Everything this person has written for TUNETHEPROLETARIAT

Where’s your ‘We’dom?

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MIA - Borders

MIA – Borders

Within her musical output, Maya Arulpragasam has proven reactive to our flawed, shifting societies (“Galang”), predictive of unscrupulous politics (“The Message”), and unflinching in her storytelling reach (“Bad Girls”), while functioning as a vehicle for the most obscure of music’s narrators (“Lovealot”).

Where the academic, journalistic profferings of media agencies leaves me intellectually provoked to the point of prostration, proving an impediment (to what I’m unsure, but something), I’m privy to a private, visceral experience when listening to MIA. I’m constantly made furious.

Her music, for me, is a rejection of non-violent protest. It’s a fuck you to our own wrongdoings and our own inertia, and it’s a fuck you to music’s apolitical setting.

Only recently, Thom Yorke said, “If I was going to write a protest song about climate change in 2015, it would be shit. It’s not like one song…is going to change someone’s mind.”

Shouldn’t stirring the populous, even inciting the crowd, be the aim of the artist, though? Deemed defeat should not justify inaction. The correct response, surely, is any response.

Yet, subsequent to Europe’s most recent horrors and in response to the ongoing refugee crisis of Syria and the world’s rejection of same, MIA released “Borders”. Void of a lyric sheet the opening lines are obscure, but, “Freedom, I’dom, Me’dom / Where’s your We’dom? / This world needs a brand new Re’dom / We’dom–the key / We’dom the key’dom to life” proves an extension of her less creatively executed Twitter proclamation:

To be bland, it’s here where the MIA experience comes upon a crossroad. The listener may opt to side with the supposed feeble influence of music and its conspirators, or it may ride the brave wave. The bass is aptly murky, serving its creator as a platform for protest. Rhythmically, it’s a smoldering pace. There is a pulse, but it’s ooze-like, functioning as a transporter from one memorable refrain to the next. And when she levels her torment to our ears (“Borders: What’s up with that? Broke people: What’s up with that? Boat people: What’s up with that?”) she does so with clarity and poise. There are no particular theatrics, as if the words carry weight–and they do.

It’s an assured presentation, no more apparent than in the song’s visual partner where MIA performs, self-directed, like a still-life piece. Musically, “Borders” emanates from a world of a single inhabitant: MIA. It’s void of genre or place; its only comfort lies in it being undisputedly modern. Lyrically, it exists in the same world. Alone. MIA is a unique, single voice in a generation masturbating its self-awareness.

“Your future: What’s up with that?”

[Fly Pirates. Eye Tunez.]

This heart, this heart, this wilderness

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Bruce Springsteen – Lift Me Up

“This heart, this heart, this wilderness.”

“Lift Me Up” is one of Springsteen’s many triumphs, involving an improbably gorgeous falsetto over faint guitar and a layer of composed, swelling keyboard synthetic. His voice is haunting and almost unknowable compared to the grit and grunt of famed Springsteen deliveries. It’s a unique instrument, only ever accompanied by the track’s own instrumentation (all executed by Springsteen), never obscured. The song conveys the same sensibilities as “Streets of Philadelphia”, “Gave It a Name”, and “Sad Eyes”; slow, assured and ethereal. Most importantly, it is highly affecting. And Springsteen’s lyrics are compelling. They are curt, and without ever conveying the clarity of storytelling they settle in the bones. The lyrical nuances, the dance between the romantic and the adulterous, make for an emotionally involving, appealingly earnest narrator. I’m convinced of an air of guilt and a sorrowful tone, however; the risk-taker come undone, aiming toward an act of atonement–one unanswered. Whether it’s in the rejection of tradition (“I don’t need your answered prayers / I don’t need your sacred vow”) or the unreliable promises of tomorrow (“When the morning bright / Lifts away this night / We will find our love”), there’s an unresolved struggle between long term and short term happiness.

[Columbia Records.]

No joke

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Panda Bear – Tropic of Cancer

“It’s all in the family…When they said he’s ill / Laughed it off as if it’s no big deal.”

Tropic of Cancer‘s opening lines are a denial. They are a supine stance in the face of impending familial tragedy, but it’s a stance unshared by the singer: “What a joke to joke. No joke.” The song reaches its most revealing upon the hard K in “joke” at 1:44. It’s understated, easily missed–to be mistaken for a mistake, even–but it’s venomous and indicative of a pain still very much alive, in itself cancerous if unchecked. The moment is transient and intuitive and unnervingly beautiful, one of the most stunning vocalised moments in music. Vsevolozhsky’s sample, looped in dub fashion, is weightless and expertly stretched and decelerated to accommodate syllabic expression–a configured inducement to hear the contradiction that is Panda Bear, an enigmatic artist yet entirely confessional.

Panda Bear has expressly stated that his Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper LP is not about death. Instead, it is a representation of changes in identity. The beauty of music is the ability to project upon it one’s own experience and sentiments. The emotive nature of music can be molded to suit. In a sense, however, we cheat music and the artist’s intentions each time we read into music what isn’t there. Tropic of Cancer‘s beginnings are of death (life reversed), to be sure, but to reject the refrain and what follows is to reject the certainty that with death one is altered; one has evolved.

“And you can’t get back / You won’t come back / You can’t come back to it.” Can’t. Won’t. Can’t again.

Locked in the present and finitely bolted to a future, we’re mandated to carry with us an unchangeable past. This is not to call our journey ill-fated, however. If we’re fortunate to live long into the future, pain will be a staple of our sensation’s diet and death key to our experience, for what we live is a single opportunity experience. To dismiss sickness and death as an anomaly, as impairing our experience, is to shortchange our own fate–our only fate.

“Sick has to eat well, too / Got to like it all / Got to like what kills.”


Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older

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The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice (A Cappella)

Recent work has delivered me to transcribing headstones. Somewhat macabre, possibly, but a purpose heavy exercise. These are names now forever available to an audience of genealogists and those with keen and personal interest. Indexed, they are unlikely to be seen as much more than a footnote to many, but a note nonetheless; to be noted t’would be enough.

There were a few things I found to be unsettling and discouraging about the process, however. For one, there featured – and as I trawl through this work there continues to feature – a chilling number of infant graves. These graves are sometimes named, but mostly often attributed merely to an “infant”. The “infant” sits comfortably as the most harrowing inscription, along with “Son of …” or “Our baby …”. (The “our” in that last example is somewhat comforting, though, I feel.) No given name or conscious experience features as part of their existence, but at least here is comment of this callously temporary presence. There must be something to the removal of identity. Not be to be deemed unfair, I suppose it ranks as part of the psychology of unfathomable despair.

And two, as history will often dictate, women must have pressed upon them societal imbalances (“… following behind with a bucket.”) – and here even in death. With the dismissal of maiden names, any woman may suffer the fate of the inscriber’s assumption of a life not had pre-marriage. We grow wives from trees! At worst is the use of Mis’ess. “Mrs. Hegarty.” “Mrs. Aylward.” “Mrs. Mrs.” No maiden name and no first name. You’re a prop, a tea giver, and a great fuck you for ever exerting a bother. It takes a moment of hardened constraint to avoid a pang of disquiet for their humilitation. If the maiden name features it will be prefaced by nee or née. How kind. How proper.

One self-penned epitaph read: “I told you I was sick.” Humour in the most unlikely of places. [Art by Tim Gagnon and music by The Beach Boys.]

Then along the bending pathway

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Rufus Wainwright – In A Graveyard

The playfulness of the Smiths’ “Cemetry Gates” aside, the many homes of the dead sit rather uneasy amongst any three minute stationed pop song, yet, in weakening the mould, “In A Graveyard” proposes a truth and then a possibility, that in death we all belong and that within this are extremes of beauty to be unearthed (so to speak). However close to universal wishfulness this may thread upon, it’s Wainwright’s clarity of voice that devises and executes the certainty of existing beauty, however fragile its foundations may be as relates to the individual.

“I smiled in knowing we’d be back one day.” The discovery of a truth by the singular, but then a dilution, a showing of fragility in the grab and pull of future (or ‘momentarily, dear’) shared experience in the “we”. I wonder if Wainwright purposely ommitted “knowing I’d be back” in favour of “knowing we’d be back”. Shades of fear jolting in the beauty, possibly. Still the beauty persists; nowhere more prominent than throughout the song’s startling melodic perfection. Warring revolts to silent stars, black horizons dim to blue, and revolutionary smiles are born. It’s all quite simple, quite deliberate, quite, well, beautiful. It’s wish fulfillment fulfilled. So while two white horses follow Dylan, and Morrissey bemoans all those people, all those lives, “Where are they now?,” Rufus’s romantic scope breathes new and bright angles upon history’s great laments – such as Hardy’s “And strange-eyed constellations reign his stars eternally.” Strange-eyed constellations reign his stars eternally. How preposterously beautiful. [Download.]

I’m leaving today

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Carey Mulligan – New York, New York

This game is cruel; but its cruelty is sensual and stirs George into hot excitement. He feels a thrill of pleasure to find the senses so eager in their response; too often, now, they seem sadly jaded. From his heart, he thanks these young animals for their beauty. And they will never know what they have done to make this moment marvellous to him, and life itself less hateful –

[Words / Art: Josh Henkins / Music.]

The Jigsaw Jam

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Flicker on, flicker on like a train at night. [The Jigsaw Jam.]

A cow on the balcony of the nation

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The Borstal Choir – Jerusalem

… one January afternoon we had seen a cow contemplating the sunset from the presidential balcony, just imagine, a cow on the balcony of the nation, what an awful thing, what a shitty country, and all sorts of conjectures were made about how it was possible for a cow to get onto a balcony since everybody knew that cows can’t climb stairs, and even less carpeted ones, so in the end we never knew if we had really seen it or whether we had been spending an afternoon on the main square and as we strolled along had dreamed that we had seen a cow on the presidential balcony where nothing had been seen or would ever be seen again for many years until dawn last Friday when the first vultures began to arrive … [Gabriel García Márquez’s ‘the Autumn of the Patriarch’, Tom Courtenay, and the Borstal Choir.]

We are old and grey

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Guided By Voices – Old Bones

By registered post, we’ve sent for her indefinite residency on the greenest isle. The folder/application/lifeline, unintentionally sickly green, is thick with pages still warm from an overworked printer. Copies of copies prove its muscle, with insides including an abundant fall of letters one wouldn’t keenly show to even a best friend, birth certificates, one with an ink print of baby feet (about the size of those toy cars we had as children, the ones you’d get free with cereal), financial records, receipts, invitations, film stubs, concert tickets; everything once saved and stored and now used. Set out are our characters – in black and white characters – now en route in its registered clothing, for us simply to wait and be judged. “When your bones are frail.” [Let’s Go Eat The Factory.]

Sometimes I think I’m going mad!

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Fionn Regan – Be Good Or Be Gone

Nora: “The’ agony I’m in since he left me has thrust away every rough thing he done, an’ every unkind word he spoke; only th’ blossoms that grew out of our lives are before me now; shakin’ their colours before me face, an’ breathin’ their sweet scent on every thought springin’ up in me mind, till, sometimes, Mrs Gogan, sometimes I think I’m going mad!” [Art by Santiago Rusinol, words by Sean O’Casey, music by Fionn Regan.]