“Til the Last Shot’s Fired” (Trace Adkins)

While Adkins’ micro-display of the Confederate flag and his narration as a Confederate soldier certainly resides over the edge of credulity, his call to “say a prayer for peace” centers the conversation. Though George W. Bush expressly focused on anti-poverty religious and community organizations in his first Executive Order, he also forcefully argued for the relative autonomy of faith-based financial assistance. And this trax’s association with the Wounded Warrior Project, in some way, hinges on a faith in the power of cost-shifting from government apportionment to people directly funding each other’s care. (Recurring donations that are tax-deductible if the amount is large enough!) More directly, this is institutionalized and structured prayer that takes place within a war economy. But Adkins isn’t singing about survivors or “warriors;” his primary narrators are corpses who have died grisly battlefield deaths. From the grave, they yearn for rest (“Let us lay down our guns”) despite war’s relentless forward march (“But we can’t come home til/The last shot’s fired”). Peace founded upon a corpse, and the price of doing (nation) business. Also: a monument to living.


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“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” (Jeff Buckley)

The funereal as first condition of love, albeit of the “too young to hold on” variety. Inside-out strategy documents this suffering, from the initial sharing of mortality to the infinite indebtedness and sacrifice necessary for pleasure. Huddled and awaiting the invited intrusion which would reinitiate this fateful exchange, singer must confess, accept responsibility, and hurl imperatives functioning as (desperate) invitations. (Reminiscent, really, of Bill Clinton’s putative Putting People First (1992): social support, for too long, has been a “way of life,” but it should really be a “second chance” so that we can “reward work” and “demand responsibility” in the name of reworking desire.) Occasional (and stunted) Leslie speaker intrusions imply a slowed doppler effect: exchange is in the passing.


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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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“Litany (Life Goes On)” (Guadalcanal Diary)

Life, for sure, goes on. And not necessarily in a set of repetitive devotions. In one way, think Whitman’s “uncut hair of graves” that eventually become “mother’s laps” for us all. And born into a life, it’s understandable to wish for an alternate, infinite identity projected into past and future. This claim to/of the past, small as it is here, voids itself as mortality serves to fertilize now and for the (unforeseeable) future. “Surprise” grows, “voices” contribute, we will be “all together,” and the song we sing is “ever-growing.” Pulsating and throbbing, the track still conserves its energy and maintains a managed growth investment strategy. Escape hatch: an “ever-changing song” with no particular place to go.


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“Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (For 52 Strings)” (Rome Symphony Orchestra)

The gift of the lament need not be representational in order to give (itself) over: bodies, decisions, and stockpiles); surely, the air-raid sirens, buildings imploding, and two tone-cluster passages mark time, but the destruction never creates a silence. At the zenith of this Penderecki piece’s zenith (twenty-five total seconds), a single violin sounds, sustained without adornment/ornamentation. Barren, all fifty two strings sounds approximate pitches and durations, holding at bay that memorialization which aggrandizes certitude.  Like the 2003 Hiroshima commemoration, the generation (of shared listening) should compress distance while remaining proximate: close enough to the event for commitment.


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“Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)” (!!!)

To legally dance in New York City, an establishment needed a Cabaret license until 2017. And when an establishment applied for one, they’d have to be approved by the fire department and a Community Board. With a history often centered on Giuliani’s “quality of life” campaign. the hazy origins of the law—that its institution and enforcement in the early twentieth century is related to segregation—allow alternate evasion strategies to emerge from the shadows, such as how gay bars routinely evaded the law’s enforcement. (And why Giuliani as “Julio”?) With so many layers of approval and overbearing officiousness, !!!’s focus on the “piggiest pig[’s]” stutters when it equates NYC’s situation with Footloose. There’s certainly paternalism in common, but there’s no ban. And there’s no generational conflict to exploit. It is, though, a question of what a just measure is, especially in light of NYC’s selective enforcement. The creation of an illicit dancefloor can be theorized aggressively, as Autechre’s project shows. It can also advocate for counterhegemonic praxis, as with the focus here on dancers sharing “nothing more than this very second” because mortality is always a beat away. Unlike Oliver Wang’s notion of dancefloor intersubjectivity, we shouldn’t claim that we “barely understand” what happens on the dancefloor. We listen and watch for its utopian possibilities and manifold realizations.


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“(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” (Righteous Brothers)

If, one day, space aliens ponder the history of histrionic, twentieth-century love songs, they will wonder whether the Anglo-American world went completely mad in the postwar period. Boys particularly seem to have been in some form of competition to claim the most complete and greatest love of all, and oftentimes it got pretty squirrelly. Listen to the Righteous Brothers claim: “Without you, baby, what good am I?/You’re my reason for laughing/For crying, for living, and for dying.” Huh? You’re my reason for dying? Is this what a girl wants to hear? Let’s start by doubting this claim: in the first place, no one has a reason for dying. In fact, it’s entirely unreasonable and quite mad that we start dying on the day of our birth. You can’t choose it. No one ever wished to be born. (Or, if you’re in an emo mood, you might cheat and claim your parents as your reason for dying, but, remember: they weren’t acting reasonably when they conceived you.) So perhaps the love-struck Brothers Righteous are saying: you’re the only reason I continue with this suffering called life. Yes, “you’re my reason for living.” Without you, in other words, I’ll kill myself. Again, just what a girl wants to hear. Now she’s been made hyper-responsible for the continued existence of this big lump on the couch. So as soon as you hear a boy break into song, don’t try to be reasonable. Laugh.


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