My dad grew up in a tenement block in London SW3 that had one combined bathroom/toilet for all of the 8 flats there. It’s very posh there now, but it wasn’t 100 years ago. Dad’s family was large – six kids in all, plus a pair of twins that died shortly after being born. He left school aged 14 to work in the docks as a clerk and supplemented his income with prize fighting. His dad trained him up in the art of boxing, whereby working class people get a chance of earning some decent money by beating each other up in a complicated pretend-restrained way, and he started young – aged 12 dad was put in the front garden and told to take on all comers as part of a process to toughen him up. While working in the docks aged 19, word came down from London that Jimmy McHardbastard was looking for a fight in London, and of course dad was up for it. Everybody warned him not to do it, that the guy from Glasgow was notoriously hard, that he could badly injure dad or worse, but dad ignored the warnings and when the day came, pasted his foe to the canvas, winning a large amount of money in the process. A bit later, dad joined the Young Communists League and as there appeared to be a bit of a problem brewing with fascism, he took to patrolling the east end of London with two of his fellow hardnuts from the gym looking for blackshirts. If they found any, they beat the shit out of them. Dad always used to mention a big demo to stop the fascists from marching where there was a bit of a riot, police on horses everywhere truncheoning all and sundry, and generally a fair bit of ‘unrest’, as it were, which worked as the fascists didn’t get to do their march. I presume this was Cable Street. When World War 2 came along, dad joined the RAF. Due to eyesight issues he couldn’t be a pilot so they put him on signals. He was posted to various locations in North Africa and watched as the fighting stopped in all of them shortly after he arrived – he joked that he was the British Army’s secret weapon. He turned out to have a bit of a flair for working out garbled teletype communications, which is probably why he was headhunted by GCHQ after the war. Unfortunately his first wife (who he met while stationed in Morocco) said that if he didn’t come to live with her near her mother in Birmingham she’d divorce him immediately, so post-war Birmingham it was. (His wife divorced him anyway a few years later, which is why I’m writing this, his second wife being my mum.) Dad ended up working in the civil service as a tax inspector but was never promoted as according to my mum (dad never mentioned this, perhaps out of pride) he told a couple of his superiors what he thought of them and was repeatedly passed over for promotion, earning (again it was mum who told me this) ‘little boy’s wages’ for the rest of his life. No doubt dad’s mouth got him into trouble at work, but I suspect class may have been involved somewhere – this was the civil service after all.
As for my mother, she grew up in a Catholic family in the south of Ireland with six siblings. Poverty was always a bit of a threat so to keep food on the table her dad often used to go out at night to poach salmon from the local gamekeeper’s reserve and catch rabbits. He had a special coat where he could hide his catch, and he never got caught. Mum came over to England in the 50s to work as a hairdresser, eventually meeting dad and getting married and having two children, one of which is writing this right now.
Having got on the property ladder, which I’m pretty sure didn’t exist as a concept back then, at the end of the 60s, my parents got off it for good when they divorced in the mid 70s. Mum did basic work cleaning in hotels, care homes and the like for piffling amounts of cash in hand. Me and my sister were latchkey kids for a bit there in the 70s. Then at the end of 1979 we finally got council housing – a 2-bed flat (for all 3 of us) in a tower block in one of ‘those’ estates, with a bit of a local reputation. It was December, and it was a revelation to experience communal heating at a time of year when we’d normally have ice on the inside of the windows. Obviously money was tight, and it always was, when my parents were together and when they weren’t.
But I was always well-spoken. Out playing with local kids they’d say I spoke ‘posh’ and this stressed me. I still don’t know where my accent came from – but this was not all. I turned out to be good at music. A brilliant local music teacher spotted me at age 10 and taught me viola for a few years. I think I was noticed for a reason, though. Post-divorce, when I was 8, I used to play records – a couple of Beethoven LPs and a Top of the Pops compilation – on a Dansette in my bedroom. I suspect it was my escape from the divorce. Mum got a piano, and a Jewish guy who drove a bread van round the area and who clearly fancied mum (and who I dearly wish mum had got together with because he was just brilliant – as as kid I loved that man) used to play a kind of party piece on the piano which I now recognise as being klezmer. I began piano lessons, and began writing, or trying to write, my own music.
My viola lessons continued. I did O level music at a superior secondary school which of course was in a very nice, middle class part of town, so all my schoolfriends were middle class. As it was outside our catchment area mum had to fight for it, but somehow she did it. Again, I was lucky to have a brilliant music teacher. While doing music O level I had a friendly rivalry with another music student, which I remember as perhaps the only time in my life where I persistently did just that bit better than somebody I was supposedly ‘in competition’ with. I played in the local youth orchestra which again was very middle class. Once a year they’d go on a tour abroad, something entirely financially out of reach, and I’d be one of the 5 or 6 members that got to go on tour thanks to a grant for those of us from poor backgrounds.
So obviously I studied A level music. There were two pupils in my class, the other one being a very pretty, very ‘nice’ middle class girl who was clearly the (pompously middle class) teacher’s favourite. At one point I was given a properly demoralising mini-talk when I chanced my arm at writing some music purely with my inner ear, about how few musicians even have it, etc, etc. Discouraging stuff. But credit where credit’s due, the prejudiced posh scrotum who taught me had a look at my A level aural paper before he sealed it to send to the examining board, and told me I’d only got one question wrong, and that question was worth 3 marks, and the aural paper was out of 100, so I’d got 97%. He hadn’t seen this in 25 years of teaching music at A level, though he’d had one pupil who’d got 87% a few years earlier. Meanwhile, for my grade 8 viola, which formed part of the A level exam, I got 137 out of 150 (my nice middle class fellow pupil got 130).
My ascent into the world of classical music continued. As I also took A level physics and maths, I could be considered for the University of Surrey’s Tonmeister course. I went for interviews and tests, which again I smashed, and was taken on board. In the first year the aural classes were divied into upper, middle and lower streams, and there I found myself in the top stream with four other public school educated undergrads receiving personal tuition from the Head of Music at the time, contemporary composer Sebastian Forbes, in his office no less. And I did well in this select group too.
Still I didn’t quite join the dots. I was the only student on my course on full grant the whole time I was at Surrey. Most of my new friends had parents who were university lecturers themselves, their homes were in places like Blackheath, and what really amazed me was the levels of confidence. I’d had one friend in particular at secondary school who was incredibly confident, to a level I couldn’t understand, but that was it. At Surrey, overall undergrad confidence was all at that ultra-confident level – it daunted me, stressed me even, as it was so vastly different to the depressive anxiety and insecurity I wrestled with all day, every day.
Meanwhile, in the second year aural was all one big class of mixed Tonmeister and music students (i.e. Tonmeister without the sound recording aspect). There were 25 or so of us. And one day we were played a musical extract to identify which I immediately spotted was a trick. We were supposed to say it was Bach but it was immediately obvious to me that the style wasn’t anywhere near as fully realised. It completely lacked the distinctively transcendent quality of Bach, but I thought it could’ve been something that inspired the great JS, so it could’ve been his teacher, who I happened to know from studying music history was called Buxtehude. The only other person in the class who didn’t write Bach, and who like me got the answer right, was a church organist who was a big Buxtehude fan and knew the piece in question. I’ve not knowingly heard any Buxtehude before or since.
Dots still unjoined. As for my O level music rival, the one I consistently just outdid all the time, he went on to run a couple of very well-known orchestras in a couple of major Northern cities. As for me, I did nothing with my degree and I’m currently working as a secretary. Which is where it starts to get interesting. Like my parents I’ve never had a career, though for 10 years I lucked out with a temp placement that turned permanent where I earned decent money (by my standards). Suddenly I got sensible with money, and paid off a fairly sizeable credit card debt I’d built quickly built up after my sister and dad died in quick succession in the early 00s. I’d always avoided credit cards but around the turn of the millennium me and my girlfriend at the time both got one, and both of us maxed them out at £1k within a few months. I did always think they’d be a bit of a temptation, and thus did it prove. As for the girlfriend, she went on to have a successful career working for a big TV production company – the sort of career where if you’re made redundant you sign a settlement agreement forbidding you for looking for work for 6 months, and the settlement figure is so large that it’s fine to be unemployed for a while.
… dots unjoined, time passing…
Having gained a 2.1 in my exotic degree, a degree that few people can even be considered for, obtained from one of the top 10 universities in the UK, I was suddenly faced with the real world, the adult world of work. It was overwhelming. There was no guidance, anywhere, and I had to find work immediately with a degree that had no relevance to the vast majority of any work anywhere, inside or outside the music industry. Worse still, I supposedly had an arts degree, a BMus Hons, while in practice it was pretty much 50/50 arts and science. Many are the times I have heard uncreative middle class sorts pontificate on how you need to do a ‘proper’ degree (i.e. not arts or humanities) if you want to ‘succeed’ (i.e. earn lots of money). But this bullshit didn’t even apply to me anyway.
After leaving Surrey I had no financial safety net and had to grab what work I could. By this point mum had gone back to Ireland and remarried, which meant there was no parental home for me to stage a tactical withdrawal and regroup. Less than two years after I graduated I had a breakdown, or if you like a transcendent negative spiritual experience. I had to keep getting back in the saddle in order to get money to pay rent, to live. Always with that nagging feeling that I could, and should, somehow sort out some sort of career and it was a failure on my part that this didn’t happen. I carried this for many years. I saw friends who’d been living what could be called distinctly ‘bohemian’ lifestyles get their act together and embark on proper well-paid careers, but I continued to bump along the bottom in terms of wages, somehow mysteriously never able to construct a sensible, grownup life like my friends had ‘achieved’. (To their credit, Surrey radically changed the industrial year and guidance aspects of the Tonmeister course years ago to prevent this sort of scenario ever happening again. But it’s far too late for me.)
It’s difficult to put across the drag on the psyche caused by having no access to Bomad – my abbreviation of ‘bank of mum and dad’, so called as a nod to the famously middle class Womad festival. And only now, after long years of striving, of thinking I could somehow ‘get there’, have I started seeing what’s been going on these last few decades of my life. Things have finally started coming into clarity. Curious things. Stuff staring me in the face for years that I somehow didn’t notice precisely because of the miasma of pernicious meritocratic bullshit pumped out into the intellectual air supply everywhere by the self-serving liars of the PMC [later use] as a way of retaining and solidifying privilege. (Even if doing so means its practitioners pay a heavy price themselves. But more on that further down the page.)
The dots began at last to join up after I was made redundant back in 2013. A year or two down the line it came into my awareness that by some inexplicable coincidence all the people that lost their jobs were working class, while all the people that kept their jobs were middle class. Well I never.
I made my redundancy money, which wasn’t bad in my book, last years, something I managed only by not being out of work too long and somehow managing to find temp work that led to a permanent, if badly-paid job. Meanwhile, a couple of years after my redundancy, a friend of mine who I’d known from the local youth orchestra and who’d inherited a house from his grandmother, happened to mention in passing that he’d spent his redundancy money – at £20k a goodly amount more than the amount I’d received – in 6 months. He wasn’t happy about this at all – but he was able to do it without any real consequences. He did own an inherited house after all. And he sold that house shortly afterwards at a profit to move out to the suburbs where he gives piano lessons in order to have money to live on.
I began noticing other things too. In every place I’d worked over the decades, secretaries and other low-paid low-status jobs such as receptionists, ‘admin assistants’ and the like were nearly all women. And a fair few of them clearly had extremely high anxiety levels, like me.
I don’t remember how it happened, but one day I clicked on the ‘Look Inside’ tab on a book on Amazon, and read that the book in question was written because somebody had said to its author Cynthia Cruz that she didn’t dress or talk like a working class person – which of course naturally led to a kind of angry wondering on Cruz’s part about how a working class person is supposed to dress or talk. Having been told that I ‘don’t seem working class’ here and there throughout my adult life, I immediately knew I had to read this book.
The book is The Melancholia of Class. It’s potentially quite dangerous and I would advise anybody working class who’s thinking about reading it to be careful to make sure that they’re in an at least fairly good place first. TMOC showed me just why I’ve lived a liminal life, and how various friends of mine over the years somehow ended up owning properties, with successful careers, doing things, projects that require money, like setting up their own recording studios, or taking gap years or sabbaticals, or going on holidays (sometimes even more than once a year!) and how all this has not been due to some kind of weakness or failure or moral turpitude on my part. Some of my middle class friends led very hedonistic lives for years, yet somehow managed to come good. Thanks to internalised just world drivel, a kind of drivel constantly spread everywhere by the PMC for their own ego-serving ends, I spent years falsely feeling that my inability to do any of those things was due to some kind of lack of character on my part – even though I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life trying as hard as I can while getting nowhere (in the supposedly ‘important’ terms of the PMC). But precisely because of Cruz’s powerful insight, and the ways of that insight, it showed me why I will never amount to anything in PMC terms, and in disconnecting from those terms through reading TMOC I became acutely aware of how they are omnipresent in all media, and how they are relentlessly touted as true success – with no validation, it turns out – and how these so-called ‘values’ ended up festering away, or just living uninvited, in my psyche. Precisely because of the power of Cruz’s insight I had to spend a few weeks digesting this lump of truth and all its many ramifications… and after that, I felt a certain relief and healing. So it might be dangerous, but that’s not the whole story. I may not be able to afford talking therapies, but TMOC worked pretty well like those therapies are meant to, and that’s all I needed.
Firstly, though, let us examine the book’s dangerous aspect. Obviously since this is a matter of melancholia the book must therefore be dangerous if it is to have any true insight. And if you’re prone to sadness and not feeling great about yourself, maybe wait until you feel at least a little better before reading it. Or maybe dive in and see how it goes and stop if necessary. If you’re middle or upper class, I would say you are obliged to read it, and should expect to feel uncomfortable. This isn’t a guilt tripping thing, it’s an honesty thing.
TMOC features a particularly masterful analysis of Julie Hogg’s film The Souvenir. It’s about an aristocratic woman who decides she’s somehow interested in the working class of Sunderland and would like to make a documentary about them, for some reason. The film as a whole is quite meta, as it would be seeing as it’s about a film maker making a film about the working class who has an affair with an actual working class person. This is Anthony, a working class classical music buff now working for the civil service (at the Foreign Office) with a father who worked in the Sunderland docks. The film (as in The Souvenir) opens with a montage of old footage of the docks, and this is all we see in respect of Anthony’s background – there is no further context, just as there is no context for Anthony. This was the first heavy impact for me, with my working class father who came from the docks yet who worked for the civil service. That strange lack of sense of home,l of a background that ought to have been there yet just wasn’t, that feeling of never fitting in anywhere – always met with “oh I get that” but in fact sometimes justified. We’ve all sometimes met people that genuinely didn’t fit in despite the fact that everybody claims to feel like they don’t fit in whether they do or not. We’ve seen those people from the outside, as it were. And all of use that actually don’t fit in are a challenge to this weird way that we are expected to be individual yet also conform.
As for seeing people from the outside, in The Souvenir it is not immediately clear why Julie is making her film as she has no understanding of the working class except as some kind of object – perhaps the project is a kind of performative expiation of aristocratic guilt, but this is never made explicit. Julie has no real engagement with anything or anybody working class – not even her affair with Anthony, throughout the course of which he seems to exist as some kind of representation, a cipher.
Anthony eventually ODs on heroin, and indeed TMOC features a parade of suicides, drug deaths, and general profound unhappiness. The book has to be like this of course.
Walter Benjamin features quite heavily in TMOC, as do Freud and Lacan. What strikes me about all of their worldviews is the depressive darkness. In Love & Will Rollo May (rightly in my view) criticises Freud for having a quantified view of psychic contents that seems based on Victorian-era industrialisation – you’ve got x amount of libido here and it needs to be changed to y, that sort of thing. I’ve long had a real antipathy for most matters 19th century – the art, the civilisation, the culture. Behind it all, I suspect the effects of the first great manifestation of the Machine and its horrific effects on the working class. I find 19th century culture mostly dark, stultifying, grim, full of working class squalor, suffused with maudlin hypocrisy, exhaustingly tedious, energy draining, dull. The brownish brooding energies of the subconscious, the sheer ugliness and latrine-filth of the slums, the grimness of soot-coated wrought-iron machinery, the churchifying amidst child prostitution… it’s all a nightmare. There is the fertile brown of the soil, then there is the poisonous brown of shit, or sewage. The kabbalists say that demons on the night side of the Tree of Life arise because of the persistence of faeces. Shudder.
I also wonder why we take on board these psychoanalytical worldviews, why one and not another might speak to us. There are (almost) no scientific studies in respect of long-term talking therapies, yet something about these worldviews invites us to take them seriously, to participate in painful long-term talking therapies. To return to Rollo May, he writes in Love & Will of intentionality as a kind of stance, a disposition of the mind/body situated deeper within than the conscious mind. Intentionality also references the way that consciousness is always of something, the way it intuits something before fully knowing it, and that this is all outside the purview of the intellect-dominated ego/superego. All us unhappy people hope that somehow ‘sorting out’ our minds at that level will lead to happier, more fulfilled lives. That intuitive, probing connection does suggest a better, truer connection than that of the disembodied intellect alone. I’m sure it’s also due to the ever-increasing imposition of an atomised individuality on society, a monetised atomisation that pushes the classes apart – how can poor people afford these years-long therapies? So they are for the better off. The twist being that this actually gives the working class at least a chance of finding something better, though this may not be immediately obvious. More below.
The neoliberal culture of atomisation first posits that we are all unique and in-dividual, then sprays around the misappropriated Eastern idea that the self does not exist. There are plenty of pop science books written by privileged PMC types touting the idea that we’re not really there, our free will is an illusion, all meaning is driven by the ongoing self-eating violence of biological evolution, and this world is all there is. Unfortunately there’s a load of conspiracy crap out there waiting to entangle you in bollocks if you start questioning what’s going on there. But you can still question this relentless pushing of nihilism and ignore the conspirabollocks – in fact you should do this, as by doing so you will start to find your way out of the nightmare maze. If the working class find their connection with Source – and it’s much nearer for them than it is for the other classes which is perhaps why we’re being dumped on so vigorously – that changes everything. We are neither atoms nor non-existent, we are a flow in time with a touch of the infinite within. We are waves and particles, we are not ‘either/or’, we are ‘both’, we are complete. Stuck here in time we are prone to being tempted to look elsewhere, to look outside, and of itself that’s fine – except when it becomes our sole focus. Its true place is as one of the 3 points of the triangle.
To return to Freud/Lacan/Benjamin. They all provide persuasive interlocking intuitive insights that enable certain ways of describing the way things are – intentionalities. So if the way things are is dark, then their descriptions must contain darkness. So throughout TMOC we have references to the nightmarish cycling of history, Freud’s death drive which “drives the working-class subject further and further into death which is also the origin” (p 154), references to Antigone and how the working class were never properly buried…
These are all persuasive views. They intuitively resonate precisely because on one (deep) level they are right as they come from true insight, but they all miss something important, something that radically changes their context in much the same way as making a 2-D representation 3-D.
We all know that we grow through living, even if we have some kind of settled career, nice family life, lots of money and so on. At a bare minimum we will lose our parents, but on top of that life pretty much always comes with a goodly amount of pain and wounding and which ultimately always ends in death.
Due to the personalisation of growth touted by neoliberalism as part of its vast project of atomisation, we all seem to be curiously under a cosh of self-improvement these days and it’s worth therefore subverting this with a two-pronged approach. Firstly, the working class must help each other – the external aspect that links with the inner precisely because we as humans are made to help each other, to hold each other. It feels good in the heart to be giving, altruistic without expectation of reward. Secondly, we do have the working class version of self-improvement, away from the middle classes’ distortions of it all. But if you genuinely want to grow as a person, you must cultivate honesty with yourself, which has an extra layer of difficulty for those of us who are already self-attacking or self-rejecting, as even then you will have behaved genuinely badly, and you need to disentangle the false self-attacking from genuine honesty with yourself. However, if you do start on a path of honesty with yourself, you will start noticing that most people are liars. They lie to themselves and they lie to others. A class component appears quite quickly because one massive, all-pervasive lie borne of the all-pervasive ego is that if you just try hard enough you will succeed. It’s self-serving nonsense of course, protective of the ego – middle class people in particular are shy about inheritances, about having a safety net, about their access to Bomad. The upper classes aren’t enormously honest either, but they’re obviously upper class and seen as such – it’s the middle classes where the true ick sets in. How it works is that hard work, while being necessary for proper success, is not sufficient. Yet due to the machinations of the ego and the pervasive influence of the just world fallacy it is falsely claimed by the middle class that it is sufficient.
All this means however is that for the middle class, the supposed foundations upon which they base their much-promoted ‘personal growth’ are actually on stilts. They are sturdy foundations indeed, built through hard work and developed strength of character, but they only intermittently touch the ground. And it is unbearable for the middle class ego to admit this – far easier to keep to the comforting lies about success being earned purely through merit.
The middle classes might be shy, but they’re not embarrassed enough to properly interrogate their role in barging in and taking over, or the whole psychology that leads them to behave like this and the culture that enables this behaviour, or how they are in control of the media both left and right, or how they can start businesses and know they have a backup of some sort should those businesses fail (which the large majority of new businesses do). That would mean accepting that they’ve been living on a false higher level while throwing full chamberpots full of their unjustified criticism over those of us on the ground. (One irony of course being that middle class ‘spiritual’ people always regard a kind of ‘grounding’ as necessary.)
The very word ‘spirituality’ has now become unusable for me due to what the middle classes have done to it. The disgust reactions people have to the ‘spiritual’ are justified. But the word has to be used, somehow. And ‘spiritual’ truth is egalitarian through and through. True hierarchy can only ever be spherical.
But this is the twist – the working classes are grounded in a way that the middle and upper classes aren’t. At heart is the way that (relative) wealth inures from life’s vicissitudes, and is falsely claimed by the ego as purely the result of its own hard work. This really interferes with deeper ‘spiritual’ development. Just on a practical level, we all have bereavement and other tragedies to work through, but financial insecurity adds a certain edge to it, adding to the already enormous stress of it all in many different ways. You’ve got to keep working or else you’ll be out on the streets.
The way in might be easier to find if you’re middle or upper class. But in that case you’re at the near-inevitable risk of becoming wrapped up in yourself, blaming of the working class, building your spiritual foundations on stilts, building walls around your new-found ‘spiritual’ world, forming gated communities of the mind that may even feature the odd poor door, as a gesture. Concepts such as karma provide handy excuses for your ego to tell you that we all somehow deserve our place in the world, even in the face of rampant injustice and inequality.
The awfulness of middle class ‘spirituality’ makes it completely unacceptable (and indeed irrelevant) to the working class, but spiritual truth can never be taken and held by any class. It belongs to all humanity. Perhaps this is why the negativity and darkness of the profound philosophies of aristocrats then skips the middle classes (who can fend it off with their crystals and wellness vibes of course) and lands on working class intellects.
However, us chthonic plebs of the working class also have a more serious problem with the aristocrats, because we have let ourselves become unjustifiably wowed by what their philosophers have created. In TMOC Cruz quotes Mark Fisher referring to Joy Division as the most Schopenhauerian of groups and does a decent bit of critiquing as to why this might not be so – but getting more foundational, I would ask why Schopenhauer is referred to by Fisher in the first place. It’s worth reading Tolstoy’s Confessions to see how he regards the likes of Schopenhauer (and indeed his pre-Confessions self).
Here then is the question – why have the working classes been saddled with such profoundly negative, pessimistic worldviews? Supposedly the idea is that the ‘parasite’ class (to use Tolstoy’s terminology) have the resources (time, education, independent means) to successfully pry into the truths of life on earth, and thus they have the truest insights. Thus do those insights percolate, via intuitive intentionality, into working class intellectual life. Our intellects then draw on these energies, become suffused with them. The middle and upper classes can play with these ideas without getting too contaminated by them as they use them in their own particular ways to be intense, to show off, to performatively transgress – but it also means they’re frankly taking the piss with their own deeper selves.
As for the working class, how can there be any kind of liberation through any ways of thinking that are saturated in clinically depressive nihilism? All is redolent of the rot and decay of hauntology, of the yearning pains of nostalgia, of the deep sadness of the working class diaspora. But this will never be the long-lasting fuel we need for liberation, as nostalgia is the autumn of the emotions, and the golden glory of autumn is the way it is precisely because everything is dying, entering into winter.
We must own our deep sadness, we must mourn, but then? Winter is a prelude to spring, then summer. After atonality came neoclassical music and the vast explosion of vibrant working class musics.
It seems obvious once you notice it – how can morbid mental energies be used to liberate the working class? Obviously they are going to drag it down, keep it down.
If the working class are now ghosts – how much influence do ghosts have upon the physical world? We can rattle our chains and scare the shit out of our supposed betters for sure, but that’s not necessarily going to effect much in the way of positive change.
And in any event, here we somehow still are, alive. We may be ghosts to the so-called ‘upper’ classes, but we are vibrantly alive to ourselves nonetheless.
Let us be Defiant.
What does it mean to defy the darkness of the world? If depressive darkness is one important aspect of our being, what other aspects are there? At the level of intentionality in the body, which is where and how we live, we are in a way trying to ‘change our taste in music’. This can be done, but not through some kind of supposed self-attacking self-improvement – leave that for the PMC. It is effected through what ‘food’ we take in – the flavour of the books we read, music we listen to, films we watch. These energies (if that’s not too new age a word) become part of us. To continue the analogy, we should aim to ‘eat’ in accord with what our ‘body’ (mind/heart) genuinely would find nutritious, which of course is complicated because of the way we get zapped and messed up by life. But it’s still good to consider anyway. Sometimes you really do need something cheap’n’dirty, sometimes you need something bland and soothing. Sometimes you want to treat yourself with something expensive. Classical music can be good here – you get astounding feats of technical artistry combined with hummable tunes, and there’s something about how just listening to classical music seems to heal.
Of course Western classical music disappeared up its own arse around the start of the 20th century, creating an etiolated elite music for etiolated elites, ugly and tuneless, disembodied, written by and for elites. Ask yourself why this should be so, and consider that something was acting in the rareified spheres of the cultural elites that resulted in this splintering. The rest of us voted with our ears and began creating powerful, original music from the heart. Being music, the head is of course heavily involved, but in the right context of being fed by the heart. And of course one particular continent now features heavily in this music – Africa. We see here a yearning in the West in particular to heal that attentivity gap, the gap between us and the Earth, and to reconnect by dancing, to reconnect with the Earth which gave us life and on which we live. This is an issue I have with Cruz’s take on music – everything is the dark side of the West – circularity is the death drive, Ian Curtis’s dancing is spastic, rigid, libido pushed into contorted shapes, the machine metaphor ever lurking. But the way of Black music’s repetition is profoundly different, and liberating. And it’s inherently connected with the communal, with music that brings people together. This cannot be appropriated, it can only be shown. Like many of the most crucial aspects of life, the aspects that ultimately grant liberation, it cannot be grasped by the disembodied egoic intellect as being inherently intuitive, the more it tries to form itself into something that the intellect can understand on its own limited terms, the more it loses its key deep intuitive attributes.
Noticing the ‘one speed’ aspect of many Black people so easily turns into racism – but it is crucially important to keep your connection with the earth, to keep grounded. Too many people these days are in an angry rush, pushing hard against the Tao, fighting the inevitable and lawful kickback when this happens yet just redoubling their efforts, living by and through aggressive turbulence. To have the ‘one speed’ way of being is in fact a profound staying properly connected with the physical world – the world in which we make our way. Stop rushing, start growing. Festina lente.
In connection with this, it’s worth noting that it’s precisely through the travails of being working class and staying closer to the ground that greater understanding of life is found, that true inner growth can develop. The deep Truth of the ‘one speed’ way is far less attainable or understandable by the middle-class due to their consumerist hyperactivity and vacuous privilege, but the working class have that chance.
This is where it gets interesting.
I was struck by the references in TMOC to Walter Benjamin’s concept of messianic time. It’s an interesting word to use – it comes from the mystical concept of tikkun. It doesn’t seem to go somehow with the all-pervasive gloom of the rest of the book. Here now we have a further clue. A light in the darkness.
The working class both develop as individuals, and develop in terms of helping each other. Or rather, they used to – currently we have a vast neoliberal onslaught of atomisation – and what seems to be missed is that an extremely powerful aspect of this attack is its false, one-sided metaphysics that only features an intense negative against an absent positive. This is where the reconnect becomes necessary. We are designed to help each other. To do this best, however, we must regain our connection to Source energy. This is where light starts to shine in the all-pervasive darkness.
In his monumental masterwork The Matter With Things, Iain McGilchrist also refers to tikkun, which he frames in his whole Right Hemisphere/Left Hemisphere (RH/LH) worldview. We live in a world dominated by excessive LH, but what isn’t mentioned in TMWT is that the working classes have been particularly badly caught and mangled in the cogwheels of the machine, used as its fuel.
Something dark entered the West around the middle of the 19th century. In the LH/RH schema, this darkness acted through the LH, i.e. a particular kind of extremely focused, analytical, making-and-getting, practical intellect. Homo faber. This ‘new’ dark energy – in fact ancient but adept as presenting itself as novel – gained purchase first in the minds of certain intellectual big hitters, and it did this by flattering their egos. These ideas were suffocators, persuasive lies. Having infiltrated philosophy, these ideas then began to influence science, where despite the way that great scientific progress was often made by Anglican country vicars who found it nonetheless left their faith untouched, science per se began to be saddled with reductionist materialism and unjustifiably promoted as being properly metaphysically thus. This is where lies began to be promulgated about how everybody in the middle ages thought the world was flat (simply untrue), or to give another example the falsehood that the Copernican revolution somehow put us in our place (in fact it was more likely to be regarded as liberating, as people in those days were far more realistic than us about the nightmarish aspects of the world and its ‘mud and shit’, to use Montaigne’s phrase, not least because they were far more likely to encounter them without mediation). Certain powerful Victorian atheists with points to prove deliberately spread these lies, which rapidly caught on by means of flattering the egos of the supposedly ‘educated’, who of course were all privileged upper- and middle-class people that the working classes were cajoled into wanting to imitate. This toxic worldview then made its way ‘down’wards into the working class, in particular via Marxism. But while Marx’s attention was rightly focused on the material conditions of the working class a back door was left open, and something snuck in there on the quiet, something that wasn’t good. Relying on a strong but ultimately lopsided LH-heavy take on theism, one that failed to acknowledge the right-in-our-face obviousness that our very lives are a supposedly impossible interaction between the finite and infinite, the alleged ‘impossibility’ of that interaction was gamed into a kind of knowing, really a pseudo-knowing, called atheism. Western classical music became ever riper, ever heavier as it headed towards the self-splintering implosion of atonalism. Being music, this in itself was thus a profound depiction of some of the deepest currents of Western civilisation. It’s not a matter of ‘just music’. There was a generalised crisis in all the arts, but this spread ever outwards into the world, ever deeper. Despite being told religion was the source of war, we had a non-religious World War, then another one. We split the atom and the Nuclear age began. The generalised disintegration continued, affecting society, culture, and the individual mind. The ‘nuclear’ indivisible lonely monad of the ‘free’ individual was heavily promoted as some supposed brilliant aspect of Western civilisation even as the awful problems of loneliness and alienation that resulted from it became endemic. Those with money turned to talking therapies – an option not available for the working class, who may just have got lucky here. We are indeed individual but we depend on society – once again, it’s not either/or, it’s both. Meanwhile beauty in art became passé, ugliness celebrated and promulgated – ugliness of aesthetic, but also of spirit and mind. A lot of this ugliness was a kind of desperate response to the many atrocities of the 20th century, but it kept veering off into a kind of soul-crushing cold nihilism that ill befits art at its best and hurts the people who encounter it. We were asked to believe that in the bad old days peasants lived short brutish lives of illness and ignorance by the very people that were part of, and creators of, a system that created a vast proliferation of factories, pollution, slums with all their generalised dinge, a tsunami of squalor and poverty which swamped and suffocated the working class. All that so-called ‘progress’ built on foundations of the consumption of the working class, their use as a kind of food for a demonic system that resulted in industrial darkness, sewage, violence, tenement grime, a proliferation of morbidities.
How humans in particular work in practice, not theory, is that if we identify with the reductionist materialist worldview we become at once arrogant and insecure, pressured, argumentative, despairing and depressed. Too much pressure on our ego, pressure that it’s not designed for. Our individualistic ego only exists properly in relation to our deeper, intuitive aspect, which in turn only gains its being through connection to the Ultimate. We have difficulty learning too – no matter how many times supposed scientific boons turn out to be disastrous, we continue as if we will somehow know in advance that they will definitely be benign this time, for sure. Yet how could we know? Unintended consequences continue to surprise us but on and on we blindly go, creating more and more problems to fix by the same means we created them. We struggle too with determinism’s denial of personal responsibility, yet we are driven to live with the unending desire to make things better, and for justice both personal and social even though justice is inherently linked with moral responsibility. We are told that morals don’t ‘really’ exist too when we know that’s not true. We are told that ‘really’ we don’t exist, yet we are meant to somehow ‘be ourselves’, on our own, by somehow getting the right things, whether ideas or houses. The apex of the triangle has been obscured.
Music again. The link between thought and emotion, and how deep it goes. Wittgenstein once commented to a friend on how he could hear the machines already appearing in the music of Brahms. We’ve come quite a long way since then.
Machines. The externalisation of the ‘machinations’ of disembodied, regular, emotionless, inhuman LH intellect. And the widespread effect those machines have had on the working class.
Atheism. The externalisation of an intellect that refuses to reconnect with the RH, the intuitive, which is where our depths lie. The only true starting point for humans, limited as we are, can only ever be agnosticism – a committed agnosticism that refuses on principle to give anything to the intellect to grab as its own. Atheism, the positive affirmation that there is no supreme being, is the LH taking something for itself that does not belong to it. By atheism’s own reckoning, how can evolved monkeys make grandiose pronouncements about supreme realities? It’s often pointed out that there are no great atheist monuments, yet nobody seems to want to properly look into why this might be so. It’s a serious sign, a sign that something is very wrong somewhere.
The inbuilt fault with the LH intellect is that solidity is given to the negative to a degree that it does not grant to the positive. Schopenhauer refers to this with his analogy of a stone in a shoe – without the stone all is well and we don’t notice anything while we walk, yet a simple small but sharp stone nags away at us every time we make a step, causing constant pain. This is the design flaw of the LH intellect – without the stone, there is no positivity experienced as such, merely a neutral experiencing of this as they are meant to be, yet with the stone the negativity of pain is constant and seems more real. The LH, lacking depth or true context, not only wrongly reacts to the negative but then clings to its wrong reaction, making a kind of solidity of it, creating a kind of identity with it.
In truth we all come into this world trailing clouds of glory, but the world is so dark and noisy and tumultuous, so full of war (in nature as well as mankind) we are easy targets for being tricked into looking the wrong way, taken in by the lie that this world is all there is.
But why exactly is the philosophy, the metaphysics of left politics Schopenhauer instead of Beethoven? For working class liberation, the key is music. Therein is the power and the freedom. Indeed, throughout her brilliant book, Cruz returns to music again and again.
This is not a call to just ignore the sheer awful darkness of life – far from it. But. It is a call to restore something that was missing. Left politics has become fixated on the shadows without noticing that in order for there to be shadows there has to be light coming from somewhere. It’s become Freud and Lacan and hauntology, which is a start for sure, but…
Let us now bring music back into the mix. Cruz repeatedly mentions the polished production of various new wave bands, which she contrasts with her preference for the more ‘honest’ production found in working class bands.
Much though I did like the Jam (and of course occasionally taped their stuff off the radio), a key moment in my life was being reduced to hysterics by the Flying Lizards’ appearance on Top of the Pops in 1979 with their cover of Janie Bradford and Berry Gordy’s ‘Money’. It was my first ultra-strong reaction to a piece of music, and I instantly understood that something could be deeply silly yet brilliant, creatively destructive – this was no mere novelty record. Later I discovered that it was a big hit at Studio 54. It was extremely lo-fi but incredibly carefully done. Ars est celare artem.
There is perhaps a bit more to the whole new wave polished production thing than is acknowledged in TMOC. The original ultra-irony band, Devo, took their decision to become droll parodists commenting on the de-volution of humanity after Gerald Casale, a founder member saw two of his friends shot dead in the Kent State massacre. (Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Chris Butler of the Waitresses were also there – two more new wave bands.) Casale has stated that Devo thought there were two ways to react – either with despairing rage and fury, or to become heavily ironic. Obviously Devo took the latter path.
As for the humour, proper humour seems to always be a priori missing from ‘spirituality’ (whatever that is) and politics, yet it’s such a key aspect of being human. It changes everything. My musical hero maniac-Catholic John Maus is the exemplar case, somehow mixing in 10% ridiculousness into his songs and thereby hugely intensifying their might. It’s analogous to a painter mixing in just a bit of a dark in order to bring out the light. This gives Maus’s music a psychologically all-encompassing intensity not found anywhere else. His music is wreathed in a kind of darkness – but there is light coming from somewhere. Darkness is not the whole story. Hold to this. Maus is from a middle/upper class American family, but there is that curious connection between the upper and working classes. To give another example, Charli XCX has released a lot of hyperpop produced in conjunction with AG Cook, son of the architect Sir Peter Cook and a member of the upper class. AG Cook’s solo stuff I find a bit too hyperactively clamourous, although it is impressive on an intellectual level. But Charli XCX’s music features immensely clever droll humour that somehow turns what could’ve been just all postmodern ironic sheen into something more multi-dimensional that eradicates any distancing effect. And it’s 100% proper pop that appeals to educated middle aged and teenagers alike. That healing of the divide between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, that bridging of the distancing gap. Mixing of humour with what would otherwise be dissociated irony gives structure and dimensionality to the space opened up by the distance. It becomes filled with a kind of fiery energy of the heart. Art is more likely to include or involve this extra dimension the deeper the place it’s coming from.
Glossy production sheen can indeed lack depth – Cruz refers for example to what happened to Cat Power’s music – but it doesn’t have to.
There can be a distinctive kind of power, a particular depth, to music when you include the ironic, the humorous. Maybe pulling and pushing the mind’s thought can loosen its attachment to the rigidity of either/or and let a bit of warmth and light into the gap thus opened up. Philosophy, like the religious and the ‘spiritual’ seems to have a problem with the humorous. There’s a clue right there. Analysis wrecks humour, but humour is a powerful energy. It remains untouched out in the wild but is killed dead when the LH intellect gets hold of it. And that very wrecking intellect has busied itself infiltrating all the stuff that might actually help us at a deeper level get out of the quagmire we find ourselves in.
And here perhaps is another clue. Precisely because I didn’t want to be reminded of the sheer dinge and darkness that hovers about the working class precisely because of our misuse, abuse and oppression by so-called ‘betters’ (who generally have been nothing of the sort), I found the euphonious, the sleek, the ironic more healing to hear, more inspiring. This is the other side of being a wraith – you are no longer earthbound.
I’ve listened to a lot of ‘dirty’ music, noise etc – it’s not an either/or situation, this whole thing is a both approach, whereby like a magic eye picture suddenly the 3-D becomes clear, as long as you’re not too tensed up. (Though as I get older, I tend to appreciate beauty and good-sounding production more, with or without irony or humour. I feel I’ve paid my dues with the really dark stuff – time to move on.)
Cruz refers to the dandy, who lacking the means for an ‘in’ to supposedly ‘sophisticated’ (i.e. middle and upper class) society (which is mostly only sophisticated in terms of finely-cultivated pretentiousness) dresses to the nines to embody a kind of scream of despair. Yes, but let us not forget humour. Inspired by TOPY and more particularly David Tibet of Current 93, who met a couple of times (and interviewed) I made of myself a dandy of the mind, enthusiastic in my reading, always seeking the most exotic, keeping things highbrow, but on my terms. Though in the end I found those terms always seemed to tend towards poking fun at the pomposity, the overseriousness, the humourlessness of the industrial music scene and various influential public school educated ghouls found therein. Apart from anything else it was fun. But it also meant I owned their ideas, not the other way round. Eventually (after decades) I won, they stayed stuck in their ‘Schopenhauer’ nightmare.
But as for this nightmare, the grinding nightmare of history, all the predation, the eating and grinding and pecking and bloodletting and violence… precisely because I’m one of those chthonic plebs that the ‘upper’ classes find so objectifyingly fascinating, like a kind of exotic trinket from a foreign land to be put on the mantlepiece, I eventually lucked out and discovered for myself that it all takes place in a far vaster concept – and it isn’t the Schopenhauerians who have the last word here, with their intellectual barging in and taking over. Not at all. Lacking that certain something, that power source, even the most immense cities of the intellect always tend to run down, to become deserted, to start to decay…
I found all this out without indulging in anything cranky either. Indeed I sometimes suspect that a weaponised exaggerated fear of being somehow a bit ‘loony’ is put about as a kind of shield against the uncanny, against the stuff that doesn’t fit this wrong worldview of physicalism. To be fair, perhaps it can also serve a useful function in keeping people grounded. But the reductionist materialist worldview itself is absolutely wrong, and continues to have an ongoing catastrophic effect on the left, dragging it down, clipping its wings, making things worse in the long run for the very people it should be helping.
We must look up – which is also paradoxically looking within depending on which embodied metaphor you focus on – and note that there is light. How else could there be shadows?
We must then try to trace back (within) by a kind of intuitive triangulation by examining the angles of the shadows. Think of Michael Polanyi’s metaphor of the blind man probing his way with a stick. At first the man feels the impacts against his fingers and hand. But with practice, a kind of internalisation, or reaching out into the stick, occurs whereby it becomes part of the man, part of his meaningfully making his way in the world. (It’s worth mentioning here that this kind of insight has been used in scientific research – see ‘Phenomenology an Introduction’, Käufer and Chemero, Polity Press 2015.) Again this curious way that we intuit our way in the world from within – whereupon we will see (metaphorically) that the light that we are seeking appears to move, in a similar way to shadows changing length as the sun progresses across the sky. (“God” is not static, not an object, and all the atheist arguments that reify God make this mistake.) Help is available, and escape is possible – as long as we look for it properly, sincerely, with patience and commitment, practising looking in the right direction.
As the working class, we must come together for sure, but we must also find something else. Cruz gets so close. At the end of the book she states “By wasting time, by doing nothing, we can access memory, memory that is graspable only when looking askance” (p 194). But while wasting time, we can also inhabit the present moment – and that present moment includes the past, the nostalgic. We have all been trained to inhabit anywhere else along the timelines of our precious lives. And the middle and upper classes have barged in and taken over and created whole cultures and philosophies and spiritualities based on their in the end ultimately misguided take on it all. It was actually a westerner, Pascal, who commented on how “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. In fact it can be even better to sit quietly in a room together. But odd though it may seem to suggest it, the way in was here inside us all along. We have our ‘automaticity of phenomenological associations’, our knee-jerk hairtrigger reactions, which regarding in respect of the so-called ‘spiritual’ are understandably set off by even a hint of middle class ‘spirituality’. But leave those reactions be, and instead keep looking towards the light, which doesn’t belong to any class but which the working class have a better chance of finding.
It’s all very well tutting at ‘going within’ stuff but we do need to get on with each other and this requires at least some personal development. It’s a painful irony that the endless fighting and splintering and splitting on the left happens precisely because we have principles whereas the right is always willing to put them on the back burner (which is then quietly turned off) while turning to $$$ as the overriding principle. A bit of quietness, not overreacting, and empathic understanding amidst the working class would help. As would the protocol of the stick, whereby nobody can interrupt the stick’s holder when they’re saying what they need to say, and they only pass it to the next person when they’ve finished speaking. Which isn’t possible online, so real life it is, then.
As Cruz states, once we start seeing through the neoliberal brainwashing and start to disconnect from it we are highly likely to notice internalised middle class/neoliberal ‘furniture’ in our minds that isn’t really who we are – aspirational guff, self-attacking ‘self-improvement’ subroutines autonomously running away there, sapping our joie de vivre, feelings of failure that are predicated solely on false ideas of success…
But deeper than that there’s something else to disconnect from – the over-representation in art of the working classes with the machines that have oppressed us… and deeper again, the machine-like colonisation of our minds by mechanical LH thought, which got into the very ways of thought that could get us out of this place. Over time this has created endless representations of the working class in our own minds as somehow machinelike, and we must disconnect from all this too.
Then even deeper again, at last we find that… something, one drop of which spreads out and waters the vast sere deserts of melancholia, the drop that changes everything, that is deeper than the immensity of suffering and holds it and helps us find that warmth and powerful compassion in our hearts that saves us and brings us together. The sadness is still there – this isn’t the spiritual bypassing that middle class ‘spirituality’ so often mistakes for some kind of ‘healing’ or ‘growth’ – but it becomes mysteriously transformed, turned into exquisite wine. We’re designed to help each other. As Cruz says in the final chapter, there are so many of us, if only we could come together.
We have both. We have the sadness, the intellect, the industrial and post-industrial grime and dirt and depression – and we have that deep inner connection that puts all that amidst the profoundest context of our humanity, who we really are. We have the connection to the heart, or the RH if you like, we have insights unique to ourselves that the other classes can only ever grab for themselves and misuse out of jealousy. We have true warmth. The working class have such a head start here if only we knew it…
Appendix 1 – TOPY
The Temple of Psychic Youth started out as a working class occult left hand path ‘spirituality’ movement but was effectively ruined when various public school educated, monied, privileged and enormously confident middle class people barged in and took over. I used to know two or three of them from the London branch, very nice people who I occasionally went out for drinks and got on well with despite me being very rude about TOPY in my fanzine. After this I then randomly met a few very pissed off working class people who weren’t overly pleased about what had happened to what could’ve been a genuinely subversive working class movement. Personally I had various issues with the whole TOPY thing, but on the ‘take what is good’ principle I did set about creating my own culture (which was one of their ideas as I seem to recall). In any event, although magick does actually work that doesn’t of itself mean people should get up to that sort of thing. There are good reasons why in Buddhism and Hinduism siddhis, or ‘powers’ are viewed as a distraction from the more important business of staying on the way to the true destination, and the working class deserve better than getting distracted in that way. Furthermore, the practice of magick seems to always come at a cost of ruining our metaphysical aspects. To me it feels like certain inner levers get snapped off, stopping important insights into life from developing. Hence the overly pragmatic ‘just get on with it’ aspect of magick. So (to give but one example) you get black magic(k)ians ‘resting in the light’ by (re)converting to Catholicism, then going off back to their original dark practices, as if Catholicism is a kind of tool to be picked up and used as necessary then left. But religions, or indeed any systems of anything that have something of the metaphysical about them, are not tools as such. Part of the mystery of religions is that they are inherently beyond being ‘useful’ in that way.
Appendix 2 – Music
Oklou – Galore
Marylou Mayniel, a.k.a. OK Lou, which became Oklou and which sounds like the French for hidden (‘occlu’) comes from an estate in Nowheresville, North-West France. The relentless barking of dogs on the estate is worked into the heartaching sadness of the last track, and also features in her playful piece Lurk, which has a little dance music magic sprinkled on there courtesy of French Canadian queer artist Casey MQ. Distinct flavour of early Wim Mertens Crumar jams here yet it’s 100% Oklouesque. It’s written like classical music but is yet replete with contemporary r’n’b stylings, which just adds to the poignancy. I swear you can hear the French Catholicism in there somewhere, particularly in ‘Lurk’. Music of the heavens and at the same time the earth. If you’re prepared to learn from it, here in this music is a taste of that which can get us out of our current dire situation. How often have you ever heard music like this? You think you have? You haven’t. But the originality needs noticing. It is rare indeed at this stage of musical history to even be able to somehow create your own unique style, but Oklou did it, without hype or fuss. And her music is profoundly sad, but somehow doesn’t stop there. (There are many earlier tracks by her as Oklou and Avril23 on YouTube – in particular try 22 and Gravity.) Sometimes pure originality doesn’t come with fanfares and fireworks, sometimes it’s found in lullabies in the middle of an enchanted midsummer’s eve…
CRi – From Me
It’s important to understand that ideas about music are not music. And the only way this can be shown is through music itself. It is of grave concern that the LH (or egoic intellect) is somehow staging a takeover, but we must be careful about how we apply this sort of discourse to the arts. On paper From Me is a machine music nightmare, yet I don’t mind admitting I cried the first time I heard it. It starts with an asymmetrical mechanical loop that’s slightly off-kilter before quickly blossoming into music of vibrant analogue beauty, the beauty of humanity. ‘From Me’ features a strikingly silly/sadhappy/whimsical/playful quasi-robotic vocal sample that gets cut up and rearranged throughout the course of the piece. According to continental postmodern philosophy, this music would be schizoid, mechanical. But in practice this isn’t psychotic at all, it’s the opposite (for which there seems to be no word, though I coined the term ‘holophrenia’ back in the late 90s (and have taken some satisfaction from seeing it coined again years down the line by a couple of psychology researchers)). From Me is all manner of beautiful flowers grown around the hulking beats of the machine, the machine eventually becoming part of the music, its repetition becoming of the Earth, not the machine. The key difference is of course warmth. Heart energy. There’s no warmth in the left hemisphere – it’s not called cold reason for nothing. Postmodern philosophy is all very good at pathologising everything with its verbosely quasi-clinical re-presentations of the broken, the cold, the schizoid, but it’s rubbish at taking us where we need to go, which is of course a place of warmth and togetherness and warmth and compassion. Pomo would perform a kind of mind surgery on this beautiful music that left it entirely dead. We already know about the Machine, thanks – we live in it and we have it creeping ever further into our minds. What should we do about this? No matter how many surgeries are attempted on it, music always lives on. ‘From Me’ is from CRi’s Juvenile album, which contains several songs featuring guest vocalists – there is in these tracks an interplay between song structure and the repetition of the dance track. As you’d expect in a concept album based on reminiscence the dominant flavour is nostalgia, and there’s that sadness again, yet there is something else, something that touches on the deep mystery of what nostalgia might ultimately be. It is heavily repetitive, but attentive listening to the detail shows that no two phrases repeat in exactly the same way – the difference between LH and RH repetition, between the mechanicity of scales and arppegios and ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’.
Imagine that this music represents what the working class could do with the Machine. And remember that we do have that power, just waiting to be accessed…