“SQUELCHED ENTHUSIASMS”

Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984, p. 87:

Roxy were massive in Sheffield. The group’s flamboyant, future-retro image inspired the post-hippie generation to glam up and dance at Sheffield clubs like the Crazy Daisy. And Roxy performed regularly in the city. “When you went to see them you’d wait until you were on the bus before applying the glitter, so your mum and dad didn’t see,” recalls [Phil] Oakey. “Martyn [Ware] was more daring than me. He’d be going through the toughest areas of town in green fur jackets and high-heel shoes.” […]

Ambiguously pitched between irony and romanticism, Roxy were the æsthete’s option. “I remember buying the first Roxy album and listening to it with the gatefold sleeve open, spread out on the floor,” says Ware. “The entire atmosphere around the record was as important as the music. It all came together as a piece of art for me.”

I read this while seated in my morning haunt, located on the edge of nowhere in plain sight and with a great feeling of place. It caused me to look up, and I thought of a wordless impression I have lived and relived since my very first act of pulling a Peter Saville New Order album out of a bin. It resists description and it borders on embarrassing, as all my examples are dated and even trite.

The graphic-design band is inextricable from its graphic image, which, contrary to claims that refuse to disappear decades later, was not harmed one wit by CDs and still hasn’t been harmed now that “album covers” are JPEGs loaded into iTunes.

What is hard to reproduce or recapture, because it exists almost in a quantum state and dies just as it comes to life, is the wordless placeless feeling prompted by rare brief passages in rare industrial and electronic songs. It is an impression of a life where design means something, indeed of a life that manifests itself as a conjunction of design and sound. It is a life that is design. But it isn’t a real life and you cannot actually live there. You come back to earth – not crashing, but with the same sudden vague disappointment you get after patting the dog pleasantly for a few minutes and forgetting everything else around you.

The graphic-design band is, to coin a phrase, an ideal for living, but it’s a kind of magic spell and it expires just as you turn off your regular life and start to enjoy it.

Leitmotifs, not all of them mine: Saville, “Perfect Kiss” (Demme), Technology: Western Re-Works, DV8, Metro Music, Copper Blue, Very, XTRMNTR, songs played on online radio stations whose titles one can never actually learn.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.11.11 17:38. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
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