Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats (33 1/3)

Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats (33 1/3) by Drew Daniel

Book: Throbbing Gristle's Twenty Jazz Funk Greats (33 1/3) by Drew Daniel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Drew Daniel
not very convincing to tell people that you aren’t trying to convince them is of a piece with a particular political moment in which the participatory logic of democracy stopped allowing for a real debate. One can sense this stance in circulation across the political spectrum (not just in artistic or creative people) disgusted with the entrenched corruption of Labour but fearful of the authoritarianism to come with the Conservative party. The feeling could be summed up in the title of an old Nina Simone song: “Either Way I Lose.” It’s a sensation many American voters are now wearily familiar with. The sleeve design from the XTC album
Go 2
, designed by Peter Christopherson’s employers Hipgnosis in 1978, models precisely this paradox of the structured, oppressive “freedom of choice” enjoyed by contemporary consumers, offering its viewers a free choice which is no choice at all:
    This writing is trying to pull you in much like an eye-catching picture. It is designed to get you to READ IT. This is called luring the VICTIM, and you are the VICTIM. But if you have a free mind you should STOP READING NOW! because all we are attempting to do is to get you to read on. Yet this is a DOUBLE BIND because if you indeed stop you’ll be doing what we tell you, and if you read on you’ll bedoing what we’ve wanted all along. And the more you read on the more you’re falling for this simple device of telling you exactly how a good commercial design works. They’re TRICKS and this is the worst TRICK of all since it’s describing the TRICK whilst trying to TRICK you, and if you’ve read this far then you’re TRICKED but you wouldn’t have known this unless you’d read this far.
    At first blush, Hipgnosis’ self-deconstructing rhetoric in the
Go 2
sleeve seems to closely resemble Throbbing Gristle’s self-canceling lyrical strategy in “Convincing People,” and the Hipgnosis/Sleazy connection borders upon a “smoking gun” connecting them together. This surface kinship is deceptive, and the act of disentangling these two similar, but disjunctive, approaches to autocritical communication can help to clarify what Throbbing Gristle are, and are not, up to.
    In the case of the XTC sleeve, the reader is presented with a rigged, false choice (read or stop reading; in either case you are being conditioned by the codes already in place); the sleeve seems liberating insofar as it openly anatomizes rhetorical deception, but in fact its “everything is ideological” approach (it’s all a “TRICK”) functions unabashedly on behalf of selling a record, however cutely ironic and indirect its tactics. As such, the Hipgnosis sleeve epitomizes a hip-capitalist stance, consoling us that the best way to disconnect from a meaningless system of false options is to purchase one more commodity that marks one as enlightened, “in on it” and hip to the inherent falsity of modern life. As a mass-marketed form of rebellious individualism, rock and roll culture has always peddled the “won’t be fooled again” consolation prize to its consumers, but by the late seventies, the self-reflexive folds within its inner logic traded the oppositional ambitions (the“counter” in “counterculture”) for a comfy brand of elitist quietism. Such false choices on offer in the shops mirror the false choices on offer at the polls, and in both cases the cynical sense that “nothing matters,” far from arming the subject to better resist ideology, in fact works to ensure that it continues to run smoothly. It is politically useful to circulate the cynically enlightened fiction that domination can never really be contested, that all politicians are corrupt and therefore all are “equally” bad, and that therefore one’s participation (in marketplaces, in electoral politics) is a sham because any attempt to choose between options legitimates the system as a whole. In his
Critique of Cynical Reason
(1983), Peter Sloterdijk contrasted

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