“That’s Me” (Theo Beckford)

One can easily conjure the scene. It involves one of the inventors of the ska rhythm—the man whom Skatalite Tommy McCook called “Skavoovie”—a pianist who hasn’t been paid for his last record date and subsequently confronts his producer and draws a line in the studio’s dirt floor. “That’s me,” on this side, and “that’s you,” on the other. We’re not the same, and therefore you owe me: “I want my money” and, when you’re ready, “call me about it.” One might call this trax crass and materialistic (and perhaps it’s no more than a studio afterthought, since it ended up as a b-side), but there’s also something about this crude form of spacing that cannot be wished away. If we could replace “me” and “you” with just “us” or “one,” we might be able to eliminate the daily dilemmas of communication, obligation, and economy. But “we” remain differently-related: even as “I” try to indebt “you,” “I” remain fatally dependent upon “you” to hear my call. Our mortal differences, no matter how slight they seem, are not expungeable, and even when “me” and “you” converts to “I and I” a decade later in rasta-talk, attempting a drastic and equalitarian pronominal reduction, each speaker still necessarily leaves some space open for the conjunction and the second iteration of “I.”


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“Funkentelechy” (Parliament)

Funk’s not about freedom of speech since that enterprise is grounded on the possibility of future dividends (or “possible funkability” funded by “high finance”). Rather, funk is always fully realized and can “be scored everyday”; and it’s surely not “domestically produced” or given, but a given, free of charge. More succinctly, funk is a predisposition without a constitution and an affirmation of a possible being decoupled from sovereignty. This would be the freedom which can never be granted or purchased, and the dissolution of any (self)governance is premised on everyone “hav[ing] change for funk” or, more directly, untethering pleasure from self-care.

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“Sukiyaki” (Kyu Sakamoto)

Originally entitled “I Look Up When I Walk,” singer answers loneliness by preventing the spilling of tears. Walking (in winter) “beyond” the clouds and sky and avoiding the “shadow” of night, the problem of feeling “alone” is that it must have its origins in the familial/familiar; by having the eyes serve as bowls, truly, the prismatic effect of looking through tears possibly allows access to “happiness,” but this can only come about through willful delusion. As the biggest hit by a Japanese act in America (number one in between Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” and The Essex’s “Easier Said than Done”), this is the sweet stew(ing) produced by the tether of (ascetic) love.

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“Volunteered Slavery” (Rahsaan Roland Kirk)

Nothing is solved by acts of congress/Congress. Gendered (and racial) performativity experimented with, demonstrating how, for example, singer’s claim that women “be free” “by spending all day in bed with me” eventually leads to his plea of “don’t take it away”: supposed volitional freedom creates distraction, indicating failure of the performative without clear direction. “We all know” this, and double-instrument solo, at its end, produces screeching white noise underpinned by spaced-out, staccato jabs. Single-ness and identity will always know its place.


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“Love Me, I’m a Liberal” (Phil Ochs)

The “shadiest” shade of political opinion, liberal politics only appears in relation to interest (self and economic). Accrual crucial to this formulation: wisdom and experience antithetical to being “young and impulsive.” Singer declares two formative concepts within such politics: “too far”-ness and “safe logic.” The “lockbox” as stranglehold, and the spacing of the social secured, with a smile.

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“Karma Police” (Radiohead)

Today, mere bad vibes amount to a dangerous misstep, and an unwillingness to staightforwardly communicate (post-Nietzschean buzzing, white noising, talking “maths”) is the paramount crime. Criminalized bad karma, then, as a break from a  mandated sensus communis, as the police are decoupled from a limited Law. But, in the coda, singer associates the Big Brother-style turning in of cultural refuseniks with a “lost” “self,” suggesting that if we find our true being, singularity might be freed. Actually, this is all backwards: the lost need not be found, nor become founders of some (always retro) polity; rather, one might begin from original foundering (communications breakdown: it’s not always the same).


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“Brainticket Part I” (Brainticket)

Something amiss in otherwise groovy, organ-driven kosmiche musik: imposition of various alarms, breakages, garglings, and rantings which finally demand that you, the listener, get lost and “go.” Constant foreclosure of pure flight: interruption of the metaphysical self from the start, as ambulances arrive. Liner note “Advice”: “After listening to this record your friends won’t know you anymore.” Consequences of mortal being in a world governed by figures of undetermined presence.


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“Super You” (Boredoms)

“You” already exist in speed–alternately, in the moving-towards another–yet bi-partite structuring of the social (1st/3rd, white/non-white, etc.) slows everything down. Initial pulsing drones speed up and travel left-right via tape manipulation; then: power trio alternate major minor sustained riffs, only to be violently accelerated with all directions and sonic anchoring points confused. Final staccato section offers up an everyday, banal version of the “you” (which can only be constituted in by traveling through the spacing toward the other) that refuses the third parties that insure “justice.”


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“Candy” (Morphine)

Nihilism has strange contents: assertion of material, spatial self and desire to dominate. Can be read as misogynist joke (candy land as sexual bait) and as warning (sex as desert that promotes solipsism.) Dirge-like swooning suggests the world stuck in this circuit.


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