Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Looking back over the year's entries to this blog, I've noticed a pattern emerging of my reacting to reviews - not something I ever really used to do or care about doing. A phenomenon of the internet is this capacity for everyone to have their say in public, which is absolutely fine (complaining about that would be like complaining about the shit rainy weather that is upon us here today - yet again!) so therefore why not extend the dialogue further? I know I often find other writers' and artists' feelings about responses given to their work revealing and insightful.

Of course, having spent a year and a half making a record gives you a privileged position when it comes to picking holes in all the minor factually incorrect claims - and I think it's important to resist that temptation. I also stand by the position that any response is part of the artwork itself and reveals as much about that person - and my favourite measure of artistic success is how deep that goes.

That said, the albums since Mummy And Daddy have garnered a really large body of often fascinating opinion, and there are a few commonly repeated themes I've noticed emerging, and once again with Racket. Here below listed are a few themes I'd like to take issue with, each having their very own obtuse sub-heading.

Has anyone raised with Conrad the argument that his novel would have read so much better if it were 40 pages longer? Or 100 pages? Or pointed out that Tolstoi's War And Peace is such excellent value for money? Or since when do you measure the beauty of a painting by its size? I don't give a toss about the capacity of a fucking CD. I want quality. I want to experience music full of ideas and content and feelings, and I want to enjoy playing it hundreds of times and still love it years from now.

Some men can be such prudes. In one sense they're traditionally obsessed with sex, in another they get all fidgety when you're open about it. I've written songs about all sorts of subjects, containing all sorts of cultural references, expressing all kinds of strong emotions, and yet it's amazing how often a review or band description will reference I'm Coming Up Your Ass or similar. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Get over it. Yes, it's a song about sex. This prudishness is comparable to the early days of rock'n'roll, R&B and blues when the originally explicit lyrics had to be toned down with euphemisms for the repressed white audiences. And then again with reggae, dancehall and rap. Funny thing is, one of the reasons for The Sex Pistols' infamy was because of the very word 'sex' - at the time, incredible though it may sound now, use of the word in a band's name was a taboo. It's noticeable that the legions of noise copycats are far more comfortable with murder and destruction, or just general total abstractness, than they are with filthy explicit juicy sex. It still amazes me now that, as a band within any genre, we seem to almost have an unchallenged monopoly on the use of the word 'cunt'. Well the men don't know but the little girls do indeed understand.

All your albums sound the same. I don't remember Jimi Hendrix ever getting accused of using a muff pedal on two consecutive albums, or John Coltrane for -gulp- using a saxophone again, or Bob Dylan for repeated use of a mouth organ. Oh, the recidivism. I'll stand up for myself here and boldly state that I don't think there are many bands around that, for such a long time, have experimented with totally new sounds and continued to progress and take risks. And to say otherwise reveals to me a lack of fundamental musical understanding. So there.

Of course I think Racket and Asceticists 2006 are classics - I suppose I have to say that. And I genuinely do believe that. However, I respect anyone's opinion - I have no problem with those who think differently or dislike our music, I really don't. It's understood that the music that we make isn't going to be popular like other mainstream forms; it's accepted that there are going to be a lot of people out there that will miss the point of it (even when they think they understand it): it's part of the territory because it's difficult music in the strictest sense of the word, and by the same token, the rewards are potentially much greater. Albums going right back to Birthdeath Experience and Erector and Great White Death and later Cruise and others were given very mixed responses upon release, and it was only much later that they began to get seen in a different light. Haven't you ever seen something or tasted something that at first disgusted you only for some mysterious reason at a later time find yourself really loving it?


Jack Sargeant said...

one of my favorite phrases

morelikespace said...

"Haven't you ever seen something or tasted something that at first disgusted you only for some mysterious reason at a later time find yourself really loving it?"

YES. Whitehouse music. Because, as much as I love it now, I started off hating it with a passion that bordered on violence.

James said...

I remember your reaction, Kate - though I can't remember which Whitehouse record it was that I played you. I expect it was probably something from GWD.

And, in response to William's question, yes, many times over. The avocado, for example.

James said...

A few additional thoughts on the original post - you'll notice that most of the negative reactions come, for the most part, from people who are quite young, and who consequently grew up with a ridiculous level of strict genrefication of musical forms. Few people in genre circles can see further than the walls of their little box, and tend to reject instinctively anything that doesn't reflect their preconceived ideas. This may go some way to explaining why 'noise', considered as a genre, has become a rather closed, incestuous mutual appreciation society that regresses further and further out of any larger relevance. The way forward, if there is one that has any meaning, surely involves erasing boundaries rather than drawing and reinforcing them.

Jack Sargeant said...

Of course I Am Coming Up Your Ass is in a long tradition of great anal sex songs - Howlin' Wolf's Backdoor Man aside - what about Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin who recorded a song about it then turned that into the basis of a gloriously filth obsessed feature film? Or the wonderfully obscene Wiseblood who had songs about "gash" and "riding the Hershy highway".

The reason some men (and it does often appear to be males) get so upset about the sexual content of your work is possibly because it strikes a nerve, so (while I like the reference) while the girls understand, I'd suggest that the men know only too damn well. There is a tendency amongst males to interpret predatory male sexuality as somehow 'wrong', which I'd suggest was at least in part a strategy based on repression.

Something I noticed when I screened Richard Kern's film Fingered was that women enjoyed it, but men didn't, and their discomfort seemed so often based on a fear that if they enjoyed it then they would be 'bad' men. Or, as somebody once said to me, "do you endorese this?"

The serial killer / destruction element of many noise copiests is merely because its easier to present blank nihilism than affirmation. One of the most enjoyable aspects of I'm Coming Up Your Ass and similar songs is the glee in the affirmation of unleashed libido which I'd suggest contained an element of radical risk. To celebrate destruction (which I agree has produced some fine music over the years) rarely entails the radicality of celebrating pure SEX.

I'm with Bataille on this one, who looks at her asshole and sees the brightest star.

leroysghos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richo said...

It's been said before but, back in the day, 40 minutes always constituted an album's worth of material. I'm all for it, too. So many what could otherwise be outstanding CDs are fleshed out needlessly with the kind of pap which wouldn't, in normal circumstances, even make it onto a collection of 'outtakes' or demos. In this respect, there are very few truly 'great' albums next to the overflowing amount that either could be or, far moreso, don't even register on the scale of quality. I'd argue that Whitehouse have also fallen short of creating the 'perfect' album on numerous occasions, but the balance has been more than redressed with, especially, the most recent two.

morelikespace said...

not to get off topic but, richo, if you've ever heard 'the judas cradle' by splintered, that's a very long cd that has a lot of good material ;-)

jubal66 said...

Apologies for the off topic comment, but you are approximately 48,343 times more interesting than Peter Sotos.

Richo said...

'The Judas Cradle'? Never heard of it! Seriously, though, I don't have anything against long albums (obviously!), but many simply don't have to be so drawn out. To that end, I'm not completely satisfied with most of my own bands' albums anyway, for a number of reasons. I'm as guilty as the rest, really. In a way, perhaps it justifies my own argument(s) even more? As somebody who'll readily hammer nails into the coffin represented by most groups/artists/releases, at least I've put my money where my mouth is over the years. Or, well, attempted to.

Unknown said...

I describe biological organisms as "vehicles" or survival machines, with genes as the "replicators" that create these organisms as a means of acquiring resources and copying themselves. At the level of the organism we may attempt to attribute some form of meaning to these activities, but the sole implicit purpose is to benefit the gene.

Odile Lee said...

Benefit the gene or not, you still cant take the utter delicious nay, even mystical delight out of me finding a song called, " Im coming up your ass."
I mean, is it not true that despite or biological imperative - humans have sex for fun?
Please, you'd think the 60's never happened.
Could it be what is wrong with them being is being meaningless?
Yes, this could be what they find so disturbing.
A good mystical experience can involve numinous meaning, or be so simple as to have no meaning whatsoever, yet still resonate.
Likewise, having someone come up your ass. (This is why sex is a vehicle , for understanding certain magical/mystical ideas. Which include, in their entirely- the pure meaninglessness of having no meaning personally.)
So yeah, I agree scientifically there is no reason why anyone should get their panties in a bunch over someones tale of a juicy squish fest. But, instinctual territorial drives, motivate these yahoos to the extent that even unconsciously knowing someones joyfully celebrating some sort of possession of sexual fun that doesn't involve them, sends them into fits of dominance posturing.
Mammalian politics, either gender ( thus the 'porn wars' waged by many females.)
My personal take on it , is this;
one one hand I think nothing whatsoever. Not lacking sensitivity ( ie burnt out by sex trash media culture ) so much as I accept sexuality, and someone else is having a show about their ideas of it.
On the other hand, its quite nice to use this sort of thing as a sort of aural promiscuity. Oh my, so this is what its like!
Both of these, is demonstrating a power in my own right. Which obviously, pisses the fuck out of the power mongers. More witch burning anyone?
Funny, score of Pentacostal christians can writhe about in obvious orgasmic pleasure at the "coming of the Lord' but hearing William come ( metaphorically ) is SO BAD, WTF? Its the same fucking thing!
Pass me my Reich, I may be sick.