Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 26, history graduate & human rights student
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Apr 14
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Security Tips

rubot:

3-Factor Authentication: A guy from Google cycles over to your house with an envelope containing your verification code

5-Factor Authentication: You have to fight and kill the guy from Google to get your code, which is tattooed inside his stomach.

10-Factor Authentication: Your verification code is in an ornate Chinese puzzle box, held deep inside a crypt full of traps and monsters.

100-Factor Authentication: You achieve total consciousness of reality in order to realise that there are no codes and there is no account to unlock in the first place.

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Apr 13
Permalink blues history EMA TFV
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TFV EMA vinyl vinyl sunday
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Apr 11
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#Selfie

TFV EMA vinyl
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"There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair [verweilen: a reference to Goethe’s Faust], to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm.”

Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Concept of History, IX 

The Future’s Void (re: my last line here)

tfv history
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Apr 10
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EMA - ‘Smoulder’ from The Future’s Void (2014)

I think this might be my personal favourite on this album, a decision I came to today prior to reading Mark Richardson’s Pitchfork review which identifies it as a weak patch in the album: “the noisy “Cthulu”, “Smoulder”, and “Neuromancer” never hit the intensity they’re going for, and these three songs in sequence in the middle of the record drag it down big time.” Admittedly, ‘Neuromancer’ is rather heavy-handed in its symbolism and sonics, and ‘Cthulu’ somewhat the same (I like its echoey punches, though). Even ‘Smoulder’ varies between ember and flame, but at least some of the time I think all these songs do hit the requisite intensity, and ‘Smoulder’ most of all. 

Moreover: “There are no memorable hooks during this run, and the pinched filter applied to Anderson’s voice wants to evoke a Nine Inch Nails-style blown-out intensity, but it never reaches that pitch.” I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly listened to NIN - industrial per se isn’t my thing, but a lot of my listening has involved punk bands pushing their own styles towards nihilistic orgies of disintegration, which is I suppose de facto industrial, and EMA seems to do the same thing from a more catholic rock taste. At this stage, and with such a digitally saturated album, shouldn’t we really be talking about post-industrial? As with ‘Satellites’, the pinched voice and static-y distortion seem more an attempt to evoke a past form of distance, in recognition that our current hyperconnection has made this at best, quaint, and at worst, ironic (see the various comments about the lyrics and reactions to the use of phrases like ‘interwebs’). 

There’s another critical line, in the otherwise quite favourable Guardian review, that I think is quite telling: “A crass phrase like “the future’s void”, meanwhile, misadvertises a thoughtful album that owes something to the blues as well as science-fiction dystopias or the negativity of industrial rock.” For a start, I don’t think the phrase is crass at all - although decapitalised and phrased in ordinary speech, it may actually appear that way. But as a title, I think it’s brilliant - “with its odd, homonym-like instability” as Ann Powers described it for NPR. Is the - or has the - future a void, empty, colloquially speaking (how I interpreted it first); or is the future void, worthless (as a grammatical reading suggests)? Or is it simply inscrutable and/or contradictory on first glance - a verbal glitch?

Anyway, my real point was that of course the blues - in some mutated, distorted form - are going to be central to an EMA record. That’s the genealogy of Past Life Martyred Saints, back through to the experimental folk of Little Sketches on Tape and the Some Dark Holler project, with the Robert Johnson cover I’ll never shut up about. The industrial noise is like another grimy layer, after tape-deck distortion and guitar feedback, placed on top of a more fragile core that alternates between sunny pop (most obviously, ‘When She Comes’) and more astringent balladry (inherited from Gowns). ‘Smoulder’ is that point of destructive catharsis which EMA so often gravitates to, feeling the pull of that archetypally primal genre.

'Primal' is also, however, a racist adjective; appropriate then that the preceding song, 'Cthulu', references a racist science-fiction writer who feared for the swallowing up of white American civilisation, on which EMA sings “I get down”. If, as Mark Richardson suggests, '3Jane' is a reprise of 'Coda' from Past Life Martyred Saints, then ‘Cthulu’ for me has echoes of ‘Red Star’, the closer of that album. “There is that notion of redemption/I’m searchin’ redemption with my eyes” versus “Got a strange fascination/I been holding on the one/For that straight revelation”. Revelation, redemption - Christian imagery of the blues, wrapped in spare guitar rock building to almost spiritual climaxes (‘Cthulu’, however, muddles its purity with the addition of gothic synths - the horror, deliverance from heaven into hell; our revelation will not be straight, but twisted). 

In this context, ‘Smoulder’ addresses another deliberately awkward trope and latent racial issue in EMA’s work: hip-hop. Like ‘California’, there is a sing-spoken approximation of rap, but this largely disintegrates in favour of a spacious beat and rhythm before re-emerging like a plaintive Kanye West on the rockier parts of MBDTF. Instead of swagger, it’s stagger: “I staggered in the club/I staggered to the stage/it’s all the bright lights filled me up/with nothing, empty rage”. Not that EMA is trying to say anything about rap, but within her limited and circumscribed capability to say something through it, as an adapted and adopted mode of expression. Another line says “lost my diamond spine again”, which suggests present vulnerability but what before - hardness, value, beauty?

In my previous blog I used as a tagline a quote from another blogger about post-hardcore as the “steady soundtrack of discordant suburban whiteboy blues”, partly in reference to the enthusiastic adoption by Fugazi-era punks of dub reggae (and even rap, in that one Fuel song). To my mind EMA is a good candidate for “whitelady blues”, insofar as the issues turn on particularly feminine experiences, and indeed insofar as whiteness still operates as a cultural as well as political category. Post-internet is almost as much of a misnomer as post-racial, in that we are still trapped in the same web of categorisations, (dis)connections, structural inequalities and heavy, ancient histories as we were before: only our potential ability to navigate them has increased. but coupled with an increased anxiety about the whole system and the disparity between reality and rhetoric. The Future’s Void is that abyss into which our varied pasts flow, heedlessly and endlessly…

tbc

(Source: Spotify)

EMA TFV
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Took my camera for an evening walk. The sun was setting behind the clouds, so the typical Paul Henry light was too subtle to record. I just had to stop and drink it in.

galway photography
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In effect, the European Court of Justice has set out a position which directly rejects the type of indiscriminate mass surveillance carried out by the US and UK governments as being unacceptable in a democratic society.

TJ MacIntyre of Digital Rights Ireland on yesterday’s ECJ decision striking down the EU data retention directive as incompatible, in its execution and extent, with fundamental rights.

Also good is Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times asking, amongst other issues, “What implications for the internet of things”?

internet eu politics
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raptoravatar:

hashknife:

he had moves like this and yet he still killed himself what chance do the rest of us stand?

I felt this way for almost all of “Infinite Jest”.

I needed to do some refreshing on the sociology of disability, so I read through almost all of Michael Oliver’s The Politics of Disablement yesterday(there’s a updated 2012 edition of the 1990 book called The New Politics of Disablement which I also need to read, but haven’t got hold of a copy yet) and it struck me how many references there were to epilepsy, as interpreted through the conflict between the medical and social models of disability. Sure enough, Oliver’s PhD thesis was titled ‘Epilepsy, Self and Society’ and dated from… 1979.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that when this first crossed my dash, I had some uneasy thoughts about that first line. I hesitated to comment because I’m not sure of the causation - indeed if anyone is, or could be, but I’m just basing it on watching Control and reading Deborah Curtis’ powerful memoir Touching from a Distance - but either those ‘moves’ were partially symptomatic of his epilepsy, or at the very least the strain of performance exacerbated the condition, while the medication he was prescribed for epilepsy had negative side-effects which contributed to his mental ill-health. That’s not to say there weren’t other social and personal factors - indeed, it is say very much that there were - in Curtis going down the route that resulted in his death. I just have an image of the lead singer of Joy Division meeting a young(ish) disabled academic around that time, possibly with a perspective that could have led to a different outcome. 

raptoravatar:

hashknife:

he had moves like this and yet he still killed himself
what chance do the rest of us stand?

I felt this way for almost all of “Infinite Jest”.

I needed to do some refreshing on the sociology of disability, so I read through almost all of Michael Oliver’s The Politics of Disablement yesterday(there’s a updated 2012 edition of the 1990 book called The New Politics of Disablement which I also need to read, but haven’t got hold of a copy yet) and it struck me how many references there were to epilepsy, as interpreted through the conflict between the medical and social models of disability. Sure enough, Oliver’s PhD thesis was titled ‘Epilepsy, Self and Society’ and dated from… 1979.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that when this first crossed my dash, I had some uneasy thoughts about that first line. I hesitated to comment because I’m not sure of the causation - indeed if anyone is, or could be, but I’m just basing it on watching Control and reading Deborah Curtis’ powerful memoir Touching from a Distance - but either those ‘moves’ were partially symptomatic of his epilepsy, or at the very least the strain of performance exacerbated the condition, while the medication he was prescribed for epilepsy had negative side-effects which contributed to his mental ill-health. That’s not to say there weren’t other social and personal factors - indeed, it is say very much that there were - in Curtis going down the route that resulted in his death. I just have an image of the lead singer of Joy Division meeting a young(ish) disabled academic around that time, possibly with a perspective that could have led to a different outcome. 

joy division disability mental health uk moving gif
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Apr 08
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Nothing to do with hardcore, and (‘original’/70s) punk aesthetics is a whole subject in itself, but I’ve always been fascinated by the Ramones’ aesthetic development. Partly because I bought reissue CDs that had booklets talking about the album, and inevitably making some remark about the cover, but whether as a result of that or because they’re rather striking anyway, I’ve got the schema stuck in my head: The classic debut pose, reprised for their third album, but in between the artier Leave Home and followed by the cartoonish reduction of Road to Ruin; then the abandoning of leather jackets for the pursuit of full-colour pop with Phil Spector, followed by the abandonment of portraits altogether for Pleasant Dreams, before they reappeared more murkily on Subterranean Jungle and Too Tough to Die (thereafter I stop listening to Ramones albums). Top picture is Arturo Vega (who died last year, sadly) painting their iconic logo - in colour. And then there’s this picture, presumably from the photoshoot for End of the Century.

ramones punk art
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