Archive for the ‘ History ’ Category

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 ther 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 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 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 my 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.

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.

In the gloaming heart

 

In the child’s field, before his fame
innocence and experience stake their claim
the soldier’s path is chosen
blood signifies the man.

Love, it finds it’s own sweet voice
and echoes out across the void
that riddle rests within the heart
forever to remain.

From Dun Sgathaich the warrior rides
to crest the heights of a morning sky,
three daughters raise the sounds of war
three sons to kill the kings.

Strapped upon a rock to stand
to hold back that dark grasping hand
yet, Black Morrigan’s cacophonous caw
heralds the fading day.

Den Haag

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Den Haag Centraal heaves as we wait
two lost men hanging on to loss
condemned to share these days
trains slip by.
Fast food left festering on a plate
cigarettes on an endless loop
life passes in a gradual way
time slips by.
Both of us on a road outward
running from a thousand cliches
in the crowd we stray,
two alone.

That feeling in my gut
facing down a past
in which I nearly, ever so gently,
drowned.
That feeling in my heart
head on at last
that nearly, ever so violently,
saw me down.

Den Haag Centraal a beginning of a full stop
two men trying to find themselves
jigsaw souls cast upon a floor
rain passed by.

Last orders.

Human beings love order. In fact our brain actively seeks order in chaos, for example it is one of the reasons your mind sees a face in inanimate objects or on patterned wallpaper and it is more than likely why we are always looking for a superfood to destroy cancer (I eat this therefore, I won’t get that). It sounds reasonable to look for that order but it can have a negative effect. Here is one that annoys me: be positive and that will help you survive cancer! Great isn’t it? Except when you do that, and it doesn’t matter whether you mean it, it means that you are saying that the person who dies of cancer wasn’t positive enough and ergo it is their fault that they died. Order like that isn’t so friendly anymore is it? Which brings me to history. We love order in history. The example that springs to mind is Hitler. We have all asked: ‘Why did he hate the Jews?’ Off we pop looking for order and we look for the pattern. Hitler was a failed artist, he was probably picked on by a Jew, he had one testicle and a micropenis and hypospadias.So, that solves that (Jesus must have been a fantastic artist, been hung like a horse and had polyorchadism though cause he was so good) of course, this lets humanity off the hook. Everyone knows it was all religions fault (because there was never a political ideology that was atheistic and sent people off to, oh a gulag or had show trials or ran over people with tanks and had a one child policy…ever because if there was well you know there would be memes about it wouldn’t there?) Realistically, the reason that Shoah occurred was due to religious, economic, social, political and cultural issues and prejudices that had existed in Europe for centuries. Making a snappy YouTube video explaining that is difficult, looking at the genital deformities of Hitler isn’t apparently. Human beings like the answer to be in the recent past as it is more ordered.

So, why am I writing this? Let’s be frank this is the Internet and I lost about 60% of the five to six people that read my posts already. Well you know why I’m writing it, you’ve seen the news. I also want those that are more moral than I to see that I care, I swear I do, I know stuff too I didn’t mean to change my picture to add a French tri-colour there a while back I’m like you too. I watched that YouTube video I promise I did, I know it was Rothstein or Rothschild or whatever Berg that started it all I know Israel is the real bad one, damn it lads and ladies I swear I knew it was them. They took land that didn’t belong to them, of course their people were gassed, starved, left to rot in their own vomit, shit, piss, castrated, mutilated, shot, buried alive etc etc shush now though dear reader I won’t point out that most Europeans didn’t want them, we mustn’t look too far back or our sense of order gets eroded.

Little Known Irish Classics (Vol.I)

The following songs are, by and large, little known Irish classics or at least curios. Three things to note: by Ireland I mean the island, I’m not considering politics etc here and since this is the first part I have looked at songs and bands from the 1970s and 1980s.  I have tried to avoid looking at more well known Irish bands and artists such as Thin Lizzy, U2, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Van the man etc I love them too but wanted to shine a spotlight on a few other acts I like.

Under Cleary’s Clock by The Radiators from Space is a hauntingly plaintive song written by the late Phil Chevron (later of The Pogues). The band were one of Ireland’s first Punk bands however this song is built around an acoustic guitar and tells the story of a gay man waiting for his date (and worrying will he be stood up). They are to meet under Cleary’s clock, which one stood on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. There is an added poignancy to the song as homosexuality was illegal in Ireland and the narrator of the song just wants a lover like everyone else.

Strange Girl by Paranoid Visions. This band have flown the flag for Irish punk long after many had thought it was dead. This song follows a simple enough punk formula of three chords and the truth. However, like the song above it shines a light on the darker side of life and a famous incident in Ireland. The death of a pregnant teenage mother and a child in a graveyard. She felt she couldn’t tell anyone and died alone. Lyrically it gave a kick to the idea that Ireland was a pro-life haven and when I first heard it the infamous X- case was all over the news as Ireland’s long story of abortion denial dragged on (as it still does to this day).

Downmarket by The Blades. These were a much lauded band, so much so that many on the Dublin scene believed that it would be they and not U2 that would become rich and famous. Often viewed as an Irish take on The Jam they were more than just a cheap copy. The lyrics of their main man Paul Cleary put them above many of their contemporaries as he painted many a vignette depicting the Ireland of the late 1970s and early 80s. Downmarket has some funky little guitar chords, a solid rhythm and a horn section. Anyone alive during the 1980s and early 90s will recognise the Ireland of few choices.

Mania by The Outcasts. Legendary Belfast punk band that were involved with the equally legendary Good Vibrations label. I first heard this on the now classic record: Punk and Disorderly: Vol. I. I’m not going to say much more than I seriously love this song, it makes me want to pogo all night long (oh and that beat…)

Caucasian Walk by Virgin Prunes. This group were like the anti-U2 (although it should be said both groups were and are still great friends). This is real post-punk territory. Throbbing drums, pulsating bass, twitchy guitar and two singers wearing skirts (Guggi and Gavin Friday). Definitely avant-garde they tried and succeeded in producing a different type of music..

Sandinista!

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Sandinista! stands as a result of a new found confidence on the part of The Clash. Burning incandescently on the comet trail of the double album and dizzy with ambition the band decided on an aural smorgasbord with a triple album (yes that is six sides). After the disastrous and Ill-conceived Cut the Crap this is the album that divides the faithful: in many ways one could argue that with a steadying editing influence this would have been a masterpiece fusing the raw power of punk with the newly emergent hip hop or on the other hand that the spiral sprawl allowed for a freedom which demands you listen to each and every note at least once. The album opens with Magnificent Seven: all funk and form, bristling with the new New York movements and with a bass line that carries all before it. Hitsville UK follows and it is a hopeful skank and call to arms that recalls the apogee of the arrival of punk and ska in 1970s/ 80s Britain. Junco Partner is a Brixton dub reggae tune, reminding us that the band have not lost touch with their London roots. The Leader continues London’s Calling Rockabilly vibe in a fine vein. Ivan meets GI Joe is Cold War disco writ large and is followed by Something about England, Mick Jones sings about the death of the post war dream through the eyes of a homeless Londoner and again the echoes of the Cold War can be felt like a Dickensian ghost. Rebel Waltz is concerned with the American Civil War by way of Jamaican dub reverb and is a trope followed up by both Paul Simonon on The Crooked Beat and by Strummer and Mickey Dread on One more time (and One more time: Dub ) which is biting social The Clash, reggae and roots are all to the fore with Joe singing to the world in a desperate bid to get us all to listen. Sandwiched in between all that is the Mick Jones classic Somebody Got Murdered. Have I forgot anything? Yes in between all that is a version of Mose Allison’s Look Here. This is two sides in and there are four more to go.
Rather than labour over every song on the album I will just mention some of the highlights The Call Up is pure anti-war, Joe singing about wanting to see the wheat fields rather than murder and maim for God or country. Broadway is beautiful and sparse, all feeling and awe and you can tell that America has been digging in to the bands psyche. Charlie don’t Surf uses that famous line from Apocalypse Now and the subject of Vietnam would be a subject to which the band would return. There are strange bedfellows in Career Opportunities reworked into a mad lullaby sung by kids, Mensforth Hill is just Something about England played backwards, there are dub versions of If Music Could Talk, Washington Bullets, Junco Partner and an instrumental in the shape of Shepard’s Delight. There is an Eddy Grant cover: Police on my Back. At times it feels like the album is going to tip over into a free form jam as the coherence dips and you feel that the band are laying down every demo idea that they have jammed. They want to make you work to find the brilliance and the album reminds me of how bland and uniform soundscapes have become of late and how artificial the industry has become. The Clash wanted to expand minds, talk politics even the name of the album is a statement of intent giving a massive fuck you to Reagan politics and Thatcherite gloom. This wasn’t introspective navel gazing but all out balls out broadside balladry for a new age. This group really believed they were the only band that mattered and were on mission: that mission was clear Lydon had screamed get off your arse but The Clash were going to kick us off our arse one at a time if needs be. God bless them it was a big ask and one that ultimately failed as music is now full of the whingeing generation who couldn’t be bothered lifting an amp never mind putting their shoulder to the wheel to try to pull down the walls of conformity. Yes they may have been Don Quixote, tilting at windmills but there were enough of us willing to be Sancho Panza and jump on for the ride. Will we ever again have an age where a band will get away with a triple album like this? Alas I think not but fuck it, it is only rock and roll but… Ah you know the rest