This is really a note-to-self reminding me, one day, to go and get this book, but if you like the sort of things we like round here, you'll probably like this: producer and Killing Joker Youth's full and unedited review for Classic Rock magazine of Patrick Lundborg's book Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life.
Just a few days after taking receipt of Let's All Go To the Science Fiction Disco, which features a great interview with proto-punk firebrand and writer Mick Farren, comes the sad news that he's died after collapsing on stage at The Borderline. Our friend Sam Jordison, who conducted the interview, has posted the full transcript here. Below, The Deviants in full flight.
Swans' Michael Gira describes a woozy daytime dream in this gnomic Facebook update.
I'm backstage sitting at a table drinking with Bob Dylan (his current age). We drink a while, saying nothing. Then he says, "Let me give you some advice". I say, "No thanks. I don't want any advice". He replies, "Never refuse well intentioned advice". So I say, "Ok, what's the advice?". He says "I just gave it to you..."
Over at the Guardian they're running a series of videos on radical thinkers. These are slightly perfunctory, social media-friendly intros, but the choice of subjects is pretty cool. So far there's been the French philosopher Alain Badiou, who I first encountered as a footnote in Baudrillard's The Spectacle of Terrorism, and who's tied into our recent Ballard binge here.
Next came Max Horkheimer. I recently got through a series of essays by Horkeimer and Theodor Adorno called The Culture Industry. Mainstream culture, as they and the rest of the Frankfurt School described it, is the ultimate weapon of mass distraction - a raw form of capitalism which requests a psychic investment in the parent culture. Their criticisms still apply in a world where cultural events have become branded, sponsored, front-of-mind marketing opps and where advertising is reconceived as 'knowledge share' and 'community-building'.
And yet Horkheimer and Adorno were writing before the arrival of rock 'n' roll and the counter-culture, which would serve the same role - for some people, sometimes - as Adorno's rather rigid notion of high art. Adorno's aesthetic, I think, was forged in the Holocaust; how, he asked of art and culture, are you going to make sense of that? Only writers like Beckett had the answer: "I cannot go on. I go on."
(Tangentially - and Adorno was a musicologist as well as a philosopher, so I'd be intrigued to know what he might have made of this - I am fond of Noel Coward's observation, "Strange how potent cheap music is." But that's probably a slightly different point about our subjective experience of art and the extent to which we submit to sentimentality. We probably need Milan Kundera to help us make sense of this.)
Anyway, today in the Guardian's series comes Willhelm Reich, a thinker who's had more influence - sort of - on music than any other: primal screaming, cloud-busting, orgone accumulating, iluminati-inspiring, free-love proposing; Mailer, Bellow and Burroughs were keen advocates. Here's Reich's six point plan for 'creative sanity':
To stay sane in an insane world as a creative man or woman he or she must:
Below comes Hawkwind's tribute to Reich's concept of orgone energy - the life-force he hoped to catch in a wooden box. "It's a back brain stimulator," explains resident poet Bob Calvert, helpfully. "It's a cerebral vibrator. Those energy stimulators - just turn your eyeballs into craters. I'm all gone."
I'm not sure if 'resting bitch face' - a phrase describing the natural repose of one's features when there's, like, nothing happening at all - is a great name for a band or a custom-built corporate meme designed to advertise something I don't know about. Or something else entirely. Either way, they're considering the topic here and, unexpectedly, here. Also, it made us think of this...
We struggle to convey our overwhelming enthusiasm for the new Middle Class Rut album, Pick Up Your Head. Loosely put, these are two guys with a degree in Jane's Adddiction Studies singing furious songs about, well, y'know, all the stuff youngish men sing furious songs about. This title track shamelessly appropriates RL Burnside's Let My Baby Ride (the second appearance of that particular track on this blog this year) and incorporates a load of committed-sounding hollering. There's unlikely to be a better album by a two-piece this year. And that includes Public Service Broadcasting.
This may just be an acute instance of perceptual vigilance (y'know - when something on your mind suddenly appears everywhere in the world) or it may be something to do with the unnatural heat currently cooking the city, but JG Ballard is everywhere. (As perhaps he always is.)
For no particular reason beyond the fact that I found a copy in a box, I was reading Ballard's 2003 novel Millennium People, in which the film lecturers and opticians of Chelsea Marina rise up in revolt against the cultural institutions (the BFI, Tate Modern) designed to keep them in passive contentment. It was his penultimate novel and finds JG at his most unequivocally Ballardian. So Ballardian, in fact, that it almost tips over into self-parody, though I like the plotline's eager nods towards the revolutionary potential of boredom.
Surfacing a couple of days later - in our Facebook feed, ironically - is this excerpt from a 1977 Vogue essay in which Ballard predicts with eerie accuracy the dispiriting non-drama of social media:
That led us in a roundabout way to This Quietus piece on Koreless - about whom I'm not really qualified to say anything at all, so just check the link - which references Simon Sellars' analysis of Ballard's 'zones of transition' - the enclosed spaces or dystopic 'micronations' which do indeed crop up in so many of his stories, and which, to glibly paraphrase Sophie Coletta's very neat Quietus piece, sit somewhere between zones of transgression and places of sanctuary. Possibly they can be both at once. (A full interview with Simon Sellars, I have just discovered, is here.)
Next we skip down to Forbidden Planet to pick up a cool new anthology of essays, interviews and fiction called Let's All Go To The Science Fiction Disco, which tracks the interface between the counter-culture and sci-fi. This book so accurately reflects some of our favourite obsessions - Hawkwind, Michael Moorecock, Mick Farren, Killing Joke, Ballard himself - that I couldn't quite believe it existed. There, in a nice little introduction to Ballard's influence on post-punk, it's revealed that after a hard day plotting the psychic disintegration of suburbia, Ballard liked to fire up the stereogram and relax with a little Bing Crosby.
And that brings us to another delve into the pop culture's collective unconscious: a collection of Steve Beard's journalism for the 1990s style press, Logic Bomb, published in '98 and picked up in a north London Marie Curie. These days Beard is a novelist, I believe, but Logic Bomb finds his radar up and twitching as he constructs elaborate theories around subjects as diverse (and yet strangely unified - this was the 1990s style press after all) as electronica and cyber porn, feminism and Japan. It's a great collection from a writer who, like Ian Penman (though not like Paul Morley) builds high end cultural theory into the foundation of his critical observations.
Beard prefaces Logic Bomb with this quote from Ballard, which we are currently attempting to observe:
"My advice to anyone in any field is to be faithful to your obsessions. Identify them and be faithful to them; let them guide you like a sleepwalker."