“Rocket” (Smashing Pumpkins)

Limitlessness denied. Similar to ideas from both Nikolas Rose and Jean-Luc Nancy, freedom, which comes with the free disposal of rights, is presupposed by both a State and psy- discipline; the result for singer: he “couldn’t stay free.” The human body becomes a projectile, hurling into celestial emptiness (instead of into another) to be rid of “those voices in my head.” Ingesting love and consuming hate becomes the necessary fuel to attain escape velocity. The catch: “no more lies” assumes that once future being emerges, the true, sovereign subject will materialize. The irony not fully realized—here or there.

 

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“Working on a Building” (Cowboy Junkies)

Permanent housing. Gospel traditional reworked through Xanax-like vocals and behind the beat accompaniment. Singer plays with possible performances (as a drunkard and liar) and then denies she’s a singer; if she were, though, she’d sing and work on the building for “my Lord. “Religious subjectivities, surely, are always structured by denials, but also by somnambulant identity politics: the bondsman forced to produce/build self without own signature.

 

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“Message From a Black Man” (The Temptations)

Plea for white self-reflection on color question vacillates between advocacy of colorblindness and Black pride (there-is-no-difference versus get-out-of-my-way). Given this uncertainty, overly optimistic assessment of the struggle’s endpoint: “The laws of society were made for both you and me.” Correction: the laws are designed to designate you and me, citizen and subject. Always, in liberalism, a foundational distinction, remaining.

 

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“Object-Subject (Breakdown’s Not Enough)” (Keith LeBlanc)

Given the “major malfunction” which was NASA’s Challenger, the breakdown of the subject-object dyad is more like a gross disabler, circulating in finite varieties. The evidence: distorted power chord bass gives voice to dubbish bass roots; “subject-object” repeated in different registers and at different speeds; panning (and sustained) shrieks circle the listener’s head; and precision scratching terminates at the same tonal origin regardless of direction. All mark the tonality of our common “adopt[ion]” which, ultimately, never reaches escape velocity.  (Even guns meet this conceptual wall.) A mental atom bomb (depicted on cover) still won’t break the dualism; denying exploration as discovery, the more just breakdown—eluding just more of the same—materializes in the actionable, continual appraisal (and subsequent dissolution) of what’s “here.”

 

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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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“Unlimited Capacity for Love” (Grace Jones)

After the loving community—an insomnia-induced incarnation desiring a prenuptial agreement for inclusion—hits the “floor,” singer wonders how one can “add another to love” without inheriting “classic” community’s exclusions. Lacerating kick drum and staccato descending bass figure point the way, repeatedly; it’s the rest/pause which can admit the rest of us (without worrying about dividends). In the reverse: apart from “hope” and “without pressured expense,” one should only fret about how to expend love without short-changing.

 

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“Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” (The Last Poets)

Verbal whipping of “niggers,” who are “everything but themselves” these days. Which is to say: American Blacks are degraded, violent, sex-obsessed, pimping fools, and need to be shocked into recognizing who they really are, if the Revolution is to come. Background drums make it crystal clear: these figures must recover their African roots, and get behind the beat. But where’s the Revolution in such disciplinary maneuvering? Or: if patrolled identity normativity is the pre-condition of Revolution, then the Revolution is everything but itself.

 

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“Bastard” (Tyler, The Creator)

Following Tyler, The Creator and his critics feels a bit like watching high-schoolers and parents fighting, with both parties alternating roles. (See, for instance, the fairly ham-handed critique in “Bitch Suck Dick” with the patented shock of both mainstream and aspiring lefties.) Premised as a confessional but continuing the offense, narrator impresses/confounds his counselor, Mr. TC. As listeners, though, we hear below this—where “demons” dwell. Form isn’t a strong preoccupation here (see minor nods to horrorcore minimalism), but conservatism is. The psychological subject emerges, abandoned (yet maternally protected); self-mutilating (and outwardly violent); and apathetic in general. The latter is the most confounding, since apathy is an “inherit[ance]” without end—an embodiment literalized and formed through paternal worship. Speaking out, but not acting up.

 

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