Before the supergroup swagger of The Dead Weather, the stripped down hit of the Kills, there was a cheap little teenage punk band from Florida called Discount. A short song: Portrait of a Cigarette. Where as the guitar seems to fall away in the background like discarded ash, Alison Mosshart draws a simple pictogram about the basic shape of things, a cigarette as a line and a circle, ashstray as a square in a circle. And from these geometric beginnings, she sketches out the shape of a relationship, any relationship, breathing in the burning, between the people who are square pegs in round holes, the temporary community of a promethean cadging, an offering of flame. The kaleidoscope of life paired down to each individual shape, through a fantasm moment, maybe just a single sung minute, of clarity and calmness offered by a friend smoked down to the filter, and it reminds me of when I was about eleven I remember coming across a riddle that went
Make three-fourths of a cross,
And a circle complete;
And let two semicircles
On a perpendicular meet;
Next add a triangle
That stands on two feet;
Next two semicircles,
And a circle complete.
And I was baffled until I scratched out the shapes and found that it spelt TOBACCO, and when the scratchy song finishes I flick back and press the triangle in the circle on the square and marvel at its shape again and when you screw down the cigarette sometimes you find the spell broken.
take a circle. and a straight line. put a match against the open end.
feel it burning. see the burning. breathe the burning. until it's
extinguished again. all those distinctions. clearly ashes in a circle on
a square. i stare across it all at you. you stare through it at me. are
you still there? are you bent up? being burned out. are you foggy. am i
trying now? am i straightening? am i dumping out the circle but hanging
on to you? are you lonely in this square? i'm lonely in this cube.