:: Criticism archive ( click for articles pre-2006)

The Jester’s Banquet published 30/10/2014

Come on, people say. Doesn’t the guy have a point? He’s a working class lad from Essex — aren’t you all being a bit snobbish? Surely being a socialite of the MTV age doesn’t disqualify you from having an opinion, any more than being a binman does. So Brand’s wealthy and famous. So what. Maybe a lot of what he says is stupid, but his heart’s in the right place. The choice between Brand’s mashup of trickster myths and Chomsky quotes, and the machine politician who repeats speeches generated by committee, is not an appealing one. And in truth you can see why people get sick of differing variants of establishment authoritarian politics.

Max Dunbar reviews Russell Brand‘s Revolution.

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‘Harmless Eden’: Revisiting D. H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo published 28/10/2014

In the short story ‘The Man Who Loved Islands’ (1927), the writer sets out in the first paragraph ‘to make… a world of his own’ as the master of a small island. Lawrence, like Somers, fantasized about this kind of escape. But he also saw the perils. Soon – driven by his growing disenchantment with human society in any form – the man moves to an even smaller island. Before long he finds that even this island feels like ‘a suburb’ and he moves farther out to settle on a third, almost uninhabitable island; ‘a few acres of rock away in the north’. What started as a hopeful utopia ends badly, and he goes mad on his desolate rock, shouting: ‘The elements! The elements! You can’t win against the elements!’

Julian Hanna on D. H. Lawrence‘s Kangaroo.

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Tara Morgana published 26/10/2014

As ever, Holman is asking that we recognize those deeper, magical roots of writing that modern poetic literature has always recognized – think of Yeats, mystical Eliot, Ted Hughes. He’s working to unfreeze a secular cultural cringe that blushes embarrassment at the supernatural, mystical, occult elements and can’t engage with that vast content… Holman is working to receive occult forces where ‘… each dreamed text is a terma in the mind, treasure best left to be forgotten and then discovered anew.’

Richard Marshall reviews Paul Holman’s Tara Morgana.

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No North West published 25/10/2014

Down the line, after a stint mentoring the craft of a new generation of indie pop acts mostly centred around Scotland’s Postcard Records and a subaltern career delivering mail for the Post Office in London, rather than the dancefloor presence of Edwin Starr it is Edwyn Collins who has given Godard’s songs their second wind on this 2014 release, a significant recapturing and re-rendering of this Camden Town Banshees support set list (Collins himself re-recorded and largely owned ‘Holiday Hymn’ from this album as a Peel Session track for Orange Juice in 1981), both producing and releasing this clearly reverent album on his own AED Records.

Andrew Stevens enjoys Vic Godard‘s Northern Soul tribute 1979 NOW!.

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About five o’clock on the sun published 12/10/2014

All truths are identical: Yablo says: ‘ mathematicians know a lot of truths; metaphysicians know a lot of others. These truths are identical if we go by truth-conditions , since they are true in the same cases: all of them.’ Truth conditions flatten out difference. They are insensitive. Hempels ‘All crows are black’ has the equivalent truth conditions of ‘All non-black things are non-crows.’ But it strikes us as wrong to say they have identical meanings. Aboutness nails the difference, suggests Yablo. ‘One is about crows, the other not.’ We should care about this aboutness feature because it is simply interesting, even if there was nothing else. But there is.

Richard Marshall reviews Stephen Yablo’s Aboutness.

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Nostalgia For An Age Yet To Come published 07/10/2014

Permanent crisis, or ‘exception as the norm’, is the standard operating procedure of capitalism. Think of 2001 and the State’s presentation of the war without end and injunctions in favour of eternal vigilance. The tape-loop footage of the aeroplanes crashing into the Twin Towers enforced a perception of events as occurring in a constant, non-immanent, anti-historical present, a repeated insult to be avenged. Violence without explanation, context, or comprehensible cause. Any dissension from the narrative of the Spectacle (no matter what its form and content) has become an effective invitation to annihilation, both projected (from ‘the enemy’) and in the vacuum of the deep silence of the anti-Spectacle.

In Jim Fearnley’s final installment for 3:AM’s Walter Benjamin series, he analyses the Theses on the Philosophy of History while critiquing the restrictive temporal compliances of the historical materialist imperative.

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A House Divided published 01/10/2014

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Formally, Permission attempts to be a modern twist on the monologic epistolary novel, the strictly one-sided communication between a correspondent and a silent – in this case, non-responsive – recipient. The twist is that Chrostowska claims that the entire enterprise has been a real-life experiment; that she actually sent these emails under the disguise of a pseudonym to an unnamed individual.

Terry Pitts explores S.D. Chrostowska, Permission: A Novel.

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filters, modulators, magnetic tape published 29/09/2014

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The wonderful, expansive strangeness of Krautrock was a product, then, of an implicitly political mission – to supplant a tonality synonymous with American cultural colonisation with a sound that was distinctly German. This was a nationalism that was entirely free of the taint of Hitlerite chauvinism: as Stubbs points out, Kraftwerk’s celebration of the German motorway system in Autobahn might have had sinister overtones to 1970s observers mired in atavistic Germanophobia, but in fact it reprised traditions that predated Nazism and had nothing to do with it – German expressionism, and the unity of art and technology that was a cornerstone of Bauhaus.

Houman Barekat reviews David StubbsFuture Days.

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“Not Just Self- but Social-Realization”: On John Cage’s “Diary” published 25/09/2014

The randomized program of John Cage’s “Diary” attempts, to use Deleuzian phrasing, becoming-zero, becoming-hole. What “Diary” stages is a way to live in silence, to listen and respond, to produce affect through exteriority, and locate the otherness within the self by putting one in conversation not only with other humans but with non-humanness, the flips of coins, chance operations. Cage writes: “Home begins outside. Shelter’s inside.” The chance-determined numbers that provide the program of the “Diary” function as a way out of that shelter, dropped breadcrumbs back to the home of the world.

Chris Robinson on John Cage‘s “Diary”

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Cortázar’s glass trap published 21/09/2014

Cortázar writes to create traps that lead us in but lie about having an exit. There is no exit. Because of this we’re always wondering about the nature of the relationship being developed. In ‘One Step Forward, One Step Backward’ he tells the story of the fly who finds she can pass through glass but then finds out glass is a trap. A Hungarian scientist has invented a one-way process whereby the fly can’t get back out via the glass through which it entered. It’s a picture of how he works his fictions. His stories are made out of one way glass.

Richard Marshall on Cortázar’s Fantomas versus the Multinational Vampires. An Attainable Utopia.

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