Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Green + Green

The first clip is from these centre pages in the New Musical Express that you were meant to pull-out and turn into a booklet to go with your C81 cassette - it was called the NME / Rough Trade C81 Owner's Manual

Except that even folded very very tight, it was too thick to shove into the cassette shell and still be able to close it properly.

Each band on the compilation had a small cubicle of space in which to put some information or a graphic or clues about their aesthetic. 

And here Scritti, or Green, to be precise - wield an unattributed chunk from Roland Barthes's A Lover's Discourse.  

For years this passage  - in particular this sentence about "a kind of festival not of the senses but of meaning" - was a thought-bomb lodged in my brain... 

So imagine the shiver when I'm reading A Lover's Discourse in the late '80s and there it is: the source revealed. (Full passage at the end of this post)

The second para is Scritti themselves,  I think...

Re. challenging "the sensual / sensory primacy of the body", to reveal its textuality...  romance as a code, as signwork...  and, further still, questioning the "sensual primacy" of music! There was this thing then that was very trendy,  "there's nothing outside the text" I think was the formulation...  Bunk, of course, but .... influential bunk. Mind-shaping bunk. Era-defining bunk, even.

That reference to foot-binding - next to footsie - was an unsettling idea to roll around your mind... but perhaps ahead of its time in terms of academic trendiness ... Wandering around the neighbourhood here a few years ago, checking out the Little Libraries, which are usually crammed only with self-help books and dog-eared mysteries and those cruddy-paper-stock, hideous-cover schoolkids editions of literary classics... I was surprised to find an academic study of foot-binding, which argued against Western ethnocentric distaste for such practices...  the arrogance of our simply believing that it was mutilation and patriarchy-inflicted incapacitation. 

What next, I thought, a post-colonial feminist argument in favor of clitoral circumcision? 

Well, that Scritbit does mention circumcision...   Derrida, in Archive Fever, has a whole cloudy riff about the Bris... God's Law inscribed upon the body of the chosen people, or the male half of them anyway.... such that the people become a living archive.

As best as I could make out the argument, anyway!

As for the second bit o' Greenery -  this is from a Guardian article where they got musicians to talk about over-rated bands

Precision aspersions acerbically cast by Mr. Gartside...  ratifying my own aversion for Arcade Fire. 


Wish he would hurry up and finish that autobiography! 

Actually, it's listed here as due for publication in 2026, with the title Green on Green. 

a/ I would take that with a grain of salt 
b/ he's already had at least half-a-decade to do it.


More from the C81 Owner's Manual 

Not all the bands came up with stuff for their small rectangle in the booklet. Presumably that's why with the Postcard groups, the NME personnel have this cute running joke, pegging each band - Josef K, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera - to a different era of Velvet Underground.


All lost on me, though -  aged 17 in early 1981, not only had I never heard the Velvet Underground, I'd hardly heard of them. Stray references to them in NME conjured something forbiddingly abstract and ear-punitive... 

So it was a bit of a surprise, a few years later, to buy the first album and tape the third album off someone and be confronted with all these beautiful, poignant songs. Even the "noisy" stuff wasn't as extreme as I'd been given to believe. 

Funnily enough, the C81 compilation documents - among various other sounds and styles - the birth of indie of the very sort that Green castigates in his Arcade Fire swipe. 

What those Postcard-y parts of C81 captured then becomes consolidated with C86

The Barthes bit

“When my finger accidentally…”

 contacts / contacts

The figure refers to any interior discourse provoked by a furtive contact with the body (and more precisely the skin) of the desired being.

 Accidentally, Werther's finger touches Charlotte's, their feet, under the table, happen to brush against each other. Werther might be engrossed by the meaning of these accidents; he might concentrate physically on these slight zones of contact and delight in this fragment of inert finger or foot, fetishistically, without concern for the response (like God-as the etymology of the word tells us-the Fetish does not reply). But in fact Werther is not perverse, he is in love: he creates meaning, always and everywhere, out of nothing, and it is meaning which thrills him: he is in the crucible of meaning. Every contact, for the lover, raises the question of an answer: the skin is asked to reply

 A squeeze of the hand - enormous documentation - a tiny gesture within the palm, a knee which doesn't move away, an arm extended, as if quite naturally, along the back of a sofa and against which the other's head gradually comes to rest - this is the paradisiac realm of subtle and clandestine signs: a kind of festival not of the senses but of meaning.

Charlus takes the narrator's chin and slides his magnetized fingers up to the ears " like a barber's fingers." This trivial gesture, which I begin, is continued by another part of myself; without anything interrupting it physically, it branches off, shifts from a simple function to a dazzling meaning, that of the demand for love. Meaning (destiny) electrifies my hand; I am about to tear open the other's opaque body, oblige the other (whether there is a response, a withdrawal, or mere acceptance) to enter into the interplay of meaning : I am about to make the other speak. In the lover's realm, there is no acting out: no propulsion, perhaps even no pleasure-nothing but signs, a frenzied activity of language : to institute, on each furtive occasion, the system (the paradigm) of demand and response. 


Hey hey - this passage in A Lover's Discourse looks like the secret source of "A Little Knowledge" and its opening lines:  Now I know to love you /  Is not to know you

To expend oneself, to bestir oneself for an impenetrable object is pure religion. To make the other into an insoluble riddle on which my life depends is to consecrate the other as a god; I shall never manage to solve the question the other asks me, the lover is not Oedipus. Then all that is left for me to do is to reverse my ignorance into truth. It is not true that the more you love, the better you understand; all that the action of love obtains from me is merely this wisdom: that the other is not to be known; his opacity is not the screen around a secret, but, instead, a kind of evidence in which the game of reality and appearance is done away with. I am then seized with that exaltation of loving someone unknown, someone who will remain so forever : a mystic impulse: I know what I do not know.

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