At the end of the century, people, as we know, go Mad. This, quite often, is a good thing. A hundred years ago, Parisian fop-hearts lounged over lecterns, drank absinthe and ‘spoke’ ‘easy’ about the Apocalypse, art and The Meaning Of It All. In 1999, it’s back, it’s still fuelled by absinthe, it’s called London’s Trendy Literary Event and it’s single-handedly replaced the rock’n’roll amp with the pansy poet’s plinth as the launch pad for Something To Say.
In the year tots’ pop eats the grown-ups’ words for liquefied breakfast, it’s a thrillsome idea and [a]Patrick Jones[/a], being the so-called Beat Bard Of Blackwood, as well as Nicky Wire‘s brother, has nothing to do with any of it except timing but that, as we also know, can be everything. Thus, ‘Commemoration And Amnesia’, Pat’s debut spoken-word affair, is a literary event in itself – and a musical one featuring soundscapes from members of the Taffioso including James Dean Bradfield (searing Manics melancholia) Cerys Catatonia (celestial wafting) Gruff and Cian Super Furry (respectively spirited rhumbas and quavers from the planet [I]Clangers[/I]).
And, by gum, it’s grim. Grim in the Celtic, we’re-all-doomed way, 22 gloom-art paeans to the modern malaise that deems we’re all staggering through futile lives on the woodwormed stilts of apathy, servility, false hope, First World ‘paradise syndrome’ and the ad-led, media-fed, spiritually-bereft lie of consumerism. And the telly is the Devil and so is Daz.
“And we watch,” it begins on ‘Their Life On Their Heads’ (over a landslide of orchestral import, by Manchild), “in our safe homes through Marks & Spencer’d curtains at the unfolding of another celluloid tragedy… how terrible, how sad, aren’t we lucky? …A diet of nothingness, a few grains of rice… while we choose plastic surgery to remove our third chin.”
It’s the Truth, certainly, but it’s certainly not a new one. Neither is the news that the Lottery is a lie, expounded here seven separate times seething, “it could be you”, plus endless spittoons filled with factory life, Enola Gay, alcopops, irony, drugs, war, fascism and “these corpse-ridden streets of carpet warehouses”.
Oh, and “to live in Wales is to be constantly aware of death”. We’re shivering, in fact, under the ice-crusted bed sheet of an old-skool Manics fan enduring a nightmare about being strangled by the flailing entrails of the dying century where greed is god, we’re surrounded by idiots, the world is fucked and so are you. Which is all said with infinitely more unique, graceful and terrifying emotional connection in the lyrics of ‘The Holy Bible’. And some of it in the first 30 seconds of [I]Trainspotting[/I].
At the end of the 20th century, when we’ve more stuff to hate than we’ve ever had before, a revolution might be something to actually love. And when you know you’re going to die, you need something to help you live. Poetry, then; it’s the new, er, techno-goth music about hell. Can we go dancing now please?