Ongoing attempt to rewrite the rules of improv. Unlike, say, jazz improvisation, it’s difficult here to discern much in the way of traditional themes and variations, call and response, etc. Under the rubric, The Nameless Uncarved Block, the goal of the project is to avoid form, and to focus instead on the matter itself, enacting a kind of Marxian materialism. With patience, one can recognize the guitar, the piano, and the like, as the instruments’ physical possibilities are patiently explored and potentially exploded. But the problem with the materialist orientation brings one to a classic différance: as soon as matter becomes coherent (is read as “igneous,” for example), one already has given up on that which is “nameless” and has invoked an implicit form.
Similar to their other trax riffing on exploration (“Columbus,” “Destination,” and even a cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer”), here The Church turns inward toward the form(al)-bound. Perhaps centering on Australia (a prolific “producer” of opal) or Afghanistan (ultramarine/lapus lazuli), location is only part of the problem. “Swarming like carrion birds,” “puzzled travelers” and their “words” find nothing for all their digging despite the promise of finding “yourself” in the related search for luxurious goods (after the requisite narrative cuts and polishing). Following the initial rhymes in each verse, there’s a funny word association: wealth—melt; words—birds; flowers—showers; and the third verse shifts the initial rhyming term from the second to first line while seemingly moving the analogical toward a reversed causal. Geological identity as another historiographical exercise, while our lives are lived in a “shaft”—groping for ourselves and stratabound.
Mott the Hoople’s far more famous version is so welcoming in its vocal outro: “I want to hear you, I want to see you, and I want to relate to you.” Thus, Ian Hunter firmly positions the song on the side of the glam “dudes,” while Bowie’s original take on them is relentlessly ambivalent. Yes, “I got T. Rex,” but in order to really get it, “man, I need a T.V.,” too. Bowie puts his finger on glam’s worrying teletechnological supplement: the “television man is crazy,” and anti-rock, but if I smash the boob tube I won’t see this week’s “Top of the Pops,” or the latest Russell Harty or Bob Harris interview with Marc. This concern, of course, redounds on Ziggy, who worked and shopped his television image as hard as anyone. Two strategies remain possible: abandoning entirely the image of the pop idol (purity), or unworking the mediascape as a pop artiste (parasite).
Originally entitled “69 Tears,” and decency standards only foreground the dislocating effects of paternalism and love (of the sculpted social world): even when lovers face each other, their backs are against the wall and against each other simultaneously. Dumpee-turns-dumper storyline ends with singer crying, highly aware that gendered social emplacements always end in the requisite tears. Implied race politics: can the naming (“?”) ever avoid complicity in a world of counting?