Wednesday, 16 November 2011

So Scratched Into Our Souls #10: New Bomb Turks - Born Toulouse Lautrec

"...if there is a god, he's only concerned with artists. Specifically those of us who possess both skill and energy. And he only troubles himself long enough to swat us down like horseflies just before we become his rivals." - Sam Edwine in Tom Bradley's Killing Bryce

When I was 17 I thought I was an artist. I thought I was pretty fucking great. And I found this album that was called Destroy, Oh Boy! and the first track was called Born Toulouse Lautrec (still a fantastic pun 20 years after it was released) and over a breakneck snotpunk swell it kicked to pieces my puny artistic exceptionalism. NO HEROES, NO LEADERS, NO ARTISTS, NO GODS. It screamed. I'm a worker, you're a worker, would you like to be a worker too? Eviscerating the high minded rhetoric of the ultracrepidarian artist with a sarcastic superspeed sneer and years after I've heard it, when I must've heard it dozens of times, when I've sang along to it on a warm Texas November night with Eric Davidson strutting, twitching and mincing across a low stage, it still makes me smile, still holds me true, because I know a lot of writers and artists, I am a writer, and let's face it, we're wankers. But that's okay, I'm a wanker, you're a wanker, wouldn't you like to be a wanker too? Because if there were just artists and no plumbers we'd have endless beautiful villanelles and murals about what it was like to be covered in shit all the time, a thousand loves in a time of cholera, rather than what we have which is endless beautiful novels and plays about what it's like to be drowning in metaphorical shit all the time, but go the other way and we'd all have immaculate crappers but no way of properly articulating our appreciation for it (there's a big chunk of Don Delillo's Underworld all about bowel movements as a metaphor for traveling into communist countries).

It's all a job and as such it fills your days and changes the way you perceive the world, whether your mindless furniture shop job leaves you absent-mindedly assessing the kitchen units in every new house, you visit, line names and serial numbers and styles reeling unbidden in your head, or the restless desire to make art about the world turns you into a constant vulture for your own emotional damage. Kicking about in the dirt, we scrabble about for commission, a speck of cash for the way you've said something, in paint or words or notes, about the way the world works, the way people spin. And then you take that measley cheque and spend it on a beer, or to fix the washing machine, or something mundane while the steady trudging monthly pay from a day job is getting thrown away on art supplies, or too many books, or saved up for that guitar hanging like a teardrop in the music shop window with which you plan to pour everything you've got into a furious garage thrum, panicky riffs to staple to jackhammer drumbeats and switchblade lyrics to pummel, gut and pull apart the stupid fucking certainties of another 17 year old and rearrange their head so they gasp and mouth to themselves in shit and wonder, "Destroy... oh boy..."

"ART: A Friend of mine in Tulsa, Okla., when I was about eleven years old. I'd be interested to hear from him. There are so many pseudos around taking his name in vain." - The Hipcrime Vocab, Chad Mulligan (from John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar)