Apologies again this month, as for the first time in 5 years (although it’s been touch-and-go a few times) I’ve missed a monthly moan. No, that’s not a cryptic way of saying I might be pregnant or something, I’ve merely had to miss out reviewing a gig for July. All my own fault as I’ve moved house and the notepad I had for The Displacements gig went AWOL during the move before I’d had a chance to transcribe it, so sorry and all that, but there it is. Call it a summer holiday if you like. Besides, you wouldn’t really have wanted my opinion on it anyway, so let’s just say that it was the most godawful silage from a band that would improve the world around them by having their knees grafted onto their foreheads, set on fire and sent rolling off a high precipice onto rusty spikes, although support act Us And Them are certainly worth checking out, and be done with it. OK? Good. Believe it if you have a mind to.
Tonight though, with the climax of the Local & Live festival happening in The Pantiles and our very own Night Without Sleep creating merry Hell among the bewildered locals as supportive canine howls relay among the crowd, we’re low on bodies and high on apathy. I can’t understand it, personally. Not the turnout because that’s obvious, but the fact that people who have made an effort to pay to get in (while a street party is rippling away outside) seem to go out of their way to be surly and unappreciative. It’s like a convention for the socially inept to swap tips on how to be fascinatingly sullen and withdrawn. But hey, whatever floats their boat. As for everyone else, well, you can hardly blame ‘em for wanting to enjoy the last rain-free evening of the summer, outside amid all the fun, especially when in addition to free entertainment they’ll also get free lavishly packaged CDs, can buy their drinks from The Ragged (have we shamelessly plugged The Forum’s associated watering-hole The Ragged Trousers very much on these pages? It’s where Forum folk go to be ‘normal’. Lovely food, fine beer, good sounds, etc, and The Boy Lawrence pulling pints. Just don’t tackle the stairs while drunk) and can enjoy the luxury of sitting down on chairs, smoking, like they used to be able to do in the olden days. Eeee…when I were a lad…
So, it’s just the sort of elitist evening on which those wacky guys from Unlabel thrive, bless ‘em. There’s a chap in a pig mask (it could be Leon but it’s difficult to tell) screaming and squealing like one that’s being fed backwards into a bacon slicer, while another in a chicken mask (Allan from JATA, I think) makes odd electronic noises and rhythms, while someone else in a donkey mask batters the keyboards. It’s virtually improvised nonetheless, and really just an excuse for some mischief and mayhem, seeing what happens as they allow whatever rhythm they find among themselves to grow and mutate in an orgy of randomly skitterish angry noise and death metal shrieks.
Pretty awesome stuff if you like that kind of thing, no doubt. I don’t though, sorry, which is probably a positive endorsement of some kind when I think about it. To my wimpy ears it’s a bewilderingly unpleasant, sadistic, excruciating din, roughly akin to the highly amplified sound of thousands of nuts and bolts spinning around in a washing machine, while a broken synth goes bonkers and pig-man impersonates the cries of a demon boiling in a vat of hot mucus. But as I contemplate this, the angry young monster stomps around the floor until he eventually snaps into ‘charge!’ mode, grabs my pen and hurls it across the room. Twice. So sorry if I can’t say anything more descriptive about their twenty minutes of electro carnage, but hey, nothing to scribble with, so there you go. I daresay that this audio-terrorism is rather good, because there are enough people willingly enduring this ghastly hullabaloo, trying to get into the vibe, but personally, I found it so painful that I ground my teeth so much that they ache still (that’s true by the way), so least said, soonest mended. Perhaps it might even please the young scallywags.
And speaking of agonising noise, this is Massacres last ever gig, because they’re not talking to each other anymore, apparently. They have their reasons I suppose, although it’s probably something to do with a woman as these things generally are. Sadly though, the former Yes No Maybes never really stood a chance to begin with. For a start, even when things were ‘working’, they were a shambles: out of tune, out of time, out of steam, no coherence, no substance and no positive connection among each other when they played. In short, an absolute dog of a band. Bad tunes, minimal care, poorly executed and dull to boot. Sorry, but it was, so there. Mainly though, it was the ginger frontman who never once thought to hide his shame under a hat, and seemed to have a bizarre inability to control a single aspect of pitch, tone, volume or rhythm, in whatever came out of his mouth.
That being said, as short-lived as their existence has been, Massacres have tried to be bold and inventive with their rough-arsed dark punk. Fair dos to ‘em for believing that there’s something worth exploring, but even with their last chance to make a good impression, they still can’t find it. Tonight, Massacres play so badly, with such clumsiness, they can do no more than blunder at whatever it is they’re trying to do, hoping that they can just get it over with a bit of dignity intact.
Whether you believe it when they are described by their pals as ‘avante garde’ and ‘chaotic’ is up to you, but this lot could probably test the loyalty of their mothers, let alone their mates. They’re akin to one of those cocktails like ‘Baby’s Brains’ or ‘Blow Job’; more of a gag-inducing endurance test than anything to consume for pleasure. Separately, the ingredients are fine, and with the right partners they can make something tasty and moreish, but with Massacres it’s just bad chemistry; put ‘em all together and they congeal into a sickening snotty mess that’s as pleasant to swallow as whale spunk. They simply make a shapeless, unpalatable racket, and perhaps putting the beast down is for the best.
When the guitar pedals give up the ghost, they hesitantly enquire whether they should just move on or start again with effects intact, so under the instruction of their chums who agree, actually, demand, that they want to hear it again, they do. It would almost make for a moment of connection and warmth, providing a much needed element of intimacy if there was any discernable difference, or if Massacres used this opportunity to focus themselves and give of their very best. But there isn’t and they don’t. Massacres are holding it together purely through friendly sympathy and what’s more, they know it. As they progress, the disdain between them becomes more and more apparent, causing them to add bitterness to an already sour mixture, and as the last chords die, bassman Ben throws his guitar to the floor and storms off in a huff, which somewhat takes the starch out of Ginger’s planned farewell sneer. A mean thing to do to your frontman when he’s obviously been rehearsing a big moment, but no doubt satisfying.
I reckon it’s a safe bet that there’s a bird involved.
I had cause to get nostalgic recently, inspired by a band of the same name playing on our hallowed stage, and watch ‘Jubilee’, which if you haven’t seen it is one of most bizarrely pointless rock ‘n’ roll movies ever made. If you can stomach it (and I have every sympathy if you cannot), you might possibly be struck, as I was, by a similarity between Adam Ant performing ‘Plastic Surgery’ and the dance moves of Selfish Cunt’s Martin Tomlinson. I checked out a video of theirs afterwards just to make sure and the similarity is uncanny. They both twitch and jump like rabid rats and yelp a lot of fantasy ramblings, but more specifically, they’re both clearly unwell and watching crazy people let loose is grimly fascinating. Therein lies part of Selfish Cunt’s appeal as it’s riveting to watch someone whose behaviour is alleged to be unpredictable, and we go to see them not for the pleasure of their creations, but because we think that we should.
Although when Ant wrote ‘Press Darlings’ I wonder if, in his darker moods, he ever envisaged such a creature as Martin Tomlinson: the ‘controversial’ homosexual rocker who whines that the country is shit, behaves like a deviant corruptive maniac on stage and acts like, well, a selfish cunt. If he had, perhaps he would have given up there and then. For Selfish Cunt are living proof that everything we are sold by the media is a lie, and the public are gullible fools eager to have the most appalling bilge shoved down their throats in the name of artistic expression, glad to trumpet about how wonderful it tastes. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose as the young Parisians might have said.
I’m not saying it didn’t work, ever. A couple of years ago, they were just as bloody awful, but they generated a level of genuine excitement and intrigue that earned them at least some of attention they received. Perhaps in a crowded room, where the sweat clings to the bodies and the rhythm seduces the moshing muscles, they can command the eccentric actions of their disciples still. But certainly not tonight, and probably never again. Tonight there’s no façade of rock ‘n’roll craziness with Selfish Cunt, just tedium on a grand scale as they force themselves through a pantomime of forced naughtiness and unambitious repetitive strain. And just how outrageous is this young self-harming and self-deprecating scamp that fronts them? Well, it depends on whether there’s anyone there to show off to. Tonight, there’s precious few to care, so whereas the performer that he once was wouldn’t give a toss and could use the lack of adulation for mischief, this evening he merely goes through whatever motions are necessary to earn his fee and wails “is your pussy wet?…my pussy’s wet…” over and over again, like some bored porno harlot, as if it’s the only thing he can think of saying, and it probably is.
Nevertheless, Tomlinson has a part to play; that of an unhinged undernourished underachiever, fighting back to pour scorn and deviant sex-fluids on people of all races ages and cultures, with nobody escaping his contempt as he sneers and shrieks disturbed string-of-consciousness lyrics with his own brand of politically incorrect irony. “I saw a nigger cleaning your streets …” he yells, and I daresay there’s one or two lefties uncomfortable with a skinny gay white boy using the n-word, just the way he intends it. Between his staccato mock-beat poetry and the backdrop of angry grinding white noise comprised of bendy structures, feedback, squeals, loops and bassy rumbles, he pirouettes like a drunken ballet dancer, strutting and prancing about the empty floor, trying to appear sinisterly unhinged but actually looking a bit ridiculous. “I’m gonna fuck the living daylights out of you…” he croons. To the wall. He asks us to come on his big dick as well, which is jolly hospitable of him I must say, but nobody takes him up on that offer either.
Unless you’re about twelve and get excited about sexual gestures and swearing, it’s a desperate exercise in nonchalance and flat inane boredom. We aren’t talking about a mere ‘off’ gig, understand, we’re talking about a rock act that doesn’t know what to do with itself anymore, other than to give the media a legitimate excuse to print the c-word. They haven’t grown, become inspired, or even refined their comically ironic qualities, they’ve merely carried on churning out shite that when you strip away the cusses, is actually just…well, shite. It’s disconcerting to realise that as awful as they were 2 years ago, it actually represented Selfish Cunt at their artistic and creative peak. Now, well, they just make the same noises out of habit. But it’s not just the musical stagnation that’s a problem; they’ve lost interest in what they’re doing even from the perspective of entertainment. Gone is the grotesque edginess and theatrical anxious deviance that made them infamous, and in it’s place is only the residue, like a limp half-arsed shadow striking a few vague poses and fading away into nothingness. “We’re gonna come back and paint the town black…”. Yeah, right.
Of course, it’s arguable that the clue’s in the name and Selfish Cunt are happy to show the world that they do exactly what it says on the label. Yeah yeah, “Iggy for a new era”, and all that rubbish, and we can chuck in the words “cathartic theatre” or however it was that The Guardian described them if that makes you feel better, but come on, enough’s enough. Selfish Cunt aren’t and have never been bold, ironic, inventive, outrageous, or whatever tag you care to put on them to make them sound more interesting. They’re just rubbish, and to endure them for pleasure is to accept that you are not only deaf, but a fashion victim.
Not that they haven’t done well out of it of course. To go from being proud denizens of the art-college set and bearers of the “London’s most exciting live band” tag for almost a whole summer, to inducing equal mixtures of rapture and revulsion in the festival tents of Europe is a proud achievement, but why and how have they achieved this? It’s the name, that’s all. Just a name. Let’s face it, if Selfish Cunt were called ‘Scented Candles’ or something, they’d scarcely be mentioned in a fanzine let alone lauded as one of Britain’s best. Most people with an ear to the ground have heard of them, but how many of those have actually listened to them and how many just want to snigger that they’ve seen a band called Selfish Cunt?
Their recognition (if that’s an appropriate word) has hardly been built upon the music, more upon getting the word ‘cunt’ in newspapers and on t-shirts more often than one used to see in days gone by. Credit where it’s due, they have helped shape the public’s perception of a word, and raise the question of what is truly obscene, and apart from a handful of loonies, most people seem to agree that seeing the word ‘cunt’ in the paper or having our kids listen to bands with names like Selfish Cunt and Fuck Buttons, aren’t going to make us choke on our morning muesli and write to The Courier in protest. After all, if such respected organs as Her Majesty’s Press can say it and nobody bats an eyelid, and if television channels can make documentaries about it and not receive complaints from Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, then the word ‘cunt’ simply doesn’t bother us much anymore and it’s taken the media attention towards Selfish Cunt to demonstrate that. So, if Selfish Cunt want to regain their place in the spotlight, seeing as people are yawning at the likes of “Tranny Fucker”, perhaps the only way they’re going to do it is change their name to something even more offensive. But what?
You see, (and I’m gonna go on for a bit here, but bear with me, it’ll make sense eventually) when ‘fuck’ lost it’s impact we still had ‘cunt’ to upgrade to when we wanted a proper swear word, as it’s taboo status meant that it gave immense satisfaction and maximum offence. Now, thanks to Selfish Cunt, it’s lost it’s impact as a cuss word. It’s still not a word we want our children to use, but there is a perverse satisfaction in that this band have done what dozens of generations of mighty scholars, musicians, filmmakers, pornographers, artists, writers, creative minds, intellectuals, critics, lawyers, rulers, politicians, priests, presidents, broadcasters, humble peasants, in fact, pretty much anyone, failed to do: they have taken the sting out of the word ‘cunt’. They have, without meaning to do so (which is pretty much how most important things were discovered) found a way of softening that word on the British consciousness and downgrading its potency.
Lets not forget that the word was not always as offensive as it is now. It’s common knowledge that there was a street in London called Gropecunt Lane and that Chaucer used it (with some pretty bizarre and inconsistent spellings raging from ‘quaint’ to ‘kent’) but it is changing attitudes that reflect the relative obscenity of words and they can evolve surprisingly quickly. Our grandparents thought nothing of the word ‘nigger’ but it’s deeply offensive now, and ‘fuck’ then was something everyone said but not in the public media. Even ‘bloody’ was outrageous a generation ago, with Mary Whitehouse frothing at the mouth about it being used by such social caricatures as Alf Garnett, but in 2008 you’ll find it being used by J K Rowling and delighting children.
Now of course, even the hallowed Beeb makes a point of ensuring a healthy ‘fuck’ quota to it’s post-watershed programming. If ‘cunt’ is all we have left as an unacceptable taboo, then it’s now lost its impact, meaning and ability to shock. We need a new word to replace it. That’s right, we need a new swear word now that those selfish cunts Selfish Cunt have stolen it from us, to ensure that we continue to have a word in our language guaranteed to offend and upset parents. A word so filthy that old ladies will have aneurisms upon hearing it. A word so taboo that it would render the person to whom it was directed to get terribly upset, perhaps even cry. But making up a new word isn’t easy, so we must choose an existing word, one that already has connotations of obscenity, and make it more so by perverting the meaning.
The word I’m proposing is ‘cuck‘. First of all, like all good swear words (with the exception of bollocks’, which is the juiciest word in the English language) it has 4 letters, one vowel and one syllable. Secondly, it contains parts of the two other rudest words, ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ in order of offensiveness. Thirdly, it is a contraction of ‘cuckold’, (which the older among you would know, is someone whose spouse has been unfaithful) and is in itself a term used contemptuously, as such persons were once the outcasts of respectable society. Finally, just say it out loud and replace ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ with it. It’s very convincing: Oh cuck! Cuck you! Cuck off! Cuck me! Go cuck yourself! What the cuck? Cucking hell! Cucking cuck! What a cuck! See where it’s going? It sounds as if it should be up there with ‘fuck’, or ‘cunt’, and quite like ‘cock’ too. I’ve also checked Viz’s Profanisaurus and can’t find it, so yay, we’re in business.
But what, pray, does it actually mean? To whit, how can we employ this word in our lexicon of obscenity? Well it has a meaning already, but it’s not a modern one, so let’s revive it into something with a bit more kick. In line with the other swear words it would have to something to do with genitals, arses or substances produced by either. To up the offensiveness a bit and make it really filthy, it should also have a connotation that implies passive homosexuality, incest, religion and probably paedophilia too. After racking my brains for a good few minutes this morning while trying to decide what to put on my toast, I decided that the substance that I’d least like to have spread upon it would be the congealed plug of excrement, smegma and old semen in the unwashed anus of a kiddie-fiddler priest who had been sodomised by all his male relatives since he was a baby. This substance, ladies and gentlemen is ‘cuck’. It sounds similar to ‘cack’ too, which kinda fits the theme.
So, there you have it. If Selfish Cunt can’t maintain appeal with their music and can barely evoke a raised eyebrow when their very name contains the naughtiest of words, then desperate measures are needed and perhaps adopting a brand new identity via a brand new obscenity is the answer. Selfish Cuck. Lets put it on t-shirts and start a cucking revolution.