The Patch

March 9, 2009

I Don’t Like Mondays: A Socratic Dialogue With Preston

Filed under: I Don't Like Mondays,Music & Film — freshlysqueezedcynic @ 11:35 pm

Taking a walk in Kelvingrove Park is occassionally a hazardous endeavour. For instance, one time I met Preston, the singer from The Ordinary Boys. He was weeping, shuffling his feet, still wearing that silver jacket he wore on his appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, which made him look like a gay, anorexic Bill Haley. There were no comets for him, i thought.

“It wasn’t my fault I married a daft bird, you know.”

I hadn’t said anything, hoping he had ignored me. I sat down and looked at him with humanist concern.

“You know she got a boob job?” he wailed.

“…I did not.” I said, truthfully.

“The only point of marrying a daft bird and I missed the boat.”

“I think that’s a trifle harsh. I mean, what attracted you to her in the first place? A subliminal, dark, psychosexual attraction to Paris Hilton?”

“Fuck off.”

“Well, really. If you assume that Paris Hilton is the Platonic ideal to which you strive, to which you can never hope to achieve in reality, the next best thing would be someone who, prior to their own brush with fame, also strived towards the same ideal; although I guess with the new tits that ideal has become somewhat skewed.”

“To say the least.”

“Could it not be some form of karmic retribution, though?”

“For what?”

“Well, I want to be polite here; for being you.”

“And you said I was harsh.”

“Well, Chantelle, for all her faults, isn’t actively harmful. She’s just, to use a phrase, “living the dream”.”

“Very nice. I see what you did there.”

“Thank you. But you could be said to be a negative influence on society.”

“How so?”

“Well, let us take, as an example, your first album, Over The Counter Culture.”

“Why that one?”

“Well for one thing, it ties in with an interesting theory that Thomas Frank has.”

“The editor of The Baffler?”

“Yes, him. How do you know him?”

“Well, this whole conversation is a figment of your imagination, I pretty much know everything you know.”

“True, but irrelevant. I’d know you wouldn’t know about him.”

“Yeah, says you.”

“Ok, ok. I’m being a little unfair.”

“But yes, what about Thomas Frank, to get back on to something people will actually find readable?”

“Well, he’s sceptical about the idea of the counter-culture in and of itself. Both the opponents and the supporters of counter-culture, especially as it manifested itself in the sixties, was seen as fundamentally a threat to the established order; by which it would be a threat to capitalism as well. The original counter-culture was born of idealism, revolution, transgressivism, always everywhere May ’68; attempts to ape it in the new millenium come across as sad, corporatist, soulless and just not cool.”

“That makes sense.”

“Frank disagrees.”

“What?”

“Or at least, he thinks it messier than both opponents and supporters give credit for, especially as regards business and the counter-culture.”

“You do realise I was just making a bit of a smug joke, don’t you? I don’t need this lecture.”

“I do, but you’re a twat, so shut up and listen. Frank argues that the counter-culture was not as alien to the business world as has been suggested; the idea of a grey, monolithic “The Man” at the head of a corporation, worried by the hippies formenting revolution was always nonsense. There were elements of that, but also business could see the opportunity of the flowering of a counter-culture, new forms of art, new music, all of which in a capitalist system needs money to be produced.”

“You mean they saw them as new consumers rather than an antagonistic force.”

“Exactly!”

“Ready to be co-opted, to sell out!”

“No! See, this whole idea of selling out has always been one of the big myths of popular music. Unless you decide to live in a cave, everyone is a sellout. We all take part in the system that produces the fakes, the phonies, the frauds, the kinds of people we view as hacks. To take part in that system itself, to “sell out” is not the key thing that makes bad art bad. It’s probably a major force, but it does not by itself produce bad art. All artists shill for coins, and some produce greatness through it. What I meant, and what Frank is arguing, was simply that society in the mid-twentieth century was on the cusp of a massive change in all forms of society, whether it was counter-cultural or not. The hippies weren’t the catalyst of modern society, they were the product of forces – economic, social, political, and cultural – that had existed beforehand. The business of business might still have been business…”

“You pretentious tit.”

“Certainly. But it was doing it in different ways from then on, some of which did involve aping counter-cultural trends, and “selling out”, but on a spectrum of co-option rather than a dividing line; “from MC5 to the Monkees”, to paraphrase Frank himself.”

“So what does any of this have to do with me? And would anyone still be reading by this point?”

“Well, it attacks a major thread of your album.”

“Which you apparently hate.”

“Quite a lot, or I wouldn’t write this conversation up on a blog.”

“But are incensed about enough to go on a long tangential summarising of an obscure American cultural critic no-one who is likely to read this dialogue will ever have heard of.”

“Yes…”

“I think you protest too much. You own it, don’t you?”

“That’s perceptive of you.”

“I bet you quite enjoyed it at one point. I bet it’s just coloured by the whole Celebrity Big Brother thing, and you’re doing a retroactive hipster defense to throw it down the memory hole.”

“In part, but I didn’t really care that much about Celebrity Big Brother. I do actually rather hate it now; I certainly haven’t listened to it for a while. Not since I was in my mid teens.”

“Right.”

“But here’s the thing; in my mid-teens I was a cock, as is every teenaged male, especially when it comes to music. Pretentious jumped up little cocks with a sneering attitude towards almost everything around; smug twats far too sure of their own opinions. Nobody understands! It’s all fucked up! They’re all awful! Sell outs! God, if I met myself from back then I’d punch myself square in the balls.”

“But you still think like that. You’re writing a blog about terrible albums.”

“Almost, but not quite; I still think things are bad, and some can even be said to be so in an objective way, but I’m definitely not sure of my own opinions any more. I’m mostly doing this because I think other people will find it entertaining, and because I hardly ever finish anything. But I’m nowhere near that assumption of superiority any more, because we are all sellouts. We’re all working within that system and we’re all muddling along as best we can. There’s something all too human about it. And it’s a sure sign of massive twattery to portray yourself as above the fray, sneering and masturbating at your high position above all the talentless proles, especially when you’re doing the most shameful reference-humping known to man.”

“This is where I come in, isn’t it?”

“Too fucking right it is. Over The Counter Culture, from the very start, whines and moans about new fads and disposable celebrity culture. This is why everyone fucking hates you, Preston, because you won’t admit you’re wrestling in the mud with the rest of us. You have the bare-faced chutzpah to go on Celebrity Big Brother, and claim that you’re not part of all the collective shit we all put together and claim is our culture. It’s why people hate hipsters and hipsterism in general; you’re just as disposable, just as much a part of the society we’re in, not above it. Admit it, and we’ll hate you less.”

“Well.”

“Not to mention Week In, Week Out is another example of that fucking middle-class ennui again. I told you fuckers I’d had it up to here with The Rakes, why should I have to deal with you, too?”

“Hey, come on…”

“And if you ever do another Specials cover, I will cut you. I swear to God, I will come round your house and I will kill you right in the face.”

“Aw, well…”

“How can you sit there and claim to be above it all when you’re pulling the exact same shit all these other fucking bands pull? Even worse than them, really. You manage to find the ennui in a trip to the seaside. Fuck off! There’s ice-cream and donkeys and shit, the beach is awesome and you know it. It’s lovely to be bored with everything, really it is, but I got over that shit when I was sixteen and realised that life is really a bit shit when you treat it as one long boredom filled yawnfest to the grave. Live a little, you fucking cunts.”

By this point he was despondent, having been convinced, by superior logic, of his own redundancy. I did the only decent thing, and shot him. The sudden crack of a bullet burying into his skull rang out with more authenticity than anything that had previously entered Preston’s brain. I smiled as I knew I had done the world a great service.

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