Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The The - This is The Day

    I was reminded of this when it appeared on an episode of Fresh Meat recently. As much as the first Smiths album, Prefab Sprout's Swoon and Postcard-era Orange Juice, Soul Mining by The The was part of my teenage vinyl-pantheon, laconic anthems for bedroomed youth that seemed to vindicate and feed my sociophobic introspection.
     And as with Morrissey, McAloon and Collins, it was the lyrics that seized my interest as much as the music. Where Matt Johnson diverged from the wittier, more tongue-in-cheek tristesses of the others - and in this allying him to another of my favourite lyricists, Ian Curtis of Joy Division - was in an approach seemingly grounded in the gloomy, no doubt self-obsessive existentialism I had begun to explore in my early reading. I remember the thrill of connectivity I felt when I came across a line from another single from Soul Mining, 'Perfect Day', in Sartre's Nausea: "What is there to fear from such a regular world?"  Johnson's lines had the feel of diary-jottings from a soul in crisis: what a brilliant opening couplet "You didn't wake up this morning cos you didn't go to bed/You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red" is. The incongruity of pairing such angst with catchy, jaunty melodies played on instruments like accordion, harmonica and acoustic guitar was no doubt the secret of Soul Mining's unique - and continuing - appeal.
    (Unlike Jean-Paul Sartre and existentialism, whose appeal didn't last beyond those teenage, bedroomed years.)

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Idea of Creativity

"It is creative apperception more than anything else that makes the individual feel that life is worth living. Contrasted with this is a relationship to external reality which is one of compliance, the world and its details being recognised but only as something to be fitted in with or demanding adaptation. Compliance carries with it a sense of futility for the individual and is associated with the idea that nothing matters and that life is not worth living. In a tantalizing way many individuals have experienced just enough of creative living to recognise that for most of their time they are living uncreatively, as if caught up in the creativity of someone else, or of a machine..."

  "It is assumed here that the task of reality-acceptance is never completed, that no human being is free from the strain of relating inner and outer reality, and that relief from this strain is provided by an intermediate area of experience which is not challenged (arts, religion etc.) This intermediate area is in direct continuity with the play area of the small child who is 'lost' in play."
                                                       DW Winnicott, Playing and Reality (1971)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Sebastian Barker 1945 - 2014

    I realise I'm a bit behind with this but I heard today that Sebastian Barker passed away recently. He was an ambitious, engaging, anomalous poet as his father had been and  - also like George Barker - never received much recognition for his "services to the Muse". A friend invited him to my book-launch last year but he couldn't come due to the cancer that's now carried him away.
Here's an obit by Clive Wilmer: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/11/sebastian-barker