Life Stinks I Like The Kinks: Excerpting the Final Issue

DX

DX is Daniel Stewart, vocalist in Total Control and Straightjacket Nation, and drummer in UV Race. He also writes and publishes Distorta mag featuring luminous interviews and writing on music and literature that’s nearing issue #50; and Life Stinks I Like The Kinks, which focuses on the resonance, both personal and historical, of the English group’s grimmer elements (and includes illustrations by Avi Spivak). Below is an excerpt from the fourth and final issue.

Kinks Illustration by Avi Spivak.

Illustration by Avi Spivak.

The fourth issue of a mag about listening to The Kinks. A ritual of degradation. Harm is inherent in extended reflection. I submit to the fantasies incited in their songs. The placation of their harmonies betrays grim depth. Provokes ruin.

This is the last issue.

In the first issue I explained why listening to the band became a dissociative experience, and how writing Life Stinks helped to map terrain. I’d found when reading the whimsical reflections of others that the playful aspects of the group and their more ebullient songs were in primary focus. The comic mask did not escape my interest. I find them to be first rate in joyful provocation. But, looming behind the grinning visage is the ominous scream of tragic fate.

These tragic aspects of the group provoked the dissociative experiences inherent in bad trip music and the subsequent rabid confessions of Life Stinks. I’m into bad trip music. Bad trip music is paranoid music, the dissociative sound of aggressive elevation and hyper-negation, disturbing and deranging the senses, provoking a sense of mystery in the primal terror ritual of song.

A peculiar mania.

Overall, I wanted to document the obliteration of an obsession, a rite of reclamation, and an attempt to celebrate the history of English bad trip music that continued from their pure example into the punk bands of the next decade and the industrial and cruel electronic bands of the decade after.

There is only so much to say on this topic. The ritual of Life Stinks was to temper the obsessive quality of my listening, and also to provide a map of the territory for anyone else who felt compelled by their songs. I’m wary of writing further on The Kinks, singing for the sake of the song. There are other doors to kick in.

I’m sure it was apparent that I treated much of the band’s catalogue with disdain. I disapprove of the retro novelty sentimentality that most writing about 1960s music indulges in. I’m not into sentimentality. I think it is lazy and limiting. I don’t want ‘Life Stinks’ to become associated with nerd history hype. Music today is as good as it has ever been because I am here to experience it. I am a destined receptor.

There are songs with fragility.

There are songs with force, songs that contort the body, songs that alleviate pain or inflict it, songs that are best heard raw, and songs best heard cooked. There are songs best heard with your windows open, songs that ring false when heard without the scent of sweat. There are songs that give one occasion to pause, songs that demand a sedentary, contemplative countenance.

Songs that demand passivity.

The Kinks have a tendency to provoke sedentary contemplation. Their songs demand submission and receive obedience, compelling stories in brilliant comic images, magical settings that deliver one from deathcultpanic. They kick your head in; they kick in a bad trip. These submissions inform the following texts, a fanatical attempt to DSAFFASDF safqg beneath the brillianceof theirpopsong writing.org.au adsasfhaFJHBajs.

Life Stinks might resonate if you have an obsessive nature and the consequent confused taste. I hope to enrich or disturb the experience of listening to the band.

Abandon under the influence of song.

kinks

Ray Davies on “Wicked Annabella” in Melody Maker, 1968: “This is a rather crazy track, I just wanted to get one to sound as horrible as it could. I wanted a rude sound—and I got it.”

“Wicked Annabella” addresses sleepless children in the manner of creepy bedtime stories populated with grotesque creatures that thrive on the evisceration of curious insomniacs. At some point in our lives sleep becomes a command, an order we cannot fulfill owing to poor digestion, attention deficit, grim panic, or overwhelming desire. Sweet tones in soothing lullabies are an ineffective deliverance. Instead of prompting sleep, bedtime stories are intended to terrify the child into rigid terror.

Here are the rules: 
stay still, 
be silent, 
or experience fantastic brutality at the hands of villains who prey on the naïve or disobedient. Good children are terrified of authority and the threat of the unknown. “Wicked Annabella” is in the spirit of these morbid tales.

Over the top of a hard psych riff with a heaps ignorant Troggish beat, Dave Davies incants visions of the malevolent Annabella, a witch who lives in the woods outside the village: “Little children who are good / Should always go to sleep at night / Cause wicked Annabella is up in the sky / Hopin’ they will open their eyes.” His tone is gleeful. Delight in torture. He sees demons enslaved by Annabella crouching in the undergrowth, intent to dissect the inquisitive child who isn’t safe in bed. The image of a ruthless creature tormenting sleepless children is a perfect association. Many of my early experiences of insomnia involve strange people outside my bedroom window. The song retains a distinct quality of primal dread.

Cioran said we are the animal that wants sleep, but does not sleep. The distinctly human experience of insomnia accounts for my earliest memories, and manifested itself in listening with a mind completely empty of thought to the subtle growth spurts of bed sheets, or engaged in frantic recounting of the days’ events, disgraced and mortified.

Most anyone with qualification in sleep therapy will recommend physical labor and exercise throughout the day, and occasionally will script soporifics to push the process along. In my experience, both work. Sleep is hard won by concentrated attention, the reward of not meditating on extinction, a lifelong passion contrary to a rested state, the bulk of my motivation to write about The Kinks.

Nightmares that grind teeth into stumps, those confrontations with hideous matter submerged in the unconscious, are incomparable to physical trauma.

They don’t benefit or suffer from mention. The finest minds have contended with the purpose or meaning behind dreaming. There is no consensus. They are a fact, like chrome, like a shovel.

Without genuine curiosity on the part of the audience or interlocutor, one’s experience of dream or chrome or shovel should be tactfully withheld from conversation. I suggest that it is in song that we often find solace for the inexpressible, for experiences that are somewhat universal but are tactless to discuss with intimates.

A song can expose anxiety like light reveals chrome, and can diffuse one’s confusion into an experience of communal (pop) suffering, providing an indication of purpose like a shovel lying next to refuse.

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