Computer macro introduces the electronic into the analog. Pi, to be representable, must always be rounded (off); same goes for “music” in general: sound always bound by technology’s inevitable failures in producing verisimilitude. Clicks become the ends of the diameter—touching the skipping, incomplete arcs of ringing noise at the supposed circle’s edge; identity, always incomplete, can only hope to touch its own laborious borders. The digital is pitiless, but it’s still a system.
“Empower” scream hemmed in by slabs of silence: the moment of Butlerian agency that occurs in a loophole/hitch, unanticipated by power. An attempt to “recheck the mind set”–not castigation–without recourse to affect (“can’t give up no love”) or investment in nationalisms (“what’s been dead”). Less a plan than a documentary moment: potential(ity) battles “slips,” faith in representation, and martyrdom.
As with any bloodsport, ideas concerning representation and authenticity are both solidified and dislodged. Tad’s ascendance came with the attendant Sub Pop marketing, firming up the label’s reputation while playing up an image of the band, as Kim Thayil contends, that deviates too far from their “smart[ness].” This radio-unfriendly trax insists, however, on the “strange new sound” that emerges from such forms of violence. Rather than “stay[ing] to hear” what’s been produced for “no reason,” those subject to the “behemoth” of institutionalized sound—or the vice-like “leather straps” cinching the cranium—will ideally live to see it “fall down.” This isn’t an undressing and it’s certainly not a recovery narrative. Occasional fuzz bass, solid-state distortion, and tightly controlled distortion erupt from within. Anticipating the birth of grunge, we witness its birth and evisceration. The necessary joy of quixotic, preemptive sonic battles.
It’s all about a tree that has been cut, modified and commodified—turned into a red, cigar-store Indian. On the one hand, the tree, in the form of the brave warrior, aspires to human status. It wants to “show” something to the world—to speak and interact, for example, with the wooden Indian maiden across the street, peeking out from the antique store. But it also remembers a time before commodification, “when he was still an old pine tree,” communing in the forest. Perhaps this is the whole of the problem of the stereotype. It necessarily tends toward hardened inertia, and yet there is no clear alternative. Yes, one can fight stereotypes, and replace nasty, old types with seemingly benign and corrected new ones. But no matter how proud one is of these achievements, petrification begins again with representation and the market. A kind of reverse-Pinocchio strategy remains strangely plausible, however, and it starts by pining for the unformed.