Saturday, April 30, 2005

when 'pop' attacks

From here:
Still, it’s not easy to discern just what Noli Me Legere is for. It’s not a substitute for reading the books, and it risks suggesting a fairly unphilosophical ‘essence’ of Blanchot within easy reach, stripped of the messy stuff of thought and style. By contrast, English philosopher Simon Critchley has put his own words at the centre of his collaboration with musician John Simmons. The resulting CD, Humiliation (2004), is perhaps the bravest, or most foolhardy, move by a philosopher since the infamous night in 1996 when Jean Baudrillard took to the stage of Whiskey Pete’s casino in Nevada and (accompanied by Mike Kelley, among others) performed, in full gold-lamé-jacketed cabaret mode, a text entitled ‘Suicide Moi’.
Critchley is similarly shameless when it comes to genre. Over a selection of often infectious, if somewhat dated, styles — muted Trip-Hop, Latin-tinged pop, anthemic Techno-lite — he reflects on the nature of sex, Jesus’ first miracle and a coming nameless apocalypse. ‘We live in a time ... when the wind is rising’, he intones over a funky flute. Critchley, the author of an excellent philosophical study of humour, has since hinted that the whole thing is the upshot of a mid-life crisis. But its most beguiling effect is to conjure an alternative musical history in which the philosopher actually made it as a global pop sensation. He professes a fondness for George Michael: at times, despite the inherent preposterousness of the entire undertaking, you can hear a new world in which Critchley, loving the Beckettian vacancy of it all, has shimmied his catchiest track, ‘Cependant’ (lyrics courtesy of Georges Bataille), to the very top.

For serious hilarity, however, a recent CD by Canadian artist Brian Joseph Davis is a joyous and thoughtful thing. Packaged like an old vinyl seven-inch, complete with the indie-label injunction to ‘pay no more than $4’, Minima Moralia announces itself as a five-song EP by Theodor Adorno. Davis has taken an aside from Greil Marcus’ book Lipstick Traces (1989) to the effect that Adorno’s melancholy volume is as frantic and raging as a proper Punk product — and made it real, putting the man’s words in the mouth of a female vocalist, Dawn Unwanted. Over Davis’ perfect simulacra of minimal Punk energy, Dawn comes uncannily close to early Patti Smith with lines such as ‘The evil principle that was always latent in affability unfurls its full bestiality in the egalitarian spirit’. Which is not to say that Minima Moralia is a one-chord joke: it’s now impossible to read Adorno’s text without hearing it as Agit-Punk. As the sleeve has it: ‘old school, new school, Frankfurt school!’

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