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Alternative Tunings: The Gospel According to Dan Le Sac & Scroobius Pip

By Peter Wild.

We all know it’s not possible to see or hear or read everything and so either we see and hear and read as much as possible or we develop opinions by insinuation (‘I don’t have to read Dan Brown/hear the new JLS album/watch the Transformers sequel to know he’s/their/its shit). Each way offers a consolation of sorts (the first way, at least you’ll know what you’re talking about even if you waste a lot of time on junk; the second way, you can sneer with superiority about the fact that you only waste your time on artifacts that warrant your attention), but there is no way to absorb everything – and no way to learn what of value has passed you by.

I mention this briefly in passing because it is only very recently I got to hear ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip. The first thing you need to know about ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip if you’re not familiar with it is that it is what I believe a small community of the kids refer to as ‘a banging tune’. It was first released in 2007 and got to number 30 in the old Hit Parade. What you get for your money is a kind of a sermon intoned by Scroobius Pip (an intentional spelling of Edward Lear’s The Scroobious Pip). THOU SHALT NOT STEAL, IF THERE IS A DIRECT VICTIM, he says. Good advice, right? THOU SHALT NOT WORSHIP POP IDOLS OR FOLLOW LOST PROPHETS. THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAMES OF JOHNNY CASH, JOE STRUMMER, JOHNNY HARMON, DESMOND DEKKER, JIM MORRISON, JIMI HENDRIX OR SYD BARRET IN VAIN. Okay, I’m still largely with you (I can take or leave Jim Morrison). THOU SHALT NOT THINK THAT ANY CHILD OVER THE AGE OF 30 WHO PLAYS WITH A CHILD IS A PAEDOPHILE – SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST NICE. Having sat on various parks with various of my children as they played and courted looks (looks that invariably cause me to shout one or other of my children so that it’s ‘known’ I have the ‘right’ to be there, I can feel this). THOU SHALT NOT READ NME. Oh yes. THOU SHALT NOT STOP LIKING A BAND JUST BECAUSE THEY HAVE BECOME POPULAR. THOU SHALT NOT QUESTION STEPHEN FRY. (You can’t question Stephen Fry. Not in this day and age. Stephen Fry could probably have you killed through Twitter if he wanted to. Not that you would want to invite the ire of Stephen Fry any way. He seems like quite a nice chap.) THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. This is advice I’ve given to countless potential girlfriends over the years (heedless to say, the majority of them did judge a book by its cover). THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE LETHAL WEAPON BY DANNY GLOVER. THOU SHALT NOT BUY COCA COLA PRODUCTS. THOU SHALT NOT BUY NESTLE PRODUCTS. THOU SHALT NOT GOT INTO THE WOODS, WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND’S BEST FRIEND, TAKE DRUGS AND CHEAT ON HIM. THOU SHALT NOT FALL IN LOVE SO EASILY.

It was at this point in proceedings that I started to realise that – just as Simon Crump’s Michael Jackson book Neverland is quite possibly the definitive Michael Jackson biography – so ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip is tantamount to a code for life. No. More than that. At a time when any kind of faith in the establishment is impossible to sustain (all politicians just want the lifestyle, fuck anyone else; all banks just want to pay themselves large amounts of dough, fuck anyone else; etc etc etc), ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip acts as a kind of manifesto. If ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip was made law, the world would be a better place. Imagine.

THOU SHALT NOT USE POETRY, ART OR MUSIC TO GET INTO GIRL’S PANTS – USE IT TO GET INTO THEIR HEADS. THOU SHALT NOT WATCH HOLLYOAKS. THOU SHALT NOT ATTEND AN OPEN MIKE AND LEAVE AFTER YOU’VE PERFORMED YOUR SHITTY LITTLE POEM OR SONG, YOU SELF RIGHTEOUS PRICK. THOU SHALT NOT RETURN TO THE SAME CLUB OR BAR, WEEK IN, WEEK OUT, BECAUSE YOU ONCE SAW A GIRL THAT YOU FANCY – YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO FUCKING TALK TO HER ANYWAY. THOU SHALT NOT PUT MUSICIANS OR RECORDING ARTISTS ON RIDICULOUS PEDESTALS, REGARDLESS OF HOW GREAT THEY ARE OR WERE.

They go on to list bands – The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Crass, Minor Threat, The Cure, The Smiths, Nirvana, The Pixies, Oasis, Radiohead, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys and The Next Big Thing (who weren’t a band when this song was recorded but probably are now) – all of whom are JUST A BAND. And then we get:

THOU SHALT GIVE EQUAL WEIGHT TO TRAGEDIES THAT OCCUR IN NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRIES AS TO THOSE THAT OCCUR IN ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRIES.

It’s at this point that I kind of felt like using the word manifesto wasn’t quite good enough. Manifestos date. By this point, I’m happy to anoint Dan Le Sac & Scroobius Pip as a kind of saviour. But if manifesto isn’t the right word, what is the right word?

THOU SHALT REMEMBER THAT GUNS, BITCHES AND BLING WERE NEVER PART OF THE FOUR ELEMENTS AND NEVER WILL BE. THOU SHALT NOT MAKE REPETITIVE GENERIC MUSIC THOU SHALT NOT MAKE REPETITIVE GENERIC MUSIC THOU SHALT NOT MAKE REPETITIVE GENERIC MUSIC THOU SHALT NOT MAKE REPETITIVE GENERIC MUSIC. It goes on. THOU SHALT NOT MAKE SOME NOISE OF DETROIT. THOU SHALT NOT QUOTE ME HAPPY or SHAKE IT LIKE A POLAROID PICTURE or WISH YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS A FREAK LIKE ME.

There is advice about how to spell Phoenix. There is a request not to express shock by using the phrase, ‘Is it?’ And then, Life of Brian-like, we arrive at the key message of the song:

THOU SHALT THINK FOR YOURSELVES.

Except it isn’t the most important message. The most important message refers us back to the title of the song:

THOU SHALT ALWAYS KILL.

For the longest time, I didn’t get this. I didn’t get it because I’m old. I’m your granddad dancing at the wedding. I’m the old fella with the Werther’s Originals. Apparently, ‘to kill’ is to perform skillfully. So when he says ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ he’s saying thou shalt always perform to the very best of your ability – which is undoubtedly sound advice for performers of all stripes.

But I digress. I was looking for the word that was better than manifesto. That word is Gospel. Consider all of this a new Gospel to live by. I know I do. And I always kill.

peterwild
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Wild is the editor of Bookmunch, co-author of Before the Rain and the editor of The Flash, Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall, The Empty Page: Fiction inspired by Sonic Youth (published in the US as Noise: Fiction inspired by Sonic Youth) and Paint a Vulgar Picture: Fiction inspired by The Smiths.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, October 7th, 2009.