Sir, That’s Not How It Works

Here’s a blog worth checking out: I Am Livid. I don’t have a perfect sense of the man and his manner yet — sometimes he comes across as just your ordinary grumpy wanker — but in his most recent post, which is a possibly true transcript of a phone call to the National Health Service, he is reaching for the dizzy heights of a Céline or a Jonathan Swift, and getting there. Or maybe the dizzy heights of a Chappelle.

Here’s a blog that has been on my blogroll for a while, but is really back on its feet thanks to an “energy healing.” It’s called The Oh Zone, and the newest post ends with a link to Tiga’s cover of the NIN song “Down In It.” You should probably download that song, and risk having miso get sued, because it brings back all those great memories from when industrial music was new and dirty and menacing, except it does it with the jaded-yet-nasal-yet-sensual vocals that everyone is doing now in imitation of Albarn (see also “Young Folks,” the song with whistling).

The key moment from Mr. Reznor:

Try to laugh about it now
But isn’t it funny how everything works out
“I guess the joke’s on me,” she said

I remember discovering, in my first year of grad school, the field of “object relations” psychoanalysis, which was invented by Melanie Klein. Klein would write these astonishing mini-plays with two characters, the Infant and the Object, where the Infant would say things like: “I hate you object. I will try to destroy you! I cannot destroy you! So now I love you, object.”

Obviously, infants are not thinking this. If you want to know what an infant is thinking, watch an episode of Teletubbies (Rueful hindsight: you should probably arrange to get paid for doing this, or else your friends will think you are very strange). Adults, however, do think this way about more abstract objects like ideals. In three lines, Reznor manages to sketch out a whole relationship in which the woman has made him cynical, and left them both bereft, because her cynicism was actually meant as a test similar to the Infant’s test of the Object. (This doesn’t have to be a heterosexual dynamic, or even a romantic one. In NIN it always is, in Tiga probably not, judging by his all-male call-and-response on “Hot in Herre.”) “Down In It” ends up being a story about a failed exorcism; Reznor comes to share her demons, and neither of them can manage a sincere laugh about it, with the repetition of “laugh…funny…joke” getting more and more disheartening.

There is some kind of subterranean sympathy, then, between miso ending the post with “Down In It,” and beginning with the actual account of an exorcism via the laying-on of hands, and the rising up of demons. The religious turn, and the placebo effect, are getting awfully close to one another: thanks, pantheistic self-help!

Finally, via Truly Outrageous, an analysis of Justin Timberlake by somebody in Florida, comparing him to Frank Sinatra. The style overlaps, quite deliberately, but I do object to this line: “ditching youth-oriented bands, embracing muscular pop.” First of all, Justin is not ditching the youth of America, and if Sinatra did so, it was a very mutual ditch. Second, you have to give Justin credit for using Timbaland, who is a certifiable genius and passably close to the cutting edge. Part of the appeal of Songs for Swingin’ Lovers was that it avoided the R&B influences that were crystallizing as the new rock sound, and I don’t like appeals made on that conservative basis.

It’s the wee small hours of the morning, so goodnight for now.

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