Wednesday, 29 June 2011

So Scratched Into Our Souls #5: Turkish Techno - Meth Not Meat

"Here is the great, explosive novel I promised you. Like our souls it is polyphonic; it is, at the same time, a lyric poem, an epic, an adventure novel, and a drama. I am the only man who has dared write such a masterpiece, and it will be my own hand that will destroy it, when the growing splendor of the world has equaled it with its own and rendered it superfluous. In spite of what the inhabitants of Goutville and Paralysis may say about it, this work of mine unfurls an immortal banner in the winds of glory, on the topmost peak of human thought; and my creator’s pride is well pleased. Don’t think of justifying it; watch it, rather, bounding and exploding like a well primed grenade over the shattered heads of our contemporaries, then dance, whirling in a warlike reel, splashing about in the quagmire of their imbecility, taking no heed of their monotonous driveling." - F.T. Marinetti in the preface to Mafarka the Futurist, swinging like an eleven foot penis not just for the fences but the nebulous bonds of human creation itself. An utter fascist shit, it should be mentioned, but you've got to kind of admire that level of bravado.

For the most part with this blog, I want to focus on shit that I love. There are many punk bands that I am mostly or wholly indifferent to, a few that I genuinely dislike and want either scorched from the earth or just given a really good talking to that tells them to buck their ideas up, sunshine, but I don't really see the point of focusing on them too much, because unless you're actually getting paid to review something, or someone requests it, or they are part of a larger review (Bad Ideas) then purposely seeking out something you're not into rather than attempting to highlight a few small parts of the endless reams of beautiful brilliant stuff just seems kind of fucking stupid.

All I really want to do with my life is write about punk rock in as eloquent and inspiring a fashion as someone like John Berger writes about art and resistance, in as chaotic and beautiful fashion as Dambudzo Marechera writes about love and rebellion. I want to be as angry and funny as Bill Hicks, to be as fearless as Kathy Acker as she tears down and reconstitutes culture and literature for her own playful angry ends, as noisy as JMG Le Clezio, as fun as William Burroughs, as conscious as Ursula Le Guin, as moving as Bao Ninh, as readable as Ross Macdonald, as thrilling as William Gibson, as human as Flannery O'Connor, as punk as Aaron Cometbus, as conscious as Juan Goytisolo, as self-aware as Stewart Lee, and really to just rip off Lester Bangs for the most part, and I expect to spend my life in a constant struggle to get even a quarter of the way towards those ideals, or the strengths of dozens of other writers that I idolise, but that's what I'm aching and reaching for. (Also, I want to egregiously mention lots of writers so people know how smart I am, and then acknowledge what I'm doing as if that in anyway alleviates the shuddering arrogance of it all, like a cunt.) I want to do all this shit not just in general, not in the abstract, but with specific regards to punk bloody rock, and these writers represent many many different approaches and styles and genres, but if there's a way I lean with my writing, a direction in which I make an active effort to synthesise them, it's as an attempt to scrabble away from my own natural cynicism.

While it is important to question and attack the negative aspects of punk rock and one of the many aspects I love about punk rock is the way it accepts and encourages self-criticism (I do not think all these recent articles about sexism would be as prevalent in metal) and I do want to fight to make the scene as accepting as it can be without compromising what I see as the essential parts of it, now what I see as an essential part may seem peripheral and alienating to others, but such is the nature of the music and culture. While I want to sing along to Back to the Motor League or Chickenshit Conformist and enact their angry slashing denunciations of the scene, but generally more than that I want to sing along to Ghost Mice singing Up the Punx or Against Me! remaking the world in a better image with Reinventing Axl Rose. I want to talk about the redemptive power of the music and culture more than I want to talk about the shittiness of the scene. I want to write narratives akin to Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony and A.R. Flowers' De Mojo Blues and their common themes of dealing with traumatic events and experiences with a return to the values and traditions of a marginalised native culture. I don't have a native culture, for the most part, or maybe I just don't have one which I feel in any way connected to, as Nick Hornby wrote, there are few people as rootless as a middle-class white Englishman, all I have is what I have chosen to believe in, what I have not been able to help but love since it first got scratched into my soul, and so I will continue to emphasise all that I see as punk rock's contradictory strengths, its beautiful human powers a little bit more than I focus on its contradictory weaknesses, its painful human ugliness and if I do turn my gaze towards the flaws and nastiness of it, I want to fold them into its strengths as a sympathetic mirror of the stunning fascinating complexity of all that human effluvium and steam generally more than I want to engage in scathing condemnation. That may be a fucking cop out, but it's just how I see the world and seek to leave a skidmark on it.

But still, you know, I get fucking pissed off.

I think the whole idea of punk cred is kind of bullshit. The wonderful thing about punk rock is that it has no definitive texts, yes, there are many punk albums which I personally would consider essential, I recently attempted to compile a list of 'important' punk albums, not my favourites, or even ones I really like, but just a list of albums I consider influential in the sonic and social development of punk and its subgenres, I gave up on this when I realised that my brief primer had reached 125 albums and I had another 30 on the tip of my tongue. But even if I'd completed and posted the list I know people would've had a go at me for missing out some albums, including others, probably they would've mentioned some albums which they feel are undisputable punk rock classics that I would have never even heard of. There may be some sort of loose canon running from Fun House to Scrambles but still, there is not one album you can point at and say "This is all that punk rock can be.", you can only say "This is something, or some of the things that punk rock can be." because even an album that battles and struggles with itself, that contradicts itself in sound and message in an attempt to mirror the wider schisms within the genre and culture would miss out on the fact that many of the best punk albums are cohesive unified works.

There are no definitive texts, it may be a faith in some ways but it is not in any way a religion, this means that in many ways that all definitions of punk rock are equally valid, the idea of what punk rock is offered by a 15 year old just getting into it is as valid as mine, when I've spent about a decade now thinking about it and loving it, and yeah that gets frustrating for me sometimes, I do get annoyed. When my friend posts a picture online of him in a Dead Kennedys NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF! shirt where you can only see the top half of the logo and has someone tell him off for being hateful or says "I hope you're being ironic with that shirt" I cannot help but howl to myself "IF YOU CANNOT IMMEDIATELY RECOGNISE SOMETHING AS OBVIOUSLY FUCKING ICONIC AS THE FUCKING NAZI FUCKING PUNKS FUCKING FUCK OFF LOGO THEN WHAT IN THE NAME OF JESUS CUNT FUCKING FUCKARSE ARE YOU EVEN DOING CLAIMING TO BE PUNK FUCKING ROCK IN ANY FUCKING WAY AT ALL YOU FUCKING FUCKING FUCK!?"

But still, those poor pathetic fools who have never let the cheshire-cat surfy menace of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables or the brief goofy thrash of In God We Trust Inc or the apocalyptic driving thunderscapes of Frankenchrist run through them and work its witty wailing way into their heads still have a place in this culture, this scene. I wouldn't have it any other way because there's always the underlying suspicion possibly the definition of a snotty 15 year old is more valid than mine being as it is a culture born in the teenage maelstrom of frustration and isolation and what I seek to do is to preserve the rawness of passion and feeling that all art inspires at that age while trying to work towards a more measured clearer evocation of punk rock's varying appeals, but in the ever-shifting bounds of such an amorphous self-contradictory culture I find myself constantly revising and arguing with myself, struggling and dancing with conflicting ideas that seem to each represent some vaguely tangible notions of punkness (not Punk Ness, which is either an extensively-pierced Family Ness member with a Black Flag tattoo, or anything up to and including White Light, White Heat, White Trash, zing!). I believe things are far too complicated to say that because something is contradictory it is weak or invalid, to paraphrase Walt Whitman fairly tritely: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, punk rock is large, it contains multitudes."

But still, like I said, I get fucking pissed off.

And when I get pissed off, I listen to Turkish Techno's Meth Not Meat from their split with the always great Brokedowns on Traffic Street Records, a brilliant label of the sort where if I were rich I would just send them a big wad of cash and the note "SEND ME EVERYTHING YOU DO. I WANT IT ALL!" (this video cuts off the song by a couple seconds).

Meth Not Meat a brief scratchy pop-punk tune for all those times where you couldn't take the expansive view of things. It is a zero-compromise-fuck-all-yall-had-it-up-to-shittin-here shout. Even the aforementioned anti-scene rants offer some hope. Nazi Punks Fuck Off comes from a position of siding with one particular group of punks, the good ones, though a song called Non-Nazi Punks Have Some Delicious Biscuits would probably not have attained the same level of ubiquitous reproduction in its logo and lyrics on armbands and shirts and skin (BUT APPARENTLY NOT UBIQUITOUS ENOUGH FOR SOME FUCKERS). The protagonist of Back to the Motor League begins by listing what he does like before he descends into a laundry list of his punk pet peeves, he offers some awareness and direction towards the hard-rocking reconciliatory movement betwixt his "mouthed feet, eaten hats, teated bulls, amish phone-books, drunken brawls" and the wispy unattainability of perfection that too many fools passive-aggressively posture at lamely, broadly speaking, he has somewhere to go back to. Chickenshit Conformist has little nudges towards the light like "Change and caring are what's real" buried in amongst its laundry list declaiming all the dogshit hardcore formulas and other related ills of the punk scene.

Meth Not Meat has none of those nudges, none of those good points and people to take sides with. Fuck that positive noise. Redemption is a myth. Salvation is a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. I am pissed-off with being pissed-on by shitty little fucking pretentious fuck motherfuckers who seek to turn radical politics or noisy music into a fucking compe-fucking-tition, who like to exist in a inbred echo-chamber of punk rock rules and regulations and humourless policing of others through self-important self-satisfied grandstanding. WHO THINK THEY'RE FUCKING BETTER THAN ME. I am alone and everyone else is a ridiculous slimy shitehawk with an acoustic (FUCKING ACOUSTIC! IT'S LIKE BOB DYLAN NEVER FUCKING DIED!) guitar. Alienation as a point of order. Being a solitary prick in the face of massed pricks. There is not a single line in this song which is not filled with all the spit and itching fury of the moments when you feel yourself falling into the silly sucking black wound of the idea that, as Frank Turner sang on Love, Ire and Song, 'punk rock didn't live up to what I hoped it would be'. This song captures that moment so perfectly, a quick mid-tempo guitar intro, an odd little pop and then it tears into action and you're sneering and shouting along "TAKE ME FUCKING HOME! I REALLY WANNA GO! THIS BAND IS REALLY WEAK ANOTHER SHITHEAD FASHION SHOW!" You're in the restless fitful rhythm, the screaming pace of this all-encompassing feeling of loathing and bile, it quietens down in places, repeating the central refrain of "I don't want it. I don't need it" like a churning mumbling to yourself as you smolder in the corner of the terrible show. It also slows down a little for the solo, restrains itself slightly, draws back into itself briefly before projecting that bubbling rant out at the world again. "I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR WHITE BOY BLUES, YOUR SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT OR BAD TATTOOS! AND I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOUR VEGAN SHOES!"

Now obviously this mentality is a temporary one, an unsustainable one, a pretty fucking stupid one (chances are a good proportion of those singing along have some fairly bad fucking tattoos), but it is a bright flash of an undeniable instinct, a cutting spark that cannot be overlooked in the way it flips through you and marks you with its pyrographic reminders of times when you just snapped (a couple songs which perfectly illustrates the unsustainabilty of it and the complex process of simmering down to a greater calmness and then taking your ability to create that energy and channeling it into love and dancing rather than spite would be Operation Ivy's Jaded and Dillinger Four's Doublewhiskeycokenoice, two bands whose albums were definitely on my list of essential ones). It's a renegade Marinettian blast of personal affirmation that is kind of fucking pointless in the long term and exists in some ways as a warning for people to maybe steer clear of being quite that utterly batshit and uncompromising in their self-assurance next time, whether its in the act of proclaiming yourself a genius or just the only sane person left standing.

Turkish Techno are at that exact same point that Dear Landlord were at a few years ago, a few seven inches out and a long-gestated album in the works (coming soon for the last fuck knows how long, but apparently genuinely coming soon from Dirtcult) which all those arseholes sad and deluded enough to believe that they know their shit (I totally know my shit) about punk rock are predicting will be perched atop many end-of-year lists. This confidence in a band with so little actual material out there similarly springs from one momentous song which makes pretty much everyone who hears it get totally and forever caught up in its 2 minute rush, the marriage of bouncy shouty noise into a breathless breakneck rant that squats resplendent within the anserine beating heart of punk rock. With Dear Landlord it was Three to the Beach, with Turkish Techno it's Meth Not Meat.

A funny thing though, about a song like this, is that it, like the songs that approach punk rock with the most happy-clappy inspiring loveliness, like the ones that travel from one to the other, is that it is contingent on the listener already being a punk. It will convert no-one. It's by the punx, for the punx, with the punx. The references will not make sense to those not already invested in the scene. Who else knows enough people who brag about their vegan shoes to get pissed off by it? Who else appreciates the determination of deciding not to burn your bridges despite fifteen fights and your six bucks up some promoter's nose? Who else can honestly say "Punk rock saved my life" and know that it's not a pose in any way, shape or form. The glorifying and the denigrating are twin sides of the same battered pick. One of the things out of the many many things in seemingly endless ever-expanding list of things that I love about punk rock, one of the contradictory things, is that it is a place which both shamelessly self-mythologises and ruthlessly self-excoriates and I think it needs both parts to survive, it needs to struggle between them, the clatter when they come together and snap apart, to move from one to the other and back again, to sit temporarily in either one until boredom sets in. For the most part with this blog, I want to focus on shit that I love, but sometimes I love being a shit.

So go fuck yourself, world. Go fuck yourself, Joe. And above all other things, before you get out of bed in the afternoon or pass out in the early ours, fuck the fucking punx.
"I don't want it, I sure as fuck don't need it..."

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