Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Month: June 2015

The Cure – Seventeen Seconds

Welcome to album number two for The Cure. After the short and sharp post-punk of Three Imaginary Boys, this record is quite a dynamic leap in the dismally grand direction the band is renowned for. Seventeen Seconds is the first of what many fans consider a great trilogy (the Dark Trilogy) of goth records. This LP is more reflective than goth, and the theme seems to be quiet moments alone rather than threnodies to gloom and eschatology. If threnodies are your thing, then their next album Faith fits that bill nicely.

Fittingly for a reflective record, the first track is called A Reflection, an oddly unsettling instrumental piece that leads into the slightly churning Play For Today, which was released as a single. The instrumentation is pleasingly sparse with nothing truly blurring or obscuring anything else. Despite the simple arrangements, there’s plenty of atmosphere and mystery with each track, especially on the patently weird Three and the approaching sinister At Night.

The strangest it gets on the record is the standout single A Forest, which doesn’t so much sound like being in a forest than it does being stranded on some stark, alien landscape. Somewhat fittingly, I was reading Jack Vance‘s Planet of Adventure foursome when I first heard this song, specifically the bit in The Dirdir where Adam Reith and his companions are being hunted in the Carabas. So I’ve always equated the song, magnificent as it is, with a faraway strange place.

A quiet, moody record for quiet, moody times.

seventeen seconds lp cover

Set adrift on an endless day (prose)

This is a piece of experimental prose I did for uni.


That morning

As he stormed down the hall of the house of no reason, a thought kept going through his mind. Is it truly going to be an endless day? His lover, the great mermaid of the deep blue had warned him yesterday it was to be so. An endless day or an endless dawn, where noon never came? Alliterative assonances all arrayed, he thought. So he went out into the bright morn – that morn that putatively would always be – and saw his quarry on the rocks. So much like a Tenniel illustration, thinks he, as she sits there with webbed hands on scaly lap, her eyes fixed upon the ceaseless ocean beneath them. Perhaps she’s a Millais or a Waterhouse; a pre-Raphaelite’s dream, or a van Gogh, all ultramarine and dazzling yellows. No, she’s none of the above; she’s just a mermaid half-in and half-out of her element.

Would my mermaid mind so much if I sat with her today? Especially since today was never going to end. No, says she, you may sit with me and there will be no turning into sea foam this evening, my dear, for there will be no evening. This day is never going to progress past the zenith, the sun won’t ascend any more than a quarter up the springtime sky.

Think about this, she challenges him. Can you do the Fra Lippo Lippi without an e? With your lips, sir, can you speak sensibly with elision? Give it a good try, and make it obscure, please. With this eternal daylight upon us, some darkness is needed. So he gave it his best.

The morning progresses- the Fra Lippo Lippi Lipogram

Obscurantism is a good thing, a man thinks. What good is obscurantism without a mermaid on a rock, loving and holding us with mirth and laughs? Is it logic to call it obscurantism if said mermaid could walk tall such as womankind can? What if our happy days spiral down in a tailspin? What logic is this? Non-logic, obscurantist logic, occult logic, minor arcana, major arcana. Things that avoid common wit is what it is. Mermaid? Obscurantism? Non plus ultra! Throw a Latina into your lipogram, la!

A droll moment in this bright new world

That was superb, says the mermaid. I would say to you that this endless days begets a certain madness, what do you say? I would also say that my little friend has come to join us. See, there he is:

The redoubtable Lenny Face: ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°).

I think he finds this new and eternal day a jar to his system, but I told him to screw his sticky place to the cowardice. Or have I got that wrong?

The interpunct

When ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) walked outside to see the mermaid with the man, he shrugged, a little like this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Ordinarily ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) would be happy to greet the new day, for what did Tolkien say in his epic? “Dawn is forever the hope of men”. But ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) was non-plussed that the day was never going to end. What kind of day never ends, thinks he? What sort of sun never ascends to the zenith, to never wester into a sad sunset? It’s not natural, he thinks. So what did ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) do next? Did he ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ or did he ಠ_ಠ?

To shake a spear

There is a method to my madness, says the man to the mermaid, and I’ve screwed my courage to the sticking place. It’s the better part of valour, says the mermaid, to remain full fathom five, for the world is not going to go through the winter of its discontent. Not with this endless morning; it sets my teeth on edge. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) chimes in, what’s done is done and I’d rather shuffle off this mortal coil but not while the world is my oyster. Oh phooey, says the man, ill met by moonlight, I say but let’s make a necessity of this brave new world. Slings and arrows! cries the mermaid, I think you all protest too much. We are now all masters of our fates and thereby hangs a tale.

What would we do?

It is not the road most travelled, in truth in one no man, mermaid or symbol has ever traversed before in anyone’s history. It is a strange road; the one that leads to the headland where they all sit and greet the endless dawn. If one is faced with the prospect of a last sunrise, what would one think and do? There is a feeling that madness is close by, a reaction to this great and terrible affliction of unnaturalness. One could revel in it, drink it in like it was an elixir of distilled craziness. An eternal era of unhinged abandon. It would be a peace of a kind, dropping headfirst into insanity, shedding all responsibility in one’s life. What better way to delve into that surrealism by sharing it with a mermaid? Was she not a symbol of the elusive in the workaday world? Something seen on the periphery of sanity by sailors, starved of love and health? But here she is, reclining on her rock as if she always had been part of its topology, its very shape. She is as true and solid as the frozen sun in the dawn sky. It is there forever too, no regrets, no apologies and foul is fair.

Such was the situation they faced in that never-ceasing dawn. Should they remain lucid – sophrosyne, to use a lovely and fancy Greek word? Or delve into the depths of folly? Perhaps give themselves over to the marlin part of their brains and run amok on the beach like those taken leave of their senses. Every option was full of pluses and minuses – to be or not to be in that undiscovered country. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) felt that lunacy was their best course. After all, look at him, an indiscernible symbol that defied logical explanation. He was already halfway to being moonstruck, even if the moon was not about to strike him again. For it had set, never to rise. All three of them only had the sun for solace now.
What was this trio to do?

Sophrosyne

Sophrosyne: a word that means clear-minded, the man says to the mermaid, and if one is clear-minded then it logically follows that everything else will become clear; your health, your spirit, your animus, your psyche, all of it. This new endless day is the epitome of lucidity. Let us not devolve into a primal state of madness as I fear we will never return from its dark, far shores. Time to take a morning walk in the endless dawn. Crocuses, mat-rushes, frogs and newts all greet them at the water’s edge, where green grow the rushes and the rest is not quite silence. The burbling waters do not hiss them into madness; on the contrary they provide a calming rest, and augment the clearness that lays before them. Even ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) is enjoying the serenity of this inevitability. He has finally come to terms with his symbolic enigma and needs neither to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ or ಠ_ಠ .

So in that moment the house of no reason gains reason. The man glances back at his house, as real and meaningful as the eternal dawn before him. His mermaid smiles, her teeth glinting in the dawn light. Everything is clear now. Limpid. Lucid. All the murk has been swept away, the e’s have been elided, the lipids have been lipogrammed.

The Church – After Everything Now This

Well OK, with this record, The Church have released what is effectively their most blah piece of work. Repeated listens haven’t revealed the undercurrents and nuances that normally pervade any good Church record. It’s a consistently reflective and calm effort that swoons by without ever taking hold. Songs like The Awful Ache and Chromium mix things up a bit but not to the point where it offers the record refreshing variety, because quite simply, variety doesn’t exist here.

After Everything Now This is record number twelve and comes three years after their covers LP Box of Birds and, more tellingly, a year before one of their better outings in the excellent Forget Yourself. Maybe the memo went out to start mixing the formula again after this record. Yet, this isn’t to say After Everything Now This is a bad album – it’s not. It’s full of the usual suspect Church ingredients but rather than sugar, it’s been replaced by saccharine here. Or stevia. I’d like to think it was stevia actually.

But this record is for completionists only, of which I am one. A new fan of The Church eagerly delving into their wonderful discography should skip this one for the nonce. There are better records from this band to begin a grand adventure in neo-psychedelic ecstasy.

after everything now this

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