Sunday, November 22, 2020

When Mates Make Books Xmas stocking-filler round-up: 1984 x 2; transnational club culture; hauntology; postcapitalist desire; Hawkwind and the Underground.


The only proper (living - there's one RIP) mate in this round-up - the rest are more like internet acquaintances -  Michaelangelo Matos has a new book: a long-fermented and richly researched appreciation of the year 1984. Like similar year-focused tomes by other, older writers (Jon Savage's 1966, David Hepworth's 1971), pop's annus mirabilis just so happens to coincide with the author's youthful peak point in terms of excitement-capacity and impressionability / ability to be impressed.  (So if I was to do one, the title would be 1979, or 1981 - when I was sixteen and eighteen respectively... but then again I was also blessed improbably with a second adolescence at the cusp of late twenties into early thirties, a proper one in which I actually went out and had wild fun rather than stayed in reading -  so 1992, or 1993, or 1994, would also be strong contenders). But back to Matos's wonder year.. well of course, from the Brit perspective, '84 was the year the bloom went right off New Pop, although we did have the whole Frankie commotion... but it was definitely slipping into the Bad Music Era...   but from a young American's perspective it must have indeed been a supremely exciting year,  especially on the MTV and mainstream radio front, with the Brit invaders still coming through but starting to get out-done by Americans who'd cottoned on to the power of video (Prince, ZZ Top, Springsteen, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, M. Jackson et al). But as Matos amply demonstrates, there was a whole lot more going on.  Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year is out in a couple of weeks. 

Release rationale: 

Everybody knows the hits of 1984 - pop music's greatest year. From "Thriller" to "Purple Rain," "Hello" to "Against All Odds," "What's Love Got to Do with It" to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," these iconic songs continue to dominate advertising, karaoke nights, and the soundtracks for film classics (Boogie Nights) and TV hits (Stranger Things). But the story of that thrilling, turbulent time, an era when Top 40 radio was both the leading edge of popular culture and a moral battleground, has never been told with the full detail it deserves - until now. Can't Slow Down is the definitive portrait of the exploding world of mid-eighties pop and the time it defined, from Cold War anxiety to the home-computer revolution. Big acts like Michael Jackson (Thriller), Prince (Purple Rain), Madonna (Like a Virgin), Bruce Springsteen (Born in the U.S.A.), and George Michael (Wham!'s Make It Big) rubbed shoulders with the stars of the fermenting scenes of hip-hop, indie rock, and club music. Rigorously researched, mapping the entire terrain of American pop, with crucial side trips to the UK and Jamaica, from the biz to the stars to the upstarts and beyond, Can't Slow Down is a vivid journey to the very moment when pop was remaking itself, and the culture at large - one hit at a time.

More information about the book here

update 11/24/2020 - I forgot, there's another book about 1984 as pop wonderyear coming out, at almost the same time bizarrely  -  but this one is from the UK perspective: David Elliott's 1984: British Pop's Dividing Year.  Read Elliott's piece on it at The Quietus. Information about the book and its scope here. 


Ten Cities tells a transnational tale of club culture across six decades, 1960-2020, focusing on five European and five African cities: Lagos, Luanda, Berlin, Bristol, Johannesburg, Kiyv, Nairobi, Lisbon, Naples, and Cairo.  Edited by Johannes Hossfeld, Joyce Nyairo and Florian Sievers and published by the art book imprint Spector Books, it weaves together contributions from 20 writers and 19 photographers from those ten cities. 

Release rationale: 

In Africa as well as in Europe, club cultures create free spaces that can function as nocturnal laboratories for societies. Nightclubs are hubs in a complex global network – and at the same time they are manifestations of very local and specific practices. This book tells the story of club music and club cultures from 1960 to the present in ten cities in Africa and Europe: Nairobi, Cairo, Kyiv, Johannesburg, Berlin,Naples, Luanda, Lagos, Bristol, Lisbon. It expands the focus beyond the usual North Atlantic narrative of centres and periphery and instead aims at a coeval narrative. In 21 essays, playlists and photo sequences the book draws intimate portraits of these cities’ subcultures, their transnational flows, as well as the societies from which they evolve and which they, in turn, influence. An urban and political rhythm-analysis from the viewpoint of sound and night. 


More information about Ten Cities here at the Spector Books website.  

An earlier blogpost of mine about Ten Cities and "xenotronica".  


I don't know if this is the very first book wholly dedicated to hauntology (there's been a couple of tomes from A Year in the Country that cover that terrain where it particularly overlaps with the pastoral horror / rural uncanny). But Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past is a notably thorough and probing survey of the field from the marvelously monikered Merlin Coverley (and that's his birthname, not an assumed alias), whose prior works include the adjacently-themed Psychogeography  and Occult London. Mark Fisher comes up rather often (and yours truly makes the odd appearance too) along with expected suspects like Derrida and M.R. James. 

Release rationale:

"Ghosts and spectres, the eerie and the occult. Why is contemporary culture so preoccupied by the supernatural, so captivated by the revenants of an earlier age, so haunted? The concept of Hauntology has evolved since first emerging in the 1990s, and has now entered the cultural mainstream as a shorthand for our new-found obsession with the recent past. But where does this term come from and what exactly does it mean? This book seeks to answer these questions by examining the history of our fascination with the uncanny from the golden age of the Victorian ghost story to the present day... Moving between the literary and the theoretical, the visual and the political, Hauntology explores our nostalgia for the cultural artefacts of a past from which we seem unable to break free."

More information about Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past can be found at the Oldcastle Books website. You can check out the introduction in pdf form here

The front cover photograph of long shadows gave me a little haunty shiver as it recalled "Ghosts of NYC": a family self-portrait we took in the golden hour of the day before we left Manhattan and moved to Los Angeles, about ten and a half years ago now. 



Talking of Mark Fisher (and of ghosts of my life), I've been remiss in not mentioning here a new Repeater collection, edited and introduced by Matt Colquhoun aka xenogothic (whose own contribution to Fisher Studies, Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy, and Mark Fisher nestles at the top of the pile of books awaiting my attention, which has been at its most attenuated and eroded this past year). This new Fishertome, available now in digital form but you'll have wait until January for the analogue object itself, collates Mark's lectures from his final year of teaching at Goldsmiths. I assumed that meant written or mostly-written texts that he delivered, but the book consists of transcripts of the actual classes themselves and rather movingly captures the back-and-forth between Mark and his students. 

Release rationale: 

Beginning with that most fundamental of questions — “Do we really want what we say we want?” — Fisher explores the relationship between desire and capitalism, and wonders what new forms of desire we might still excavate from the past, present, and future. From the emergence and failure of the counterculture in the 1970s to the continued development of his left-accelerationist line of thinking, this volume charts a tragically interrupted course for thinking about the raising of a new kind of consciousness, and the cultural and political implications of doing so.  For Fisher, this process of consciousness raising was always, fundamentally, psychedelic — just not in the way that we might think…

More information at Repeater Books.


Talking of remissness (and obliquely acid communism) I have been culpably remiss in not earlier bigging up this tome from Joe Banks about Hawkwind and the UK Underground, an era that I am most fascinated by and indeed may one day take a pass at. This makes a good case for Hawkwind as a revolutionary band and a precursor to both punk and rave, or perhaps more accurately, a bridge between the original counterculture and these later assaults on  commonsensical reality. For a taste of Banks's approach,  check out his Guardian feature  and this musical tour of reasons why Hawkwind musically matter for The Quietus

More information about Days of the Underground: Radical Escapism in the Age of Paranoia at the Strange Attractor website.