me (Hounds of Love): “there’s a ghost in our hall just watching you”. Her music may be so powerful to this situation because her earlier music is certainly one of my earliest memories of music, and it was also the music I was listening to in a rather similar situation 10 years ago when I tried and failed to do a course in Manchester. It’s phenomenologically important here.).
To cut all this short, it was a perspective that gave me reason to see the falling apart of the plans engraved into 2012 as anything but a mistake made; that now I could resume my creation of art, without feeling the pressure than I somehow ought to be more. But the rebuilding needs to be slow, like a physical healing process – just because you think you are fully healed it doesn’t mean you are. To go back out into the world too soon, well, this results in stumbling over obstacles that you’d have been floating safely over if you’d left it long enough.
I tried to understand what made me make think I was ready prematurely.
Social media has encroached so far into our lives that its omnipresence has made us blind to our total loss of privacy. The philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote of ‘falling into the world’, losing our ability to be philosophical, being unable to listen to our Being through the din made by society’s asks of us. Heidegger never lived to see the coming on the information-technology age. In this age (the ‘Facebook-age’- such naming of an era may yet prove to be not satirical and ironic at all) it is now almost impossible to refrain from ‘falling into the world’ in our very spaces of privacy.
Marc Augé wrote about this inversion in his book Non-Places, mapping the cultural logic that has landed us in the Facebook age, Augé Writes that the “[t]he individual, finally, is decentred in a sense from himself. He has instruments that place him in constant contact with the remotest parts of the outside world. Portable telephones are also cameras, able to capture still or moving images; they are also televisions and computers. The individual can thus live rather oddly in an intellectual, musical, or visual environment that is wholly independent of his immediate physical surroundings” One is surrounded by communication in the places they retreat to, and I now find myself going outside into the street to be alone with my thoughts. Finding it hard to tune out of the social media world, within a couple of weeks I have found my mind running on overtime. I didn’t have time to ground myself in a philosophically stable place, and my mind was ‘falling into the world’ with tonnes of stored-up energy that should have released at a much slower rate.
The past, present, and future that were previously in an harmless form, began to do immense damage to my well-being again. I don’t think anybody who finds themselves analysing 2013 can feel in a good mental state afterwards, it’s like the fruits of madness, all aging at different rates, all seem to have come to ripen in this year; there’s something uncanny about 2013. Almost as if we have hit a certain gage in our civilisation: now it isn’t a case of having to be unwell to function in an unwell society, you have to be utterly mad to function in society. Nothing looks different at first, but then walking the streets something hits you, the look on faces of utter confusion. Streets filling with the homeless, whilst others look at each other on phone screens. Pastiche and retro to such a saturation-extent that it’s like the entire history of man has been thrown into the same arena. More scandal in the political/media/corporate establishment that we can cope with; we’ve lost all faith in everything but still go through the motions not knowing what else do to. What’s the difference between a dystopia and an insane society? Or is the insanity the infliction that stops us realising it’s a dystopia? Utter confusion; necessary blindness. Just count your blessings that nobody really has the time to notice the moments when you yourself crack.
So I wait and expect social breakdown, but it’s likely that it won’t happen, and the breakdown is merely that my past seems to have collapsed in on my present, and I can’t figure out where next. Perhaps I am the one dummy at the end of history whilst everyone else just potters around until the transition occurs? I’m 29 now, and it feels like my 20’s were just a single year, but yet not for everyone around, who appears to have somehow merged into a walk of life. I’m still locked in these years not knowing where to go next. After the calm start to the last year of my 20’s I’ve suddenly found myself locked into a lifestyle which feels like I’m trying to finish the business of the entirety of my 20’s – not really knowing what that business is, just that some conclusion needs to arrived at. The conclusion was probably being arrived at until I fell into the omnipresent world, unable to escape social media. It certainy feels that some grasp on normality (a relationship with someone for example) would serve as an immense anesthetising tool, stop me staring too much into the uncanny, frightening 2013, but would it?
Looking at the world teaches you to be cold, emotionless, when you can’t help feeling that the future will be dark, you shut down your senses to prepare for it. It surprises people how honest I can be about my life, whilst also being so unemotional about it, as if I’m not speaking of my past but a record collection. It really doesn’t bother me at all, but I often fear I scare friends with what I say, but I can’t see it, because my emotions are now merely references for conversation to prove my points. I can speak of emotion but I can’t act on it; I could easily inform you if I was having a massive breakdown whilst calmly asking you to pass me the salt. Of course I don’t want to be like this, but like with everything else, re-learning takes time – I struggle to find this time, when the superhighways are flying past my eyes and ears.