Tuesday, June 06, 2017

While we’re waiting for the next one to arrive

It may be the natural ageing process, a helpful Quietus reappraisal, The Mountain Goats’ electric piano-led homage ‘Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds’, but more and more frequently it seems to me that The Sisters of Mercy’s 1990 album Vision Thing is one of the most vital records around. It may be those things, but it is also the dire state of politics, headed up by Trump, whose election Eldritch hinted may even tempt him to record again. It would be great if he could bring the venom he oozed into the veins of Bush Snr to bear on the current president. Then again, it’s no stretch at all to simply transpose the album’s title track to now:

It’s a small world and it smells bad
I’d buy another if I had
What I made
For another motherfucker in a motorcade
The narrator in the song shifts between having been paid for (as above) and having paid for (‘Take back what I paid’) the assassination of a US president. It’s obvious from ‘motorcade’ that the allusion is to JFK, but who is to say if he is the target on both occasions? One interpretation of the song could be that the person who made his fortune from a contract for killing Kennedy blew it all having a later president done away with. They’re all just another motherfucker in a motorcade. Some worse than others, with Trump the mother of them all. Typically, ‘motherfucker’ in Eldritch’s usage is razor sharp, and relates to the bad-smelling ‘small world’, which the president intends to exploit for all the oil he and his oligarch chums can get, and is the most surprising turn of this dark, dirty, gasoline-guzzling song: it’s actually eco-friendly. To the bridge:
What do we need to make our world come alive?
What does it take to make us sing?
While we’re waiting for the next one to arrive
One million points of light
One billion dollar vision thing
The ‘vision thing’ bit relates to Bush’s search for a palatable cause during the 1988 election campaign (obviously you can’t campaign on motherfucking, you have to have a cover story). Maybe the wall across Mexico is Trump’s vision thing. Theresa May’s vision thing is Brexit. ‘While we’re waiting for the next one to arrive’ though… the next world? There isn’t going to be any next world. We only have one. Eldritch is pointing this out at the same time as summing up right wing environment policy (‘waiting’), at the same time as drawing Bush’s cynicism across the sky in the only terms he would be able to understand (‘one billion dollar’), and illustrating too the paucity of imagination of a Republican trying to grasp what the good things of life might be, for no other reason than drawing voters in and legitimising motherfuckery. It’s dizzying and brilliant, and once you’ve taken it in, the song’s opening couplet, which at first comes on like macho rock bravado, transfigures itself into a protest against greed and ridiculous consumption:
Twenty five whores in the room next door
Twenty five floors and I need more
This only really hit me in the light of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, which argues powerfully against consumerism and the model of economic growth at all costs upon which the modern western world and free market capitalism are based:
Free market ideology may still bind the imaginations of our elites, but for most of the general public, it has been drained of its powers to persuade. The disastrous track record of the past three decades of neoliberal policy is simply too apparent. Each new blast of statistics about how a tiny band of global oligarchs controls half the world’s wealth exposes the policies of privatization and deregulation for the thinly veiled license to steal that they always were. Each new report of factory fires in Bangladesh, soaring pollution in China, and water cut-offs in Detroit reminds us that free trade was exactly the race to the bottom that so many warned it would be.
Deregulated industry is never going to give us the emission reductions we need to prevent catastrophic global warming, she argues: legislation is the only way. Society can change, government can take back control of the things it needs to in order curb the market, and ultimately, this would restore the values we should have had all along: fairness and quality of life over profit. The bottom line would no longer be the bottom line. I’ll return to this book, but wanted to note, for what it’s worth, in advance of the general election this week, that Labour want a state which provides more than opportunity for its citizens, which doesn’t let people down for not earning enough. Money always matters, but wealth is not a moral quality. Don’t vote for a motherfucker on Thursday.

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