March 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

There’s a strange dialectic here: Minor Threat were a diamond-hard point of focus for emotion, at least during the short period when I was straight-edge & recovering from depression, & later amid the clouds of rage, confusion, disgust, ambivalence & self-pity that covered my life in 2008-2010. If nothing else in terms of affect was clear then the hard edges of ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear It’, ‘Out of Step’, ‘Straight Edge’ or ‘Betray’ were absolutely clear; feeling resolved itself for the runtime as searing but surface-level anger, as physical sideswipes & sympathetic shouts, as embodied thought. (A strange fact given that I never went to hxc shows – I don’t even know if there were any in Bournemouth, but somehow doubt it.) But then ‘Salad Days’, coming at the very of Complete Discography, swings into something much odder – not merely a more complex intro, a chorus with surprising lingering feedback from the power-chords, Iain Mackaye’s odd spoken-word section as the percussion moves much more quickly & freely under him before sweeping back into the blast-beat. There’s a new irony in Mackaye’s delivery, not the solid resolution & rigorously delineated sense of crisis of the early songs, a nihilism that the richer instrumental backing can’t assuage or dispel: “We’ve gotten soft & fat/Just waiting for the moment/But it’s not coming back”. Time’s irreversible flow turns, for the first time, back on itself: they “dwell upon their memories” of their salad days, a phrase that Mackaye then repeats with a dismissive laugh just as the song returns to carry him off to oblivion. What happens when the voice splits, threatens to disappear the vaporous exhalations of its own discontent? The reason I loved hxc was for its immaturity – or, rather, its mature un-adultness, its appearance as a strategy for refusing the confusions both of adolescence & of responsibility, & at the same time keeping faith with what was powerful & generative in punk kids’ lives & commitments. What happens when it – our self-collection, our Apollonian strategies against ourselves & the worst of the world – runs out, into the void of its own limitations?

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