“No Nose Job” (Digital Underground)

The sell-out, be it the “black girl” who wants slimming down or the white one’s desire for excess, supposedly can’t claim those “responsibilities” necessary for “race and community.” Apart from these “carnival exhibit[s],” Humpty Hump can only become brown through tanning (despite the wish to “change it”). Doctor skit pulls at the argument, demonstrating how the nature/science relationship is one of collusion, a “sedative” and a “scalpel.” Race politics, like corporate musics, still stuck in exhibit mode.


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“Legend of Paul Revere” (Paul Revere and the Raiders)

From humble origins in Idaho, the little band that could makes good in the world, through sheer power of earnest pleading to radio stations to “play our record.” Homespun, twangy. Then Dick Clark arrives.  And: “Come to think of it, our business manager’s our biggest fan.” Charting the fall into the market.  But, following Shershow, a false nostalgia for popular culture’s “original” outside position disenables meaningful politics. Legerdemain.



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“What’s Going On” (Marvin Gaye)

Solidarity with the “mother” and the “brother,” and a conversation with the (Black?/White?) figure of the “father,” to whom it is recommended: “only love can conquer hate.” But whose hate? White supremacists or those with “picket signs”? Deeply ambiguous referents either signal a deceleration of youth protest or call for White understanding or both. A track, then, that everyone likes, featuring a double dispersal of the political.


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“Complication” (The Monks)

Two-note chant by tonsured ex-U.S. servicemen in Germany announce the obvious to Americans: “you” sit at home while others, overseas, “kill for you.” Electric piano solo seeks logical through-line and repeatedly fails. “Constipation,” the singer calls it. Ethically, one calls this complicity. Politically: compartmentalized partisanship.

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“Killing an Arab” (The Cure)

Robert Smith says: a condensed moment from Camus. It works this way: singer is the political “stranger,” and the man at his feet is “Arab.” Singer “alive” and “dead” at same time, at a moment of decision which turns the whole world and decisionism itself into “absolutely nothing.” Eliminating the other decimates the self because, in the realm of identities, there are two (at least), or there are none at all.


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“Our Line’s Been Changed Again” (Joe Glazer)

“Communists devout” protest the Party “line” that alliances be made with “bourgeois groups” and even, ugh, Socialists. No coherence to such “kaleidoscopic” politics, and, meanwhile, what happens to the Revolution? “It can wait.” But, in truth, it hasn’t arrived, yet, and such brinksmanship risks what Mangabeira Unger calls “the dangerous limiting case of transformative politics.” The empty purity of the hard line.


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“A Horse With No Name” (America)

The journey into the desert represents a politicized movement to get under the problem of naming and interpellation. The desert not a wasteland, but a place with teeming “life underground,” seeking out “heart” below the process of subjectification. Resistance which does not neglect the fundamental exclusion: the anthropological foundations of the “political.”


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