An absence

August 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a question, as much as anything, of remembering before you heard it – of thinking through what affective possibilities it made available. People have stories of listening to this record habitually in certain circumstances which tell you more about ‘Temptation’ than the circumstances themselves. In my case: during the year I was recovering from depression, and had started writing about my family, for want of anything else (I was living at home, but essentially doing a full-time job that left me with some odd hours to call my own. ‘True Faith’ had a more literal meaning when you went to work whilst it was still dark out & came back while the sun was setting mid-afternoon.) I’ve started listening to it again as I did then – almost on repeat on the morning commute (12 minutes then, 2 hours now). Blinking in cold sunlight, muscles seething with anger, thinking about what lies on the other side of the day (‘Temptation’ on repeat on the cycle home).

What’s strange when you actually try to look at it is how, in a sense, the song doesn’t become itself until at least 4 minutes in. The preceding time – relentless sequencer, choppy guitar, Peter Hook’s high-neck bass – is brilliant. Here the oddness of the structure becomes apparent: the concentration of the elements, over a more clearly heard percussion and synth line. Kick has talked before about the simplicity of the lyrics: “Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve blue eyes, oh’ve you’ve got grey eyes”. Except, of course, that they’re not simple: their complexity is the result of how the elemental quality of the phrase is acted upon by their enunciation, the tension between form and articulation. Bernard Sumner’s singing voice carries only a trace of the flat metropolitan Lancashire you would expect. When, in the first chorus, he bursts out with “Up, down, turn around, please don’t let me hit the ground” it’s as if he’s trying to do what he thinks a male singer should do in this situation – falsetto – without knowing exactly how, approximating it. As the guitar, like a blizzard of soft metal, bursts behind him he rushes to finish the chorus, as if knowing there’s little time left, only to finish on a trail of ‘Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh’s stretched out in an almost wistful fashion. The tenderness of his “And I’ve never seen anyone quite like you before” is one of time, & how he takes it, of how “people in this world we have no place to go”, & how this implies a relation, a making-space in language, the “skin with which I rub against the Other”.

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