fascinating on Scritti Politti, particularly on the links and fissures between White Bread Black Beer and Cupid and Psyche 85. A few points raised and unraised-
While the pleasure and non-interiority of Green’s voice is undeniably part of what makes it such an intriguing object, when listening to the 85 or 06 albums one is struck just as much by its clarity
- the mutterings and drawings out of, say, OPEC-Immac are totally absent. There’s pleasure, sure, but also an enormous amount of precision- for someone who called their publishing company Jouissance Inc there’s no loss of control anywhere on either record (even that little ‘hold my fucking hands’ in WBBB is a planned, strategic shock).
The relation of Cupid & Psyche to Thatcherism needs to be investigated somewhat. While there’s never, as Mark (via Oldfield) points out, a critique anywhere on the post-81 Scritti, there is a kind of immanent expression of the grossness and bloatedness of the mid 80s. ‘Absolute’, the overwhelming peak of 80s Scritti, is so close to a neo-liberal anthem- enormous, with those steamrolling, punishing kick drums, the panopoly of tricks and moments- the sudden part where it seems to shift into some kind of gamelan techno R&B just because it can, the rare moment where the voice becomes irrelevant for lyrical delineation, but instead of scat or expression there’s a wordless backwards chorus of gurgling Greens – the song uses a plurality of tricks in the same voracious way as a postmodern architect (why this stylistic anti-purism worked so well in pop and not in architecture is a point to be investigated sometime). The mathematical clatter of sequencers evoking, as Otto Werckmeister writes in Citadel Culture
on Kraftwerk, the moving of capital in a stock exchange.
Most crucially in its context, and quite possibility for its mid 80s listeners, ‘Absolute’ seems to be ‘about’ steeling oneself. Becoming impervious. Hard Choices. ‘A principle to make your heart invincible’. And like Prince, whose flitting between the fey and mechanistic C&P85 explicitly debates with, Green slips in and out of characters, and out of roles to mask an essential emptiness, void- the ‘nothing, nothing, nothing’ hymned again and again so rapturously is much like the technoid, inhuman Prince of ‘Hot Thing’, or The Black Album’s letting slip the nihilism of the perpetual seducer. The ‘very wicked things’ of WBBB. Interesting too that the breezeblock pounding of C&P85 gets replaced with tentative, often almost unnoticeable beats on WBBB- a different kind of stealth.
The sinister nature of Green’s ballads. While I won’t try to add to the perfect dissection of ‘A Little Knowledge’, there’s something similarly strange and unnerving about ‘The Word Girl’ with its linkings of textual and physical possession. The way Green prissily enunciates the word ‘abuse’, or the splintering of the song at its end, where it seems to fold in on itself, into piano crashes and fairlight detritus…the difference with the new songs is a reclamation of melancholia. While Green has always played with the melancholy, used the odd minor chord, there is on something like ‘No Fine Lines’ a hint of blank-eyed fatalism that you can hear nearly 30 years before in ‘Confidence’- so much of the record seems like beautifully phrased and optimistic admissions of defeat.
Which brings us to the question of Entryism. Of course C&P85 is entryism of an extreme form (something which rankles a little politically- the absurdity of Green as a kind of pop Dave Nellist, Cupid and Psyche the post-punk Liverpool City Council. You can’t be expelled from Pop, unlike the Labour Party)- most prettily seen in the cover to the 12” of The Word Girl, with its pic of Shirley Maclaine and its pages from the Ecrits
. The point where overidentification becomes almost pointless, where the codes and references are almost tacked on. As Simon points out in reference to WBBB this is one of Green’s weaknesses- the smugness of the line about ‘a new hermeneutic, a new paradigm’ on Lover to Fall, the extraneous 'I got a reason girl, it was Immanuel Kant's' on Boom There She Was, which signify nothing other than the ticking of boxes by ‘inside’ listeners. Hence maybe the absence of today’s pop on WBBB. It sidesteps or ignores current pop, aptly back on Rough Trade, a label which has been pushing all manner of revanchist indie bilge these last few years. Games no longer being played with pop, but with himself, to whom as much as anyone else the lines, sung with as much crystalline beauty as he’s sung anything, ‘you know how little this all means’