“La Bamba” (Ritchie Valens)

Some say the song itself can be traced back to the conquest, and, further, to Africa, and that there are 500 or so verses which can be sung to it. Cornucopia. In this distillation, the “captain” says to his dance partner: for you, I will act as a “sailor,” and divest myself of power. After all, in order to dance “la bamba” (which references a certain swinging, swaying, wobbling), there can be no leader and follower, as in formal dance. The master/slave dialectic, therefore, does not apply.  Instead, one needs a certain grace (“de gracia”) and a little something else (“y otra cosita”). Excessiveness, below or before sovereignty/subjecthood.


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“When the President Talks to God” (Bright Eyes)

An investigation of the relationship between earthly and heavenly sovereigns, circa 2005. What happened when George W. Bush spoke to God? At root, there is a conversation. (Listen, no funny business with the “Does he ever think that maybe he’s not?” easy-substitution move!) Is it overly scripted and traditionally top-down? Or is it constitutionally performative, with a “fake . . . drawl” emerging in the proceedings? One way of thinking about this is in “Of Sanctification,” where the Methodist Church speaks with one voice: the Holy Ghost’s presence allows one to “love” fully and “walk in [God’s] holy commandments blameless.” It’s a relationship with shifting/sliding superiority, but there’s a durable sense of power-sharing. W. is/can’t be God, and the inverse holds true as well. (This is a belief that requires intense discipline, for sure.) In not being able to abide by this, the trax demands its sovereign(s) be moral, fair, and caring—a defanging. Caution: teeth grow back, and the prosthetic ones grind just as well (with proper adhesion).


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“From a Dry Camel” (Dust)

Something about man is best understood as a “machine,” but this is not cybernetics: the focus is not on the brain, but on something lower, between the legs. This simple lever needs tending, but beating off is not enough to “take care” of it. Importantly, however, one can easily suffice without a “maiden”; indeed, a “dry camel,” “one hump or two,” will work just as well, provided that you can get the camel to “lie down on its side” and give you time to rub one out on its back. (It may take you ten minutes, and you’ll have to keep shifting gears around a four-note, descending figure, from slow to medium to fast and back again, with only limited wankery.) This machine aspires to sovereign self-sufficiency: the goal is to “solve your own game” without oil or the lubrication of other persons. Indeed, from this perspective, everything outside the machine-self is merely a tool and therefore for me. “Marion,” the discarded, “dry” maiden, had to go because she tried to “incise” every man she met, cutting into, marking, or draining him. So she’s a tool, too—but just beyond his leverage.


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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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“Anarchy in the U.K.” (Sex Pistols)

Easily overlooked that the singer barks, like Melville’s Ahab, a version of “Who’s over me?” Is it the MPLA, UDA, IRA, UK? Finally, singing downscale, toward a theoretical point which gathers the particularities: “or just another country”? The details are irrelevant. Whether already existing or sought, by reactionary or insurgent forces, it’s (merely, emptily) the state-form. A repeating, structured sovereignty.


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