Also Sprach Skinner

“People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.”

Raoul Vaneigem – The Revolution of Everyday Life

“Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others – even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.”

Solidarity – As We See It

“It was s’posed to be so eeeeasy.”

Late as ever, I didn’t hear A Grand Don’t Come For Free until 2005 – thanks to my sister getting it me for Christmas. (This isn’t bad when you consider that I didn’t hear Black Cherry until Autumn 2004…)

I love it, probably for all the reasons Mark K-Punk hates it. Not being a reader of Loaded, or someone who fraternises with whining “indie-windies” I’ll have to confine myself to why I like the album, and not worry about who else does. (How very mature of me.)

Mark, with all his political denunciations of emotion, ends up being a bit confused when the theme deviates from his usual dead-pan pop-robotics. He thinks Skinner is glorifying what he sees as “laddish”, whereas to me he the whole point of the album is the transition between passivity and taking some responsibility for your life – the corner being turned during the rewind on the last track. I’ve never seen myself as “a lad” but I’ve fallen for some of the same traps described so well here…

For most of the album things happen to Mike – he is a “victim” of circumstance. His only victories being:

a) His total inertia preventing him even from leaving the flat to put on a doomed bet.

b) Getting the girl – which is a glimpse of the endgame, not in the sense of happily ever after – but in that getting off your arse and striking it lucky is a way of crawling out of a lethargic swamp.

It comes down to your interpretation, but it seems to me that the obsessions with weed AND with sitting on the sofa watching telly are actually presented as being the wholly negative dead ends (rather than means to ends, when used sparingly) which they can be – and have been, for me.

Similarly, the use of cliché is not, for me, evidence for the prosecution but an example of how we all try to get through the hard times – platitudes don’t actually do anything productive but are a way of temporarily escaping from the pain of being chucked or whatever. It doesn’t mean they are “real”, or desirable, or even useful in the healing process, but it is a hole which people retreat into. It’s those little observations about life (in all its messiness) along with phones going wrong, mumbling to yourself, being a drunken dick, etc which make it for me.

“It’s the end of something I did not want to end – the beginning of hard times to come.”

With tongue firmly wedged in cheek, I will argue that A Grand Don’t Come For Free is profoundly Nietzschean.

Zarathustra/Skinner has descended from his cave in the mountains after ten years of roaching spliffs in front of the TV. He wants to tell us about the overman, about overcoming. About joy, about having the strength of will to take responsibility for every moment in your life and to wish nothing more than for each moment to be repeated.

One Comment

  1. dubversion
    i read the k-punk slating of A Grand… and it really irked me. is all pop supposed to come with some normative content – so that reflecting your environment (as Skinner seems to do fantastically well – bearing in mind i’m not in my twenties, a stoner, etc etc etc) isn’t enough.

    why not? would it have been a better album if, halfway through, skinner realised he was a stoned loser because he was a capitalist dupe and rose up against his oppressors?

    and – as you’ve pointed out – there is a shift in tone as ‘our hero’ starts actually taking an active role in his own life…

    a brilliant album, just full of beautifully observed nuances and details. and Dry Your Eyes (coming out as it did as i was in the middle of a heartbreaking split) was just genius – every bit of it..
    2005/01/07 @ 01:36 pm

    Greg ( / )
    comment — Nice to begin with a great Vaneigem quote John, from one of my favourite books. Even so,with the Situatioists, much as I love them, aren’t we coming back to indiviudal transformation once again? Not that there is anything wrong with that at all however…Some people have slated the situationists as falling into language of complete mystification, and wasn’t Vaneigem thrown out of the Situationists for as Debord saw it, leaning towards ‘Eckhartian mysticism’ and obfuscation of reality? Who cares..I love Vaneigem’s work, obscure as it may be sometimes…

    ( I remember reading a criticism of anarchist thought which made me laugh…it went something like, “what have anarchists ever achieved beyond a lot of hot air? They took over a few trams during the Spanish anti fascist revolution, looked cool smoking cigars with machine guns and neckerchiefs, photographed hanging off captured trams once the spanish fascists were gone, and later on in Europe, some situatioist students had a few sit ins at the sorbonne, threw some rocks, painted some slogans on walls….then 10 years later, went on to become respectable politicians…)

    Still, I love all that theory…Now, how it translates into reality for me is where my challenge begins…

    oh sod it, the washing machine cycle has ended and my wife wants me off the computer…best go before I disappear up my own ass in a cloud of banal , pretention! Still, there is way more good intelligent stuff to consider on your board than other boards I could mention…but won’t!
    2005/01/07 @ 01:51 pm

    dub – we are in agreement I think. “wife-beating pub bores” united 😉

    Greg –

    I think individual transformation(s) is what you get when there isn’t much going on in terms of mass struggles, really.

    Anyway – the Situationist International were communist, not anarchist! Debord was knocking about with Socialisme ou Barbarie and slagged of anarchists in “Society of the Spectacle”, innit.

    Either way, it’s still a good quote and I do find it slightly ironic that some of the SI’s followers explicity avoid all the easy to grasp stuff about everyday life and go for the mystical hegelian stuff instead…

    as for how to translate it into everday life, I refer you to the Solidarity quote ;0
    2005/01/07 @ 03:25 pm

    be interested to see what skinner would make of this as well – i’m sure he’d love being called Nietzschean 😉
    2005/01/07 @ 05:15 pm

    Greg ( / )
    //I think individual transformation(s) is what you get when there isn’t much going on in terms of mass struggles, really. //

    Good point– true!

    ///Anyway – the Situationist International were communist, not anarchist! Debord was knocking about with Socialisme ou Barbarie and slagged of anarchists in “Society of the Spectacle”, innit.///

    Yes, fair point John — I suppose people like to package thinkers into ‘suitable boxes’ — boxes which suit the person’s world view ..Since I’ve always avoided socialism/marxism, I probably conveniently deluded myself into seeing them as anarchists…

    Good points.
    2005/01/07 @ 06:24 pm

    Greg ( / )
    comment PS :

    in fact, I’m probably one of those ” exanarchist idealists” who veered off into Gnostic other worldiness! Yes, sad as that may sound, it’s probably me! In fact, the more obscure Vaneigem got, the more I liked him, and the more I got into Eckhardt et al as a result…Reading Tolstoy took me further down that road too…

    I blame “freedom Press” down Whitechapel way and all those Skeleton Key booklets myself…

    ; ^ )

    Good posts John. The board gets better and better imho. PS i was only having a laugh by taking a swipe at anarchists by the fact, I’m indirectly taking a swipe at people EXACTLY LIKE MYSELF !
    2005/01/07 @ 06:30 pm

    Rob ( / )
    Im a simple man…i didnt like the album, other than a few songs, because it just failed to move me on a sonic level
    2005/01/07 @ 07:07 pm

    I got Skinner’s new album late as well–a New Year’s present from my Bro-in-law 🙂 — and thought it was very poor indeed. After only one album, Dudeman’s delivery, or flow, if you will, already sounds tired IMO. Overall, the album sounds half-assed , at best and simply amatuerish at worst.
    2005/01/08 @ 10:55 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts people – obviously it’s fair enough if people don’t like the album – especially the music which is studiously amateurish (tho I do actually quite like it). Lots of people I know find his delivery grating, including some “lads” so that may be just personal preference.
    2005/01/10 @ 09:28 am

    Greg ( / )
    comment — John, CD arrived and the great book — thanks. I havent had a chance to read/listen, but I’ll let you know when I do…did you get my cd?

    Thanks again.
    2005/01/10 @ 08:17 pm

    Greg ( / )
    comment —

    John! You put that “No place like home” on the cd! EXCELLENT! Love that track. Dub Judah’s Meditation is nice too.
    2005/01/10 @ 10:20 pm

    John Eden
    Yeah, greg yours is on right now! Great stuff. Sorry if the Dub Judah is a bit quiet – I’m still trying to figure out how my cd recorder works here (that’s why there’s 1 track of 23 seconds silence – it’s not conceptual or anything!)
    2005/01/10 @ 10:41 pm

    comment JOhn, I thought that was Dub Judah doing a John Cage with the silence! I thought it was a prelude to the track “Meditation! ” Seriously, I did!

    The sound is just fine.

    ; ^ )
    2005/01/10 @ 10:54 pm

    I’m glad you found it out after you heard it now! 🙂
    2005/01/11 @ 09:11 am

    yeah, i don’t like the music much but i think mark castigates it for all the wrong reasons. serious wrong end of the stick stuff.
    2005/01/11 @ 04:06 pm

    I don’t think individual transformation only happens when there’s nothing going on in the class struggle. And I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive either.

    Really fancy this album though!
    2005/01/15 @ 09:12 pm

    nah, I’m not arguing for either/or but a scale, I think…
    2005/01/17 @ 09:50 am

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