Don't let me enter my zone / I'm definitely in my zone
06 May 2009
the escape to work
There's a particular phenomenon that recurs in escapist literature – the tendency to reinscribe in the text whatever the writer would like to escape from. So Andrew Marvell's 'Upon Appleton House', ostensibly a pastoral revel in the arcadian delights of a country retreat, ends up deploying a figural language which refers to the civil war beyond the confines of the estate, drawing in all the civic strife that the genre of the country house poem would apparently seek to exclude. Virgil's Georgics are, on the surface, a guidebook to agricultural husbandry, a celebration of a simple life far from the vicissitudes of politics. But they end up articulating a political allegory which still eludes full interpretation today. The refuge only restages what the writer wants to suppress.
The Junior Boys latest album is called Begone Dull Care. As a title this immediately undercuts the music, which draws on electro, house, disco and various electronica patches that crosswire these zones. Begone Dull Care is like a self-defeating version of the hedonist's battle cry of Let's Have It. It sounds like hedonist escapism, but the title reinscribes exactly what it wants to escape (Dull Care), demanding Begone – get away from me (the opposite of Come Together). Put another way, while 'begone dull care' looks superficially like a phrase that's semantically the equivalent of 'be happy', isn't it in fact crucially different? It looks to negate, not posit: to confound dull care, not insist on and construct any kind of tangible pleasure. It says 'begone', and in doing so begins (or maintains) a conversation with that which it wants rid off.
If that seems like a lot to build on what is only a title, it is at least a claim borne out by the music, which takes those sonic templates of electro, house, disco etc only to reverse the polarities of their emotional charge, from ecstatic affirmation and positivity to negative chill factor.
But isn't there a sense in which all genres of club music reinscribe what they wish to escape from? . . . Or rather, what does the fundamental hedonism of club culture in its wider sense, reinscribe? If the rave, the club, the discotheque, the party, are all essentially the same form of escape from the 9-5 world of work, isn't it the case that that accursed world reappears, is re-performed? With the club as a place of work and physical exertion (...'Work It' ... 'Work it Out'...), a place where everyone co-ordinates to the same rigidly ordered beat-continuum, submitting to the direction of a line-manager DJ...