A dimming

Long the road
hard the head
you and I
share this bed
take the blame
hide these feelings.

Hardest truth
is your eyes
the rain that falls
whispered lies
little heart
beats no feeling.

Never said
never tried
what is shame?
Our little lives?
Try again
keep believing

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The existentialism of the here and now.

The time spent chasing shadows of the past can be overwhelming. Labyrinth like we get lost in musing. That’s the thing about psychogeography it has a claustrophobia that, at times, encloses and suffocates. Hometowns have a hegemony all of their own and can constrain. You find yourself living up to a set of rules that no longer apply to the way in which you live your life today. Paul Weller once wrote: ‘ the world is your oyster but your future’s a clam, it’s got you in its grip before you’re born’ and in a way that can be community. A script is written for you. When I took my first tentative steps into third-level education I signed up for a year long course. I remember we were given a talk and they said that friends/family/ partners may not understand why you want to pursue this path and that they could resent you for a time. Notions. They say that in Ireland sometimes when you try to improve yourself: ‘S/he has notions’ they mean notions above themselves. You can be many things but don’t get notions. Don’t think you are above…sure wasn’t it far from art and literature you were born?

Tendrils grabbing. Pulling you back down. You see I wasn’t born that far from art and literature. I used my local library, I talked to my parents and family, I had my music and I had that space in my head that was me. I couldn’t march to the soldiers song and I make no apology for that, it wasn’t my life and I wasn’t made to conform. I love where I am from, my previous post deals with that, but I remember two things my first teacher taught me: ‘Never be afraid to speak your mind, never be afraid to be yourself and never let anyone think they are better than you’ and secondly: ‘ You can’t live in the past, you can’t mourn what has gone.’ How wise my teacher was and how hard it has been trying to live up to all that. Yet, our teachers pass on knowledge in an attempt to equip us with the tools to survive. Of course my first teacher was my mother so she knew what was out there waiting. She slipped into the ghosts of our town and I escaped. We are more than place, more than community, more than a script. The existential dreams of the self and in doing so creates a new  self. I am me and I apologise to no one.

Where swallows sing: psychogeography, lament and loss.

You probably don’t think of the crack of rifle fire and the rumble of tanks when you think of home. Growing up on an army base you might think I would, and I do somewhat, but more than that I think of birdsong and the trees when I feel home. I say feel home because I think of home as an emotion, a geography of the psychological. Psychogeography is the way in which an environment plays on the emotions and behaviour of the person. Strictly speaking it had its roots in the situationist urban landscape but whenever home returns to me I think of the psychogeographic.

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Karl Marx once said that people can see nothing around them that is not in their image, everything speaks to them of themselves. In the Curragh Camp I see myself in the animate and inanimate objects of my youth. They form part of my being and my being forms part of the Curragh Camp. The patch of land where the barbed wire coiled like a snake ready to bite with its rusty teeth. We would tie a rope around the branch of the giant tree, pulling it taut, letting it go then we would swing upwards and outwards over the wire. I was always terrified. Not too far away there was an old toilet, bald on top from the collapsed roof, we held contests to see whose piss could reach furthest up the wall. Urine spraying everywhere.

As the brightness of a summer night gave way to purple tinged dusk the cawing of hundreds of crows settling in for the night would assault the ears. A great cacophony that heralded bedtime was near. Swallows would nest in the eaves of the houses, swooping dangerously close to the roads in between the blocks. As summer sneaked away school sauntered in. Who remembers now the little path where a gang of us walked as we wound our way out of MacDonagh? Memory pain.

Teenage years spent in the disused houses as the old lady began to creak under the weight of a new world coming. We kissed in the shadows, cigarettes glowing in the dark winter nights, love was proclaimed on Lover’s Rock and the plantation bore silent witness to the fumbling hands of lustful youth. Bon Scott RIP AC/DC graffiti on the laundrette wall. Traces of an empire fading in the pencil lines of men that would go off to see the blood of Europe spread on Flanders field. Some never to feel the warmth of home again.Sitting on the hill of the ranges with Kildare spread out under your feet and the sky stretching forever. Everywhere I see my image: our image.

It is the stillness that gets me now. Noise only existing in my half-formed memories and fragments of dreams. Home populated by absence rather than wholeness. Each time returning I promise it will be the last, however we are forever linked. It is a symbiosis. It is dreamtime. We are a people fading. The last of us receding. I wonder did the migrating swallows think: ‘where did we they go’ when the terrace that was ours and theirs disappeared?  I wonder where they sleep now? I wonder do they dream of us like we dream of them?

Dedicated to the memory of my childhood friend Anthony Frahill 1976-2017. Rest softly in the dreams of our hometown.

A wave that breaks.

Generation X was the label of my generation. We were/are the slackers, the cynics, the ones that had lost all trust in authority and just kinda shrugged at it all. Well at least that was the cliche. Who knows what we were or are for labels are handed out in an arbitrary fashion usually at the whim of journalists or sociologists. What is true is that the movement known as grunge brought the underground overground as it were. There were many bands involved but there were four that stood out for me: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Well we all know what happened to Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains died after. That left Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. Unfortunately Chris Cornell died in May. There is a deep sadness that the bands that changed so much lost their frontmen. Of all the four Soundgarden were my favourite and I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Dublin some years back. Sleep well Chris and thank you for the music.

A Wave That Breaks

The remnants of my youth
carried on the updraft of your voice.
It echoed through the rooms of my thoughts.
Images formed of fragments
the possibility of the now,
the slow trudge of an ending
and the beginning of newer age.
What gifts the seer brings
harnessing the whisper to create the scream
showing the believers the worth of their dreams
knowing the unknown
keeping us alive
measuring the distance
of rooms a thousand years wide.

Flickerings

A cathedral for a forgotten god
its altar bare
prayers and incantations unknown,
maybe unanswered. Maybe.
Upon the uneven, undulating wall, a human hand, imperfect man.
‘He had a broken finger’ an anthropologist intones.
Traces of art scattered in the recesses of the land
passively watching the rotting bones.

What is real? the shadow cast or the light?
The physical manifestation or the dream?
God in man or the man in god?
The cave (the Freudian interpretation is clear) wet, but also warm and inviting.
The shadow play sings a song:
man seeking an answer
(there is the obvious Jungian one)
but they knew no Freud, no Jung, no Christ.
Just the cave bear and the dark and the sacrifice.

The movement of the second wave.

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All things considered, it can be difficult to explain a love for music that hits you like a sledgehammer falling at great speed from an even greater height. What pushes those of us toward sonic extremism. Everyone out there has their beginning point; their year zero. For me, three great acts really began to push the envelope and opened up the possibility of deafening their audience on the first song: Black Sabbath (dark, brooding and weight), The MC5 (blues, manic and full of possibility) and of course The Stooges (nuts). All three really get in there and fuck about with sound. Sabbath were just weighty and it was no wonder that people thought they were satanists. The MC5 grabbed rock n’ roll by nuts and could riff for the ages and The Stooges well, they just ripped the heart out of the sixties and danced on the corpse. Search and Destroy paved the way for every refusenik and noise merchant that came ever. They reminded us that the guitar was an animal; untameable and brimming with sexual energy. Of course, all three groups dealt with dark themes; political realities, apathy and the encroaching isolation of the 1970s. Out there in sad-sack suburbia the loners and freaks were listening and ready to take it all on board.

You know the first wave story: the boy looks at Johnny and creates a thousand bands. Somewhere among all that comes a group of hippy anarchists that challenge both the mythology of the moment and also Christ, Buddha, Marx, Thatcher, Reagan etc etc. We know them as Crass. God they really can’t play but it is a glorious racket. No chords and the truth. You see some of us like it discordant. The second wave comes and washes over: Black Flag, Dead Kennedy’s, Bad Brains, Minor Threat from the US drive the music on: faster and faster, harder and heavier. Discharge, GBH, The Exploited, Poison Girls, Subhumans from the UK give Cold War Europe its soundtrack. This is street punk, music made is garages, played at house parties, quasi-anarchist, anti-religion, pro-vegan distorted rage. Metal looks on helpless for a moment until the big four of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer mix the darkness of Sabbath with the adrenaline rush of punk to create thrash metal. You know I’m leaving out loads like Pentagram, Motörhead, Big Black Ministry, Mastodon oh the list goes on.

So why heavy? Why hard? I suppose at the end of the day I like when extremes are in play. I like the drive. I like the way some of it is simple and then I like the way some of it is complex. Above all I like the energy. Rock n’roll is a simple game: you give guitars to teenagers and let them create a movement that is vain and arrogant and then you watch it eat itself. You know for that to happen you can’t really do it unplugged.

It’s a swindle…

imageFor a band that changed so much in our music and culture the Sex Pistols have, by and large, been ill-served on the movie front. Shortly after the band split The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle (directed by Julien Temple) was released. In many ways it is a fun film and offers some great footage of the band. There are classic scenes of the chaotic US tour including such highlights as Sid whacking a guy over the head with a bass and, of course, Lydon’s parting shot on the San Francisco stage where he looks out and says: ‘Ha ha ha, ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ Steve Jones plays a Philip Marlowe like character, albeit a foul-mouthed version as he fucks and blinds his away around England and Brazil. There are oddities aplenty, Ronnie Biggs (a train robber, then on the run and living in Brazil) is shoe-horned in for no apparent reason and an most bizarrely mentions of ‘who killed Bambi?’ which is never explained (it comes from an earlier script). However, it is wrapped in a narrative which creates the impression that Malcolm McLaren (their manager) was some great puppet master that pulled the strings behind the scenes. The band are reduced to a play-thing for the machinations of their malevolent manager. It becomes little more than an ego-stroking exercise. What is rather ironic is that in the fictitious telling of the story whereby McLaren wants to make the band out to be anti rock n’ roll his story makes them the most boring rock n’roll cliche. He destroys the bands power; he reduces them to a cheap carry-on farce and robs them of any real potency. All that is left is the cartoon version of the band, the one that can’t play, the one that pukes all over the place and the one that was essentially a boy band created to sell clothes for Malcom’s infamous shop, Sex.

Sid and Nancy was directed by Alex Cox and was released in 1986. Gary Oldman stars as the doomed Sid Vicious but just like the aforementioned Swindle the characters are reduced to caricatures. Oldman does a great job with the material as does Chloe Webb in her role as Nancy Spungeon alas, the rest is shocking. Lydon is portrayed as a bean-eating joke,one that is is jealous of Nancy. Steve Jones and Paul Cook are just in the background but criminally when Cook is shown he is an idiot that for some reason the band don’t like. Verisimilitude is absent from the gig scenes, punks with day-glo Mohawks are pogoing about despite the fact Mohawks weren’t to arrive on the scene until the 1980s, Poly Styrene, half Somalian lead singer of X-Ray Spex is transformed into a white woman and it all just seems off. Again, the potency of the band is neutered.

In the end maybe a fictitious telling of the Pistols story is impossible. If you are interested in their story read Lydon’s No Irish, No Blacks,No Dogs and Anger is an Energy, Glen Matlock’s I was a teenage Sex Pistol and Steve Jones’ Lonely Boy. Three films I would recommend are Don Letts The Punk Rock Movie, DOA by Lech Kowalski and The Filth and Fury by Julien Temple. Get off your arse.