March 13, 2004



There's was something reassuring about the interview with Kevin Shields in The Guardian on Friday. Shields is the kind of 'pop star' that it seems died out with an earlier era: visionary, tempermental, driven, detached from what we are pleased to call 'reality', or rather occupying his own reality and acting as a conduit, a vessel, through which that alternate reality can invade our own. 'I live so much in my imagination,' Shields told Paul Lester. 'My version of reality is so different ... I don't necessarily connect with things.' Compare Jamelia (whose new single, incidentally, is very good), in the Sunday Times last week: I do see myself and my career as a product, she says. So the image that I give to the public is what I want them to think of me. Its sort of being like an advertiser: Ive got a product that I need to market. Jamelia's instrumentalism is not itself cynical so much as an adjustment to the kynical reality of kapital. Now Pop is, above all, well-adjusted; it doesn't seek to transfigure the world, offers us no transports of ecstasy or escape. It's not for nothing that hip hop, with its banal ambitions and dreary aspirations, its ostensible ultrarealism, is king in Now Pop. Shields' version of Pop - aptly termed Dreampop, once, of course - dissents from this reality, not in the name of unreality or fantasy, but in the name of libido. Desire can never be persuaded to take the drab world of Work and Wealth at face value. For libido, that world is an unconvincing theatre populated by poorly animated puppets and grim effigies: an existential charade that everyone necessarily occupies only - as Jamelia's comments make clear - as impostors, as play actors. Dreampop has always robbed the World of Necessity of its claim to ontological precedence over the realm of Desire. Jamelia's observations show that Now Pop has reversed this prioritization; Pop is now a colony of the world of Work.

The contestation Dreampop effects has its costs, naturally. To refuse to take the world of Health and Efficiency seriously is to flirt with illness, anhedonia, agoraphobia, (living) death. The symptoms of Shields' 'condition' - getting up in the afternoon, if at all, vegetating in front of the box, doing as little as possible - are all too familiar. "I just didn't do what I didn't want to do. And I got away with it. When you keep on getting away with it year after year, you think you can just live like that. And you can. I wouldn't work. I wouldn't get up till late afternoon. I watched a lot of shit films."

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is glad that Shields is back with us, dreaming for us...

Posted by mark at March 13, 2004 11:20 PM | TrackBack

i've got loveless and it's shit. a big muddy splodge, like a wet turd. and al the songs sound exactly the same. and i hardly think being a useless, listless cunt is a worthy thing to aspire to. (if, as you say, thats the lifestyle kevin sheilds idealises) it's not intersting and it's not helpful and it's not good in any way. it's a cultural and personal deadend.

the hiphop which is in the charts is often lyrically banal. thats not the same as saying all hiphop is banal. i will have to tell you off every time you say dismissive things about hiphop i'm afraid. because you are objectively wrong.

Posted by: luke at March 13, 2004 11:37 PM

i don't need any encoragment to be a useless cunt, i'm a natural, i've already wasted 24 years.

Posted by: luke at March 13, 2004 11:40 PM

You'll have to argue with Simon about Loveless! :-)

We're never going to agree on hip hop; if people can point me the way to lyrically or sonically interesting hip hop, I'll gladly follow it up. As for your response to Shields' 'lifestyle' I think you're being a little disingenuous. Do you really think you've wasted 24 years? Bollocks! What would you have done instead? Got a house, a wifey and a pension? Become a solicitor? It's only Real World TM that thinks that way. The things I was talking about - being listless and disaffected - are side-effects of a sensibility, they're not the main point. What I like about Shields is that he absolutely refuses to produce work that isn't inspired, refuses to compromise or adjust.

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 13, 2004 11:56 PM

Saw them live early 90's, pretty damn visceral experience, louder then Slayer getting taken from behind. Very much a dream space, but not much song to it.

Next day, a friend had taped it. Cut the mid-range and oh shit, there actually were songs there! Good ones too!

Always been more fond of Isn't Anything. Weatherhall remix of Soon is out of control though...

Posted by: Abe at March 14, 2004 02:35 AM

i don't think having a house and a wife is a bad thing and a pension is just commonsense, not that i wish i had those things right now but i do wish i'd been able to deal with some real life stuff, like being able to make enough money to move out of home. i do wish real life wasn't a complete and utter mystery to me, totally unmanagble in every respect. other people seem to do it ok. you've managed to get a degree and a job which pays the bills. thats good. thats a big acheivement. i can't even imagine doing that. id on't know ho it works. i was i spose being disingenious but only because you keep being horrible about music i like.
ok, they can be the side-effects of a sensibility, but the whole point is, that thats the battle, and if yu let yourself sink into lethargy and depression then thats like defeat and you might as well just sign up for real life. thats what i think anyway.

Posted by: luke at March 15, 2004 10:12 AM

I'm not saying those things are bad things, either, just that they're not the only goals or purposes one can have in one's life. I don't have much mastery of real life, either, believe me. What I liked about the Shields interview was that it defended another way of thinking/feeling/living.

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 15, 2004 10:43 AM

I realise this is of no interest or help to anyone but hey luke ( This is also partly a response to the recent 'life ends at 24' post on heronbone.) , I've got a degree, a house and a wife (well ok we're not actually married) and a car, and I even do DIY, but life is more of a complete and utter mystery to me every day. Surely the ideal is to take those elements of normalityTM that make existence (space to think, tools to make things with) viable, find a diagonal between the glaringly obvious pointlessness and undecidability of it all, which can be a positive force but on its own ain't, and the mindless positivity of normal working life(career=to travel rapidly downhill) and, worse, the tyranny of lifestyle. On these terms you don't seem to be doing any worse than the rest of us. Ironically I'm at work so I'd better leave it at that.

Posted by: undercurrent at March 15, 2004 12:49 PM

When you say "Now Pop... offers us no transports of ecstasy or escape" which "us" do you mean? And, assuming you mean an inclusive "us", how do you know?

I've long had a working assumption that people find their transports and escapes in unexpected places.

Posted by: Tim at March 15, 2004 01:19 PM

in my favour:
I haven't got a pension

Posted by: undercurrent at March 15, 2004 05:27 PM

in my favour:
I haven't got a pension

But I have now! Ha ha

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 15, 2004 06:11 PM

so what, I'm creosoting the fence _as we speak_!

Posted by: undercurrent at March 16, 2004 10:12 AM

Hey, interesting page and a good discussion. I personally can't connect with hip-hop in any way - it doesn't convey itself in a way I can understand, and a lot of it is 100% not relevant (or particularly interesting) to me.

MBV are one of my favourite bands because they're easy to listen to, but they also pay off the listener who tries to get beneath the "mud" and listen to the songs. I like how I don't know the lyrics - I don't feel I'm supposed to. That's one of the things I love about them - they are like a dream, albeit a dream I'll never understand.

Posted by: Airspaced at June 20, 2004 02:49 PM