Monday, January 10, 2005

Kpunk, stunning, on Joy Division and the death-drive. Among all the other things they are, JD are like The Doors with the "eros" part of Eros Vs Thatatos completely removed from the equation. Mark oughta check out Jim Morrison's fave Life Against Death by Norman O. Brown, as it intersects with his obsessions quite a bit; indeed with the aphoristic sequel Love's Body, Brown moved from Life Against Death's focus on Freud and the plight of mankind as "sick animal" conscious of its own mortality to devise a peculiar Christian/Gnostic creed in quest of silence and quietude that I think would strike a few chords. Buddhism has a similar thing going on, I believe: grace achievable only by evacuating all earthly desire, transcending all fleshly appetites. Holiness defined as a certain deathly serenity, the depression of one's vital signs; a priestly placidity opposed to all exuberance or liveliness. Sitting on a mountain top in the lotus position for years on end, or on top of a pillar like the Eremites. A becoming-stillness, a de-animation, in Buddhist lingo, flight (paradoxically through motionlessness) from the realm of vritti--which I think means literally rhythm, but signifies the nervous agitation and bodily unrest of desire. (Of course pop music by definition and in essence is vritti-vritti-vritti all the way). Think of the hooded monk on the cover of Licht und Blindheit aka "Atmosphere" walking alone in a place of alpine elevation, remoteness, and snowbound purity, or the cowled figures in Anton Corbijn's video for that song. The monastic fraternity of the JD fans, then known (according to Joy Division biographer Mick Middles) as "the Cult With No Name."

Particularly liked the jibe against Keith Allen and this bit:

"It’s important to hold onto both of these Joy Divisions – the Joy Division of Pure Art, and the Joy Division who were ‘just a laff’ – at once. For if the truth of Joy Division is that they were Lads, then Joy Division must also be the truth of Laddism. "

One small quibble, I wasn't sure about the bit about JD as the crash after the long continuous speedrush of UK pop culture from Sixties>>punk. Surely there was a long period in the early-mid Seventies when the metabolism of rock was determined more by decelerant drugs like marijuana and barbiturate-based downers (Mandrax, the mandies gobbled by Sabbath fans, the same drug sold under the brandname Quaaludes in the USA). Hence the ponderous, doom-laden pace of heavy rock. Punk's return to mod's amphetamine mania and fast tempos wouldn't have had impact or meaning otherwise. Similarly with JD, early on, coming out of punk into something else, there is still a kind of frozen frenzy to the music. Curtis's epilepsy is pertinent here--the deathly liveliness of his convulsive trance-dance, which actually, mysteriously preceded his development of epilepsy proper. Although not exactly the same as an amphetamine seizure, there are definitely parallels here--epilepsy is an electrical disorder of the nervous system, while speed accelerates the electrical firing of neurons within the brain.

It was actually the heavy tranks that Curtis took to control his epilepsy that pushed his morbid tendencies into a fatal downspin. The barbs suppressed any lingering traces of vitality in his metabolism or vitalism in his mindset. He was luded-out. Which entailed the final utter extinction of the ludic impulse, the spark of play that makes life worth living for each intrinsic instant rather than any long term scheme of enduring value or immortal, death-defying achievement. Morrisson>Iggy>Curtis: no fun, for me, no fun. That final image of Curtis with his baby daughter Natalie makes me ambivalent about any impulse to romanticise the singer's decision to terminate his existence. Not just for her, but for himself. If he'd stuck around until she was old enough to play with, he might have rediscovered the joie de vivre.

No comments: