Tuesday, 13 May 2008

PORTISHEAD: We Carry On


"...the dissolution of his past, the final renunciation of that hated haunting - memory - was complete. Soon, withdrawing slowly and irrevocably into his old shadow, he would wave away the rest of life as well."
(Nick Tosches, Dino, chapter XIV: "A Thief At The Grave Of Desire")

Always coming back to him...

...and yes let's get the Beckett in the mud out of the way, noting that Jack Bruce gave one of the performances of his career portraying the man who isn't allowed to drag himself out of the quicksand in Michael Mantler's Beckett adaptation No Answer, but most of us carry on anyway out of fear, hope, impatience and curiosity, not in that order...

...and perhaps "We Carry On" are those gaily coloured Cadbury's trucks running into the mud, revving themselves up at varying and non-concomitant speeds; the thrust is fast but directionless...a bustling tattoo of percussion but guitars moving and repeating patterns at a slightly slower speed and a bass which doesn't appear to be connecting to anything else at all...

...the voice, far more West Country than she usually lets slip, the taste of life choking on her mind, and she goes on and on "but underneath my mind and on and on I tell myself is this I can't disguise" and yet she is but another flavour, another crossword orchestration in the disturbing pattern of this song..."oh can't you see?" (so much of this album seems to be about wilful blindness)..."Holding onto my heart/I bleed the taste of life"...

...the pace in her mind always too fast, she can't cope, but something continues to propel her on...fear of recividist memory?...and there is the approach to a middle eight or a bridge just before the bridge collapses (since the bass falls apart, out of time, out of pitch, out of comprehension almost)...hoopla, stick at 12 or risk 22?...

...and nothing here is "atonal" as such or in itself but still every ingredients piles on, increases the burden, this cross of compromise she was told to bear, and eventually there is a terrible metallism, guitars screaming in neat triples in a buried line of ascension...

...and this can ONLY be in the light of Joy Division, since this is what "We Carry On" sounds like more than anything, over its deliberately grinding six minutes and 25 seconds, accelerating, hurtling but not necessarily travelling...that depressed dissonance I remember so well from early '81...if one thinks of JD as depicting downtrodden, emptily spacious Manchester, then here we have a half-built Bristol flyover...a city I have never had the occasion to visit (even when I used to order records by post from the long defunct Revolver) and only know from its salient string of music from Keith Tippett to Massive Attack and what Petit made it look like in Radio On but there the abandoned cardboard box and here the stopped/clogged corrugated fenced-off fence

And even here I notice not just the gradual demystification and decontentisation of the CD booklet but a deliberate holding off...no cheery thanks to loved ones or bandmates or other mates to be found here; merely an intentionally blurred picture of the three on the rear tray and a desolate in negative centrespread of the "Portishead Radio Station"...attenuated towers, unmanned Nissen huts, life fled, are we receiving you?

"I bleed. No place is safe."

The corners of the protected window turn yellow with gathering daylight. The options remain open. Grind down the view or break the hell out. What's that blue breeze?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done.