Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Here's another bit....

Welshian heroism.

In his cameo in “Trainspotting”* Irvine Welsh is wearing an Exploited t-shirt, but despite this seeming advocacy the band are noticeably missing from the film’s soundtrack, which is comprised of “cutting edge” Britpop tracks by the likes of Blur and Sleeper, a smattering of techno and some middle-brow classics by Iggy and Eno. The lumpen antagonism of The Exploited is too alienating and alienated, too politicized, to soundtrack the onscreen hi-jinks and bright-eyed enthusiasm for heroin addiction. Nonetheless, Welsh feels the need to wear it, a pennant of his deathless allegiance to/knowledge of a punk underground nowhere else glimpsed in the film.

A part of the Exploited’s micro-mystique is that they were one of the bands, along with Conflict, Discharge and the Subhumans who took punk in a different direction, away from its co-option by the mainstream, into a subaltern world of anarchist commitment. They weren’t fashionable, they weren’t post-punk in any of its currently understood senses, there were very few major labels sniffing round them, and besides, a part of their commitment demanded that they would tell them to fuck off. The Exploited signify a kind of anti-plastic-punk Real.

Yet in an essay Welsh published at the time, reprinted as part of the ten year anniversary DVD of Trainspotting, in which among other things he defends the decision to shoot Trainspotting in a non-realist fashion (about which more presently) he can name someone like Liam Gallagher as a working class hero.

Liam is a working class hero, not because he has directly done anything for/with the working class but precisely because he’s got away from them, he represents the working class not through any specific set of political positions, class politics having been, after all, relegated to the dustbin of history, but through his “attitude”, his mad-for-it hedonism, his straight talking, his punch ups, his mocking sarcasm, all nicely combined with his reverence for an unthreatening resurgent strand of contemporary Heritage culture, namely The Beatles.

Heroism, you would think, entailed some potential danger to or sacrifice on the part of the putative hero, some risk-taking: where is the heroism in getting rich and buying a mansion on the basis of a few mild epaterings of the bourgeoisie plus Trad-rock? Indeed, generally, shock was a sure career path in all forms of culture throughout the Nineties: in the newly tolerant Third way, it was a virtual demand of the system. Neo-Liberalism can’t prove its Neo or its Liberalism without it. Capitalism without conservatism is effectively that having your cake and eating it Welsh identifies in the essay, and for which the Novel’s most effective advocate is Sick Boy, in his rejection of the attachments and allegiances of old Labour and the Victorian stridency of Thatcherism.

“The socialists go on about your comrades, your class, your union and society. Fuck all that shite. The Tories go on about your employer, your country, your family. Fuck that even mair. It’s me, me, fucking me..”*

Working class heroism is Liam Gallagher’s heroism, as opposed to the evident non-heroism of defeated, uncool relics of the past like Scargill. With Trainspotting Welsh in no way changes the world he writes about but somehow, heroically reporting on it, representing it, raising it from invisibility into consciousness, better still into “coolness”, he has fulfilled a duty. In a post-Historical scenario in which the conservative notion of recognition rather than any dangerously disruptive notions of equality are in the ascendant then coolness is perhaps the greatest, if not only, gift to be bestowed upon the subaltern classes.

Welsh might read at the Edinburgh festival his character’s despise, he might appear in cameos in hip movies made of his work, he might amass a small fortune and own homes here, there and everywhere, sensibly choosing Life in its any-colour-so-long-as-it’s-Neo-Liberal variety but he will wear his Exploited t-shirt at all times as an authenticator of his attitude, of who he is inside. Having his cake and eating it, moneyed, comfortable but still underground and cool, still real.

They can’t buy your soul, man, and I’ve got a T-shirt that proves it.

* Ironically it’s exactly Welsh’s non-pretty boy panicked grimness of face and figure that punctures Trainspotting’s diegesis. Who’s this ugly bloke and what the fuck is he doing in this promo video for smack use? He appears to have wandered in from an entirely other dimension. Aha! Must be the writer!

**In the film, Sick Boy, played by the handsome Johnny Lee Miller wears a really rather nice suit and has a funky, Beckham-style haircut, somewhat unlike that of the average Edinburgh junkie circa 1986, but very post Reservoir Dogs and Three Lions friendly. He’s a more minor character than Renton who is less attractive, more uncertain, who admits finally to being a bad person but who finally gets out. Renton has, at least, the politesse to confess to his imperfections. Sick Boy is too nakedly, gloatingly avaricious and cynical to be the perfect proxy, there must be some dissembling show of humility as you rip off your friends. I am bad person, but you know, to be a winner, sometimes you have to be…..


the voice of parodic reason said...

carl when is your work for zero books coming out, all the others have already published their work ???

Anonymous said...

Excellent take on Boyle and the appeal of Trainspotting. Now that the 90s (just about) feel like they're in the past, how its mores were constructed is glaringly clear.

Trainspotting the movie was never about the 80s, or even heroin. It was about the mid-90s and the long, deluded ecstasy comedown ushered in by the rise of Blairism. All the (suspiciously posh-sounding) lead characters look and sound like E users, except Begbie - 'scary' working class beerboy and Peter Mullan's character, whose accent and age make him the dark 'representative' of the irredeemable underclass (drugs for him are business, not leisure).

I lived in Glasgow at the time, and its cute ravers were THE poster boys for (temporary) middle-class clubland drop-outs. They replaced Tarantino (and his neoliberal badlads-by-choice: check out the 'tipping' exchange at the beginning of Dogs) as the student poster du jour. In the 90s, the 'slumming' middle class badboy/minstrel (see also britpop, Ali G, Neo, gen X ad nausaem) was as ubiquitous as the Calvinistic demon from nowhere is now.

I remember once attending a talk by Welsh's publisher, where he 'radically' argued that Jekyll & Hyde was an allegory for Stevenson's cocaine habit - comparing him to that other slumming posho Trocchi. This during Glasgow's unprecedented gentrification/clearance. Keeping an eye on 'attitude' while mindful of property values indeed.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be negative, but wasn't it completely clear at the time that Trainspotting - like all of Welsh's novels - was simply class voyeurism served up by a gatekeeper who prided himself as having a foot in both social dimensions? (An older working class Glaswegian I once knew despised Welsh, saying he was simply a dilletante with no real connection to the 'schemie' lifestyle he portrayed other than the usual cultural tourism. A tryhard with some connection to a subculture can easily make a living selling it to tryhards with no connection to it - as happened throughout the last century and is still happening now). I agree with most of what you say but you are a bit late, and your tendentious occupation of the moral highground when it comes to Welsh's homes/income etc comes across as a bit green and fishy to me.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say I'm not the 2nd 'anonymous' who posted?

Bit of a strange criticism of Welsh to call him a 'dilletante' - by being published, marketed and made famous he's automatically removed from 'schemie' living. This even applies to novelists like Sillitoe and Kelman, who arguably had a more 'authentic' connection to the 'lifestyles' (ugh!) depicted.

And surely the post was more about the ideology of 'cool', as opposed to 'moral highground'?

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anonymous person to the anonymous people above. There seems to be a consensus to remain anonymous on this thread, and I think that's a good thing. We need to move beyond all these smug middle-class types who think that there's something really brave about having a Google ID, and, like, having an online personality. It's 2009 now - we need to get beyond this habit of tagging opinion to identity.

As to Irvine Welsh, my brain has the habit of identifying him with Alan McGee. Almost as if they are the same person. Whenever I see a picture of either one, my brain says "chippy bald immature middle-aged Scot with exploitative class/drug/rebellion fetish". I suppose one could argue that they have both been responsible for the occasional good thing, but at the end of the day they both seem to have had an overall negative effect. They seem to want to both turn back the clock and to glamorise drugging yourself to death.

Perhaps the culmintation of both their aesthetics would be for them to open a Regency period opium den somewhere in docklands, full of men with wigs and soot-faced children. Graham Greene said something about there being something terribly nostalgic about seediness, didn't he? I reckon he would have quickly got the measure of those two rubes.

Anonymous said...

I'm the anonymous who posted the 2nd comment - now you mention Mcgee, its striking how I always (falsely) assume oasis are on the trainspotting soundtrack. McGee hit paydirt with that arch 'force of conservatism' - rejecting the un-cost-effective MBV (slack, experimental, artistically ambitous, Irish, scruffy) for Liam, Noel, Ringo and Paul. It was indie getting rid of their own clause 4 in no uncertain terms - goodbye pretentious dolies looking for subcultural kicks - hello finance capital and the tabloids!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Welsh an estate agent too?

And McGee - he now makes his way around the great 'pop music education' scam - where no-talents learn to bland out, learn accounting and 'network'! That our current sorry charts are now clogged with these drama/pop school twerps shows he's keen to deliver the final stake in the heart of British pop.

In the words of another ruinous, cynical 90s abomination: good work fella!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - great post!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 - Anonymous #3 here. I think your reference to Clause 4 is very appropriate, as obviously one can see the Welsh/McGee nexus as being New Labour in microcosm. i.e. neoliberal values masked by a simulacrum of working class authenticity.

It's one of the least remarked aspects of the final nausea-inducing blow-out of neoliberalism that it's grossest excesses have come from those parts of the country that were supposed to be most resistant (or even hostile) to it. All the banking failures came from either Scottish or northern English institutions.

It's as though all that resentment of the Tories over the decades was not because of pit closures, but because they didn't allow 24 hour drinking or Bid-Down TV

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:

Do you realise that with all the class-conscious cultural critique, we're starting to read like a James Kelman character having an internal babble?

Ah well - at least Kelman wasnae some slimy New Labour cunt. Aye.

Anyway, you're right about how these neoliberal/pseudo-badboy/estate agent/cool britannia/tabloid friendly/heritage industry/crack america/northern southerners (deep breath) managed to reduce anti-Thatcherism to liking coke, getting pissed, 'ironic' sexism and being a bit more nice about gays (conspicuously WHITE though).

Anonymous said...

... and if you're appalled that so much of this shite came from the 'resistant' north, you should see the state of Liverpool lately - Boys from the Blackstuff to Hollyoaks via the Duke of Westminster... and Derek Hatton's in P.R!

Anonymous said...

Which reminds me of a third figure to complete the Welsh/Mcgee trinity: editor James Brown - loves The Clash and Public Enemy, but sacked from GQ for Nazi fashion spreads. Or what about Damien Hirst? Enfant terrible of a bad joke concocted by Saatchi - now suing teenagers for infringement of copyright. Nice little earner, geezer!

Welsh, Hirst and Mcgee were of course big favourites in Brown's mags too. The model of 'new lad'.

Anonymous said...

Actually Damien Hirst puts me in mind of Oswald Spengler's "The Decline Of The West" (1923), in which he posited that the final stage of western art would be characterised by the intellectuals having little left to say, and an exhausted vocabulary with which to say it.

He predicted that the first attempt to keep the show on the road would be via miscegeny with "primitive" art forms previously considered inferior (I guess everything from Picasso's Cubism to the Led Zeppelin can be included in this stage).

As this last ditch effort ran out of mileage, he earmarked the very last pathetic gasps of the culture as consisting of nothing more than recycling, nihilism, shock effects and irony.

Damien Hirst in a nutshell, in other words.

It amuses me greatly that what Spengler considered would be the very last worthless dregs of the thousand-year span of Western culture, is now considered by various excitable retards as "cutting edge".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me, I thought my increasing reluctance to go the cinema, buy CDs etc. was just from being a grumpy old git!

But I do think the tiredness and desperation of so much in western culutre does signify a wider decline - maybe we should take a tip from that other chirpy doom-monger James Lovelock, and look forward to the good ideas that could arise from horrific catastrophe!

(Anonymous 2)

Anonymous said...

I was 11 years old in 1980, and I thought that it was the natural scheme of things that everytime I watched Top Of The Pops or listened to the Top 40, I would see/hear something mind-blowingly weird and unprecedented. Turns out I was very wrong.

A bit like the yoof nowadays who think/thought that the economy only ever expands, in order to rain down a constant drizzle of cool gadgets.


Anonymous said...

I'm the second anonymous who the 1st anonymous wanted to disassociate himself with.

Welsh never was a schemie - in that sense he was a dilletante schemie. So your rather fatous point about success removing him from the schemie lifestyle doesn't really apply.

Continuing your habit of stating the obvious and being inaccurate at the same time, you misunderstand me again - I'm not saying the post is 'about' the moral highground (all though I'm not so sure it's about the 'ideology of cool' or some other vague notion you have of it). I was saying that the blogger - and many of the other comments - are dripping with a sense of what is essentially a moral superiority to anyone who is financially successful. It's interesting to me that people find it difficult to criticize the 90's 'new lads' without bringing their success/money into the equation, usually through a scathing aside - no doubt you could argue this is because the notion of financial success was integral to the Blairite project,
but I think it also has a lot to do with the critics being convulsed with the class envy and sense of middle aged alienation that many of the new lads peers who weren't so successful in the 90's carry around with them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I see my use of the word 'lifestyle' disgusts your inner pompous prose stylist (I love that prim little 'Ugh!' - ) - it's perfectly valid in this context though - the film and Welsh's books are just the aestheticization of observed experience - lives stylised. This is 'new laddism' to a T. Mike Skinner is it's logical conclusion.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that people find it difficult to criticize the 90's 'new lads' without bringing their success/money into the equation, usually through a scathing aside - no doubt you could argue this is because the notion of financial success was integral to the Blairite project,
but I think it also has a lot to do with the critics being convulsed with the class envy and sense of middle aged alienation that many of the new lads peers who weren't so successful in the 90's carry around with them.

Pertinent, but inevitable really though, isn't it?

It's difficult to believe that the success/money that these people achieved was earned by anything more (or less) than social skills and adept media positioning.

The 90's were full of not-especially-talented people who seemed to come to the fore against equally mediocre peers for no special reason. Jarvis Cocker is another example. As is Tracey Emin.

This kind of lottery-of-fate/coking-with-the-right-producer is bound to stoke resentment, no matter who it is who rises to the top.

(new anon btw.)

Anonymous said...

I'm anonymous 2, who brought up Kelman, Hirst and Brown later on. To the new (suspiciously NuLab) 'anonymous' - my class resentment may come more from lower middle-class wideboys constructing an (ugh!) 'underclass' schtick to find favour with the more powerful products of neoliberalism, especially with patrons like Saatchi and Conde Naste.

I couldn't give fuck about 'envy' - the brickie next door earns far more than me, but he doesn't pimp poverty porn or badboy bullshit to the style mags and then act like he's the voice of rebellion.

Back to literature - Kelman and Alasdair Gray are of highly enviable talent, and I wish them every success; but (post) Blair Britain knows very well they're not as 'marketable' as dross like Welsh, Kevin Sampson and the shabby pop videos they make for their 'demographic'. The whole caboodle has found its end point in Danny Dyer, Ross Kemp frottaging 'our boys' and the latest pair of tits in Zoo magazine.

Anonymous said...

Anon no 2 back at it again...

I think Zoo magazine is really just a desperate attempt to save adolesencts from developing an internet based hard porn addiction... with soft porn...

And the envy I referred to wasn't just financial - - it's far more to do with visibility. After all, we're still talking about these 'not especially talented' people now....especially talented anonymous individuals on the internet that we are. The bloggers had to resort to blogs to have their say...hence the rancor in their retrospective think-pieces

Anonymous said...

...However this rancor is entirely justifed, if not by envy alone...while there's no doubt the 90's wasn't the first decade in which a lot of talentless cunts became unjustly famous, it was a highpoint in terms of profligate smugness and lack of humility. But that's cocaine for you...

Anonymous said...

Even Cheri Blair was in on it!

To the other anonymous - your level of argument reminds of being 13:

'I just saw Rocky 4 last night and it was shit. Sylvester Stallone is shit'.

'You're just jealous 'cos he's dead rich. When have you ever made a film? Eh? Eh?'.

... this kind of argument was common in both the right-wing press and 80s playgrounds...

(the smarter anonymous)

Anonymous said...

Back to Welsh - his success relies on the most profitable readership you can get - the sub-literate ie. people who only read one book a year (if that). See also Elizabeth Wurtzel, Brett Easton Ellis and Douglas Coupland for other gen X sub-lit favourites (the titles usually give them away - song titles, loaded buzzwords, work well as film titles etc.) 'Hey kids! Don't worry! All your friends will read it too!'

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #3 here again.

I kind of suspect that the real problem with the '90's thrusters we've already mentioned is an underlying post-modern prioritising of "lifestyle" and novelty over craft.

I've seen it remarked very often (for example) about how contemporary bands are especially useless in the studio - at how autotune is now almost de rigeur and how the dense production style (and consequent reduction in dynamic range) is partly there to hide multitudes of musical sins.

The idea of spending years on the treadmill honing your craft has become deeply unfashionable, Daddio, but I think that that ineffable sense of lacked-quality, while often difficult to pin down on individual works, has a more pervasive presence in the macro-culture.

I'm not quite able to fully put my finger on this yet, but I think there is a underlying process in which post-modernism devalues skill, which then opens the door to artistic chancers, who then justify their mediocrity by an appeal to democratisation, which in itself has to be rooted in working-class, or pseudo-working-class past.

It's the victory of "authenticity" over authenticity.

Anonymous said...

THis is the stupider anonymous - although - is this really the case?

If you read back what I was saying, what I was saying was that it seems that the blogger (and others) can't seem to criticize certain people without bringing their money into it. They're not WRONG because they're jealous. But the obvious overtones of jealousy are worth noting and criticizing in themselves, distinct from other more substantial criticisms.

I can safely say I never accused anyone of insulting Stallone because he was rich and they were jealous in a play ground in the 1980's. So perhaps it was more common at your school.

To the far more intelligent than either me or the other anonymous anonymous above - I think I agree with you - there was a real sense in the 90's (and now) that a degree of lowest common denominator popularity exempted art from criticism. The broadsheet culture guides (OMM music monthly etc) expanded on this with the whole 'Girls Aloud must be interesting because they're popular' approach, the overtone being that dismissing them as just a load of shit would be to identify yourself as some kind of namby-pamby, pretentious intellectual. Hip-hop is the greatest exemplar of this process - witness many many talented artists being ignored in favour of Lil Wayne, rappers such as Eminem (who is admittedly ery talented) being lionized at the expense of other equally talented artists, having pieces written on him by the princess of patronisation Zadie Smith. In fact, Xadie Smith's another one - literature for people who need to read a magazine article about a book before they read the book.

Anonymous said...

TO comment on the auto-tune - useless in the studio bands - this is palpably true. A casual look at the charts nowadays reveals a dearth of even the most basic song craft and talent...contemporary r and b music, for instance is almost like punk all over again - they can't sing, and they're music is made using the most basic settings/lopps/quanitizations on music programs a child could use...not in itself a bad thing, but when this technical inability is married to a lack of any original ideas, things get bad.
What was the last good pop record?

Anonymous said...

This is the allegedly intelligent anonymous.

Expanding on my point about quality, I'm wondering if there is some kind of ontological connection we can make with regard to artistic quality and credit (money), and perhaps politics and credit (money).

I tend to suspect that there is a connection between e.g. Kaiser Chiefs and IKEA. i.e. one makes "landfill indie" and the other makes landfill furniture (furniture that is designed with a stunted useful life). It would seem to me that demand for both these poor-quality phenomena is dependant upon cheap, easily-obtainable money.

If we went back to the levels of demand common in the 1960's, an LP record would have made a substantial dent in the average wage, and so the very least that any potential purchaser would expect would be for the band, to a fairly proficient degree, to be able to play their instruments. A certain patina of professionalism would therefore be an attractive trait. Similarly, with very little access to credit, the average worker would want a piece of furniture of sufficient build quality to be worth the investment of their labour.

However, if someone obtains money cheaply (liar loan or house price inflation, for example), the sense of having to make a sacrifice in order to purchase a good means that there could well be a reduced fastidiousness in choosing what that money is spent on. The purchase becomes more instinctive, less considered.

This obviously feeds back to politics, as for all the supposed ideological baggage that neoliberalism is thought to carry, I think ultimately it is a fancied-up form of procrastination i.e. it is really the politico-economic process in which clapped-out Western countries avoid making productive but painful structural reforms to their economies via the means of ever-degrading lending standards.

This satisfies my own instinctive sense that contemporary pop culture is corrupted, or at least indicative of a corrupt wider politics.

Anonymous said...

This is the truly wise and enlightened anonymous, who was traumatised by the mindless worship of money and power for its own sake in 80s playgrounds, which itself sowed the seeds for the culturally and spiritually bankrupt brand/celeb/bad credit/whoremongering/tech-fetish culture we now suffer today.

Who funnily enough also used to argue for the virtues of hiphop while the other kids refused to consider it 'real' music like Whitesnake or Big Country. Who now thinks that hiphop's all-pervasive influence on popular culture has proven disastrous - which combined with the year zero of 'Thriller' turned black American music (once the pinnacle of popular culture) into a dead-eyed wing of fashion advertising. Who isn't even certain if Beyonce is a human being, rather than a robot arse with a CGI pretty woman attached to it (despite having a computer programme istead of a voice, she still sounds crap).

In this milieu, artistic worth is impossible to gauge. If you can hold a microphone and rant about how your gonna shag my wife and/or miss your mum for five minutes and then be called a 'genius', the only worth is money, which ironically enough has proved to be rather worthless anyway!

Anonymous said...

Just remembered another 90s 'hero':

Howard Marks! How the lad mags loved him! He makes millions dealing ('nice') drugs, but he's posh and (supposedly) didn't nail anyone to the floor while applying a blowtorch to their scrotum! He's involved in single issue politics! He hangs out with rock bands! He hardly paid any tax! He 're-hashes' his grubby career at festivals! He brands himself 'Mr. Nice'! He was in 'Human Traffic' AND and upcoming (flop) Welsh adaptation! HE'S GONNA BE PLAYED BY FUCKIN' RHYS IFANS IN A (flop) MOVIE!

He's the epitome of cool britannia - rich, dull, Oxbridge but bit of a wide-o, rich, self-branding, peddling his tired bod boy schtick.

But maybe I'm just jealous.

(his enlightened, wise self the Dalai Anonymous)

Anonymous said...

you're definitly jealous, but you're not JUST jealous - you're ALSO RIGHT

Re: pop culture and wider politics as corrupted - I agree and instinctivly sense something similar - not corrupted, but devalued...

Did you see the recent GQ awards? Best director - Guy Ritchie. Best politican - George Osbourne. Chosen by Dylan whatsisface the editor of GQ - a soaring mediocrity to rank with the 90's best. It's not over

Anonymous said...

Can't believe Howard Marks is still shopping himself around in this way.

Anonymous said...

How about a film about Howard Marks, scripted by Irvine Welsh, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Rhys Ifans, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry (as his gay Oxbo tutor), Bill Nighy, Anna Friel and Keith Allen, with wardrobe by Dylan Jones, music by Kaiser Chiefs, Primal Scream, Graham Coxon, Lou Reed, Maximo Park and Badly Dressed Boy VS. Lily Allen with some special walk-on parts for Damien Hirst, Gordon Ramsey, a member of The Clash and Roy Chubby Brown?


(feel free to add any essential names I missed)

Anonymous said...

We wouldn't make a fortune, cos we've had loads of brit film flops featuring Groucho club circle jerks - the 'public' isn't interested. Of course its all about the tax breaks, innit?

Would need some rewrites from Richard Curtis: so Ken Stott saying 'och ye wee cunt, where's ma fuckin' smack?' can become Simon Pegg saying 'I jolly bloody well fucking could do with some fucking drugs right now' (cue for laughter from the three taxpayers in the audience).

Of course Dylan Jones and Michael Gove will hail it as a renaissance in British cinema.

Anonymous said...

Anyone displaying one iota of charisma in the above masterpiece can look forward to having Daniel Craig kicking him to death in 3-D for fifteen minutes in the next Bond movie, all the while hoping he can beat Johnny Depp for the lead in the forthcoming Ian Brady biopic.

Professional philistines Mark Commode and Johnny Woss will hail the scene as the iconic moment of the decade.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we could get JK Rowling to write it. She's very talented.

"Howard Marks and the Muggles Of Doom" or something.

He deals drugs in a posh private school run by wizards and a suspiciously Scottish Robbie Coltrane.

I dunno, shit happens. With dragons. Super Furry Animals are the school band.

There's a poignant gay vignette to show that this is diverse and modern and not really from the pre-liberal 1950's.

Stephen Fry does an appalling cameo.

Et voila!

Anonymous said...

We should get JK Rowling to get her cash card card as a stimulus package. I'm sure China's getting sick of bailing us out.

Howard could also do his bit for the economy too - he could solve the youth unemployment problem by selling stoned drop-outs on the groovy career path of your daddy putting you through Oxford, hanging out with a plethora of gangsters and secret agents, avoiding most of the shit that comes with the trade, then boring the nation for twenty years with tales of your exploits. oh wait a minute... he already has...

Subcommandante Anonymous

The Grain said...

As regards Liam Gallagher ...

Surely, the boorish, petulant, nursery-school existentialist side has been emphasised enough? The orthodox view is of a moronic, working-class scrapper (much like that awful neo-snobbish notion of 'Chavvery') hence Welsh's defence comes as a rare encomium.

The bargain-bin Lennonry ('I'm free to be whatever I choose') was only ever half the story with Oasis. Looked at more sympathetically, their whole raison d'etre was predicated on very un-Sick Boy notions of community and togetherness - the whole essence of their art contained in the lines 'maybe you're the same as me / we see things they'll never see'.

Obviously, it was N. Gallagher who actually wrote the lyric. But Liam sung it, and sung it well. Maybe he's not a working-class hero taken on his own (and he certainly very quickly became something like the antithesis of one) but surely Oasis in their early days were the epitome of working-class heroism because of this bipolar orientation, this passionate iteration of the 'two-ness' embodied in this (symbolic and real) grounding in brotherhood?

See also 'Acquiesce' - 'we need each other / we believe in one another'. Whether or not you think the vast anti-Thatcherite social resonance of this sort of thing excuses its lack of eloquence, this is very far from individualism/atomism that Renton ultimately sides with, and surely worthy of 'heroic'.

Anonymous said...

'Bipolar orientation"? You're fulla shit - not least because you're displaying 'your' name. Due to your failure to realise that Oasis are utterly a priori shit and a pox on anyhthing that gave life to British pop cuutlure, its clear that its nulab/neocon/neolibs like you that just don't get 'it' (by which I mean ANYTHING).

Anonymous said...

OK - maybe that was unfair. Maybe you're not an idiot but Oasis truly were the epitome of all the new idiocy that presented itself as 'heroism'. Working class heroes my arse - they leeched off all the hit bits of 60s 'brit invasion', calcified the pop charts and gave it a royal seal by partying with a mass murderer who made the Belgrano atrocity look like a picnic in comparison ie. scum. Blur are/were shit too. In fact, even some of the stuff that appeared 'life-changing' at the time sounds like pretty thin gruel now ('Maxinequaye', 'Timeless', 'Dummy', 'Different Class'). The 90s 'zeitgeist' was the con that marked us with now.

Anonymous said...

Another point I can't quite avoid: the introduction of the National Lottery in the same season of Britart, Parklife, Timeless, Pulp Fiction, Definitely Maybe and Boyle's first film 'Shallow Grave' ie. the random pot of money that defeats all consideration of aesthetics, class, loyalty, sex and identity. Has the ideological impact of Major's only lasting influence ever been evaluated?

Anonymous said...

... and the death of Kurt Cobain coinciding with the first issue of Loaded - it was a long, weird summer...

Alex Niven said...

But Oasis were working class ...?

OK their influence might have been pernicious in almost every way imaginable, but surely underneath all the inanity and the turgidness and the plagiarism was a more long-standing cultural identity reaching back way before the immediate nineties context.

Most of their back-catalogue is atrocious but in the good stuff - Live Forever, Champagne Supernova - there's a deal of pathos in the sound of this older notion of working class pride/heroism eliding right there and then with its opposite ie. Thatcherism.

Surely Trainspotting is also feeding off the vast sadness of this, with its elegiac glance over the shoulder at a world that no longer exists. Renton tries to make a go of it with his friends, but in the end decides there's no such thing as society after all. There might be a momentary thrill in his 'fuck the lot of you' decision but there's no mistaking the pessimism there too.

There's a distinct sort of mid-nineties surface optimism underwritten with melancholy in both cases.

Anonymous said...

I don't quite see it in Oasis - not least because the lyrics are cut'n'paste gibberish largely about 'nothing' (the other great theme of the 90s). Also, their 'performance' of (white, clannish, unimaginative, yobbish and smug) working class 'identity' is as culturally damaging and reactionary as The Sun's construction of 'working class culture'.

An attitude that finds it apotheosis (apothoasis?) in Casuals United and the English Defence League. Or on a less ominous level, the reconstruction of 'indie' as a British Legion of conservative boozy white boys with guitars - such a 'closed shop' they make Half Man Half Biscuit look like Miles Davis.

And before I'm accused of 'snobbery', let me me point out that I'm very working class (if not 'underclass'), but probably the kind of working class that is now ignored by the media, New Labour and its dancing monkeys like Irvine Welsh or Oasis; despite the continuing onslaught against access to education, affordable housing etc.

Anonymous said...

in response to this "Working class heroes my arse - they leeched off all the hit bits of 60s 'brit invasion', calcified the pop charts and gave it a royal seal by partying with a mass murderer who made the Belgrano atrocity look like a picnic in comparison ie. scum."

What makes a working class hero? Surely just being an example to relate to - just attitude. Leeching is irrelevant, they did what they set out to do, plain and simple. It's apolitical.

As hard as it is to separate what Oasis are now, from what they were, I can't think of a more apt musical comparison to the Sickboy position of - “ Fuck all that shite. The Tories go on about your employer, your country, your family. Fuck that even mair. It’s me, me, fucking me..” - than Liam Gallagher.

This rejection of the political and apparent self-centered solipsism doesn't make Gallagher any less of a working class hero

Anonymous said...

... which brings me to another point: these Jolly 90s Jack Tarrs were instrumental in bringing an 'irrereverent' re-invention of racism and misogyny. The endless silicone breasts on the mag shelves and 00s boom in blatant 'mainstream' racism isn't a million miles away from Noel's comments on Glastonbury, 'Vindaloo' (one of the biggest Groucho-wanks of the decade) and Welsh's circular yob narratives.

Anonymous said...

Just spotted the cover to Chris Evans' latest 'book' - which apes the design of the 'Trainspotting' poster!

Never match the class of this bloke:


... who I don't even like anyway! But at least he 'made his bones'.

Anonymous said...

Wogan is the product of a better time

Anonymous said...

Well, not better. Just less corrupted by 'cool' (remember when chat show hosts actually asked questions and then waited for the guest's answer?)

Compare this:


To this:


Both shit, of course, but only one fills me with resentment and regret... remember 'irony' and 'cool' were pretty big in the Weimar Republic!

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