Friday, 27 November 2009

Zero Books - recommendations

Just received this today, before its supposed date of publication! 300 or so pages, 23 writers, including many vital voices:

Some more fine work from a publisher that doesn't talk down to its readers, nor intimidates. Accessible, eloquent polemics for these times:

'Where have the interesting women gone?'

A European Modernism reclaimed and asserted

'A ruthless portrait of our ideological misery'

N.P. The Jacksons, 'Show You the Way to Go' (1976)


  1. Three more days to go (at the time of your post)?

  2. Nearly finished this book; broad-ranging, insightful, so many aspects and approaches. Just started on the Penman chapter.

  3. It's been a while!

    Who is Penman, any reputation?

    And what about some of the other writers and their opinions?

  4. Penman - a writer before my time, but truly of my time in the sense that he was part of the NME/Melody Maker continuum of intelligent musical criticism that did not talk down to its audience. He had an excellent blog a few years back, and older pieces I have read have always been enlightening.

    Opinions? Well, there are some value judgements on the various eras of Jackson's music, but more of the focus is on diagnosis (Jackson as 'symptom' of wider developments in free-market capitalism and the modern media culture), than straightforward music crit. Emphasis is on telling moments and their pertinence to large issues. It is refreshingly varied and experimental in form; Chris Roberts' tragicomic piece ('True Enough: Michael in fifty shards') is a fragmentary short story / biography made up of key moments and impressions. Sad and surreally amusing in equal measure. Robin expresses how Jackson mattered to Britain and how he influenced / embodied 1980s developments and symbolised the move into a self-centred, amnesiac, Americanised culture. Mark Fisher highlights the key moment of 'Billie Jean''s use to sell pepsi, and MJ's move into agent of a post-Fordist/Motown capitalism. Marcello Carlin's essay is a wise reflection upon why he mattered as a pop star. Tom Ewing excellent in exploring Jackson's under-analysed 'Kingdom', the wider pop context. there is an article on his resonance in India, his film career, etc. etc. Stubbs rails against the 'King' and what he became - brilliantly funny close reading of his lyrics for 'We are the World' - mournful that the music degenerated and people still listened, rather than to Arthur Russell. Mark Sinker elegantly destablisises the media and critical consensus... Overall, a cumulative and elegiac sense of the 1979-82 period as a window of infinite possibility amid broader chaos, decay and . The Dangerous era following on from 'We are the World' as the epitome of post-communism Liberal capitalism at its zenith. The Jackson career showing the outer limits that pop could inhabit - someone who became more and less than human.

    Interesting focus on the Jacksons' record following "Off the Wall", "Triumph" (1980), which I was barely aware of. Several articles get me wanting - incredibly - to listen to some of the later records, as the masks slips; the fun turning to anger - the utopia becoming instead a trap; a Neverland. 'A door marked nevermore' indeed.