Saturday, August 28, 2021

Solid Gold

This blog has become very focused on astrology of late, which is not what I intended when I started it, but it's always a surprise which direction your own thought will take you. Now I should stress that astrology is of value to me not for its alleged ability to forecast the future (which is itself unfalsifiable) but in the archetypes it provides to model and shape reality. Once you understand these archetypes you begin to see them everywhere, and it is of course the archetype of Pluto that is the most indicative of post-war popular culture. Solid Gold was Gang of Four's masterpiece album, and its power, as with all the most resonant post-punk LP's, is in its Plutonianism, in its depiction of individuals being internally torn apart under the external pressure of social and economic forces. The tracks on the album are not so much songs as case studies, switching between objective descriptions of the drama unfolding (usually narrated by Andy GIll) and agonised subjective expressions of the resulting inner turmoil (sung by Jon King). Paralysed opens the record by recounting that most characteristic of early eighties experiences, redundancy, and the disorientating malaise of suddenly being deprived of a meaningful social role. Note how the music churns away in the background, like the march of progress, indifferent to the souls who are chewed up by the impersonal forces of history.

Why Theory? depicts banal domestic routines under the perpetual Sword of Damocles of the Cold War, and the underlying psychological disturbance that such a contrast must provoke. Once again, the crushing mass of the music, like bulldozers colliding underwater, summons the enormity of the forces involved, always just out of the view of protagonists within the song. "Distant thunder from the East/Won't disturb our morning car wash".

A Hole In The Wallet reflects the contemporary battle between the fading force (at least at this time) of patriarchy, and its substitution not with feminism, but with econometrics, as interpersonal relations become increasingly focused on money conflicts. Here we see the disinterested power of capitalism not just fracturing the individual, but also partnerships, as both men and women become calculating machines, perpetually totting up the costs and benefits of human interaction.

He'd Send In The Army is the album's finale, mainly vocalised by bassist Dave Allen, and is a merciless portrayal of patriarchy as a lingering sociopathology. This is the band at their blackest, heaviest and most Plutonian, the song structure positively creaking under the gravitational mass of that dark, alien planet. Also characteristically Plutonian is the sense of there being no relief or transcendence in the experience, that it must simply be endured, as though existence itself is a perpetual prison. In the archetype of Pluto the only way out is the next Plutonian struggle.

Bonus vid: they could also do it live:

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