MRR COLUMN

My last column for Maximum Rocknroll

I steeple my fingers to the wet palm fronds. The plant does not respond. Rude. Back in Sydney after seven months in exile in London, increasingly confused as to which one is home, upside down, which way up? Which way around? Tropical rain is still rain. It would serve you well to re-examine your notion of home. It’s gauche to say it because wow, what freedom and what luck to leave, to make homes in other corners, but two whole lives in two cities is maybe too much for my big hot heart! What a nice problem to have, having too many people in too many places to shower them with love all at once with the full force that you’d like to. This does not even register, of course, on the Great Pain Scale where the world’s traumas constantly recalibrate to account for how much worse it can get. I’m distracted as I type because a man has done something. Again. This man, from this place, born from its rotten rib, he has taken guns to a mosque and he has written things he read about on the internet onto those guns and then he has shot those guns at the people inside and now his bullets are under their skin, mangling the insides of them, the delicately stitched together parts that their mothers built from their insides so that they could live. I absorb this information, alone and expressionless, and I then go to the gig and drink three beers and an espresso martini and nobody mentions it, including me. What has happened has happened in so much as we have read about it on the internet. Only a few things cut through. The Welsh poem he chose for his ‘manifesto’ because how fucking dare you, and a post about volunteers being needed to wash the bodies. Now someone has thrown an egg at an elected fascist and it feels good. We run towards the good feeling, desperate to forgive ourselves. How are we going to overcome this?

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Chronophage’s album is called “Prolog for Tomorrow.” Make sure you eat up the sensation of being joyfully blind-sided when something this good slides past like a cool croc in the sewage river of contemporary sounds. You’ll wanna venture a finger in the sludge to pet this one. Apparent output from a totally complete genius universe. On this recording, you can hear the room and there are mature roots growing around all the amps. Everything, and I mean, everything, is sprouting. You don’t need glue to hold it all together just fuzz and prayer. These are the spiritual inversions we need as the world outside folds in on itself. You face them down in the sewer to thank them but they shake the nub end of a rubber crucifix in your face and turn away. Grinning.

Soot, from Brisbane, have a tape called “Pockmarked with…Soot!” There is yelling and clanging and you spin and you win the demented tombola when the horn hits. This off-kilter triad is a siblinghood of the bent notes. It almost stops completely at points. Hatched brains slurping up the albumen. “I can’t speak when I feel this way.” Open your whole throat to the world and laugh as you gag and let your neon bile get all up in the global urethra. It’s so good. Lost in the boy-girl goy-birl sing song, taken out totally by incessant glockenspiel. Then, after all that, they chose to cover “Give me back my man” and I nearly lose it completely. In recent moments when I have been struggling, adrift, totally confused, I have put the original version of this by the B-52s on repeat and zoned out to Cindy’s wail. Soot’s version is like a detuned, heard-through-a-wall echo of the original, warped and fallen. Just how it sounds when I sing along. Perfect.

Did you know Fred Schneider was in Bongwater for a minute there, too? Have you heard this group? Absolute mid-eighties nut jobbin’ which test the limits of what could reasonably be categorised as ‘song’ whilst spewing out that deep sharp sarcasto-sound taking aim at all the right targets. There are monologues set to half-heard psych flute, out of space and out of time, wild yelps towards the light. It’s maniac juice. They’ve got that deadly serious joker collectivism that I crave from all groups, that ‘street gang with analysis’ sensibility. There are dream journals in the crypto-rock, too many words for one line and no regard for anything like a tune. It is all in the idea and you must submit to it, this is the stuff of Dudley Moore takes and songs called ‘Chicken Pussy.’ Their best songs are led by sardonic get-it-out-of-me rage of Ann Magnuson, a renowned performance artist and East Village legend who consorted with Keith and Jean-Michel and starred in The Hunger with David Bowie which I have never seen. It figures that she, and many others of this time, held hands under ACT UP banners, cried and screamed and howled as inaction murdered more and more queers, angels engulfed with sarcoma, gifted legions under lesions. Bongwater sang about assassinating Jesse Helms. B-52s lost their sweet Ricky to AIDS when it was still known as GRID. It strikes me how the single-minded preoccupation of exposing the galling hypocrisy and saving their friends’ and lovers’ lives undergirded so much of the first and second waves of AIDS Activism, yet there was also this amazing inverse underbelly in the free-wheeling yet still laser-focussed art and music created to do the same work. Only coopted, only defanged if we let it. We should uncover and remember it as such. They all knew so brilliantly how to take and use a platform. I re-watched the ACT UP Documentary called ‘How to Survive a Plague’ recently. While there is much to discuss about that doc in regards to who is not shown, whose stories are followed and not, it’s an incredibly moving document of how to stand upright and refuse the burden of shame. If you are my age maybe you half-remember films and TV that side-eyed at the crisis, referenced it in evermore subtle ways, subtler still until it was all gone, forgotten, a historical curio; beginning-middle-end. No. We owe it to every one who did not survive to look at what happened during these times through the eyes of those who were there and those who did not make it. What are the stories we tell ourselves about these disasters? That they have ended? That PrEP is just a random science miracle? Every inch we may have crept towards humanity, against the tide of shit, has a corresponding death toll and an arrest count.  If our planet does not, somehow, burn up to a crispy husk in the next ten years, this will be why.

We are hot fuses who cannot leave each other in the dark. Last night’s dream was about a room full of lamps. I had to choose one to take but the bulbs kept flickering out. My mother was there, you’ll be unsurprised to know, was there with her various preferences. Hey. This is my last attempt at flinging observations for print towards the dysfunctional beautiful counter-institution that changed my life. The Magazine will always be The Magazine. I count ninety-something columns. Here’s the last one. I hope it’s okay. I hope you’re okay.

In lieu of the advice column I never wrote, a couple of commandments from me to close us out from me, your mate (I’m not your mate) Bryony:

Never suck the dick of someone who acts like they deserve it.

It’s okay to be inscrutable, illegible, a shape shifter. You don’t have to lock yourself down with a fixed identity if it doesn’t serve you to do so.

It’s statistically impossible that you will find all your people in one place, let alone the punk gig, good god. Speak to more strangers.

Big life, girls first, freak free, aim high.

Open up all the windows and doors of your alienation palace. Air it out, come on. Like she said; ‘a wall is just a wall and nothing more at all.’

Make it louder. The will to silence, wherever it comes from, is a will against the sputtering engine of a fairer world and our only hope, the last word: solidarity!

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