Monday, October 16, 2006

Owen’s invocation of Ghostworld reminded me of the scene where Enid, having brought a blues compilation off Seymour at his yard sale some weeks earlier, finally gets around to playing the record and is chilled to her marrow by the umheimlich tones of Skip James singing “Devil Got My Woman”. She ends up playing the track over and over for hours in a kind of aesthetic fugue-state.

Which reminded me that if we wanted to cast around for the nexus between blues and dub we shouldn't forget John Martyn’s “I’d Rather Be The Devil”, his in-the-loosest-sense “cover” of “Devil Got My Woman”.

Which reminded me in turn I’ve got an essay on Solid Air in this soon-come anthology Marooned, an update of Stranded (and unless I’ve got it garbled, Marooned is going to be published by Da Capo as the companion volume to a reissued Stranded, in a two-book set, inviting reviewers to compare rockcrit-then and rockcrit-now).

Which naturally reminded me of Greil Marcus. It still strikes me that the idea that his work is hidebound by a "measured humanism which leaves little room for the UNCANNY in music" is off-base. He may not make the sonically-correct noises about dub (as if one genre had a monopoly on the hauntological anyway!) and for sure it would be nice if his favorite album of the ‘90s was Maxinquaye as opposed to, I dunno, it's probably something by Sleater-Kinney, isn't it? But if you look at his actual writing, certainly from The Old Weird America/Invisible Republic onwards, but probably from at least Lipstick Traces, if anything it's too much the opposite--so enamored of the irrational, the historical-causality-transgressing, that it sometimes verges on superstititious (which is weird considering how he was Mr Demystification during postpunk days, and even quite recently memorably derided Breaking the Waves as a load of poppycock). You could see it coming on in Lipstick Traces, with things like the John Lydon/John of Leyden parallel: on one level a good joke, on another possessing a sort of poetic truth, but then you also get a tiny sense that Marcus really does think there's some kind of para-historical ghosting effect, and he half-way convinces you there is one. Since then his writing has become literally PORTENTous in the sense that it's full of portents... spectral echoes and foreshadowings... strange/strained connections. Reading the new one, there's a sense now and then that he's simply seeing things that aren't there. But then again, I'm sure there's plenty of people--Sleater-Kinney people rather than Maxinquaye people, maybe --who would think the things we see in “our” constellation (whether it's grime/dubstep, or Coil, or Ghostbox, or whatever) are just figments of over-heated imaginations, phantasms generated by over-zealous reading-into. Exegesis turned feverish and delusional is the common past-time (a war against the crushing banality of everything, perhaps) and so there's a little bit of the kettle calling the pot black going on I think.

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