Brian Eno’s Soundscape in Shrillville: The Vertical Colors of Shrill!

The British are coming!  The British are coming!  Wow.  I thought artists were supposed to talk about airy nothings, like Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, “making a brick, not building a wall,” and the vertical colors of sound, you know, talking about things not related to concrete objects, but expressing something that can only be appreciated intellectually, based on general principles or theories rather than on specific instances, not aiming to depict an object but composed with the focus on internal structure and form, describing music that is intended to have no programmatic content, decorated with irregular areas of color that do not represent anything concrete, emotionally detached or distanced from something.  You know, drifting clarifiers floating ideas in the air of abandoned churches, and shit.  Boy, was I mistaken.  Brain Eno has gone unmistakably thoughtless, vulgar, and insensitive as to lack all refinement or delicacy, extremely so, and flagrantly.

If we have lost Brian Eno to the anti-war movement, then who can we look to salve our flaming souls?  Follow below the fold into the absurd reality of an artist banging his head on the political abutment that is Iraq!

First of all, let me distance myself from any of these remarks from a so-called artist, as I may one day find myself in retirement wanting to take up watercolors, or something, and won’t want to be bothered by crass thinking.

This Ban Will Not Stop Us
Parliament might want to forget about Iraq, but we will march on Monday to remind them
by Brian Eno

Our leaders would undoubtedly be happy if we “moved on” from Iraq. They don’t want to talk about it any more: it was a dreadful blunder, and reflects little credit on any of them. Presumably this is why the question has hardly been debated in parliament. Although the majority of the public were always against the war, this was not reflected by their elected representatives. The government behaved in a way that was transparently undemocratic but the Conservatives won’t call them on it, for without their almost unanimous support the whole project couldn’t have happened.

But to conveniently forget Iraq now is to forfeit the only possible benefit the war might have: the chance to rethink the dysfunctional political system that got us into this hole. If we don’t, we risk digging a series of ever-deeper holes. The Iraq adventure was justified as the planting of a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Not only did it utterly fail at that, it also undermined our democracy. Appealing to our paranoia more than our vision, George Bush and Tony Blair obtained restrictions on freedoms that had taken centuries to evolve. They said these were necessary to ensure our security – a device used by authoritarian leaders since time immemorial.

Now, I will not let Mr. Eno’s crassness infect my own judgment about his little piece of performance art, so I will remain utterly detached and academic in my critique.  Let’s start with the title, This Ban Will Not Stop Us.  The ban refers to the archaic Metropolitan Police Act invoked by Parliament to outlaw public demonstration by the Stop the War Coalition.  So, at the very beginning of this piece, without the slightest sign of hesitation or embarrassment, Mr. Eno lumbers out his testicles and ponderously hefts them for all to see.  See these?  The government will not stop us, it will not silence us.  If that unadulterated, testosterone addled defiance does not immediately turn you off to anything further he has to say, nothing will.  He then crows that

Then the artless man gets a little tricksy on us by taking a lofty abstraction and clunking it on the table like a bowl of cold porridge:

Civil liberties never seem important until you need them.

Sure it sounds like a simple declarative sentence at first, but it’s the added clause that’s tricky: until you need them.  I get it.  You take meals for granted, until you need them.  You take oxygen molecules for granted, until you need them.  You take pints of blood for granted, until you need them.  Do you see?  He’s taking something airy and incomprehensible and tries to reify it as something concrete, as if it existed for reals.  You take freedom for granted, until you need it.  It is a clever inversion of the artist, who normally takes something concrete and turns it into an abstraction.

Here’s what I think he is really saying: Listen to me, you cocksucking, motherfucking, hapless fucks!  You are not going to sweep this piece of shit under the rug and hope everyone forgets about.  I’m shoving this pile of fetid shit into your goddamned faces, and you can take your attempt to silence me and shove it up your asses.

I then imagine him squeezing his big balls until his knuckles are white, as if to demonstrate his will against the pain of death itself.

He then goes meta on the topic of abstraction in reference to Nazi Germany:

For most Germans it was all rather abstract, and they were expecting things to return to normal when Hitler faded back into obscurity. Only he didn’t, and civil liberties were so compromised there was no way to stop him.

And finally he portends the consequences of failing to squeeze one’s balls in shrill public protest:

If we don’t stand up about Iraq then we tacitly sanction the next steps in this deadly experiment of democratic evangelism. Those will likely include an attack on Iran, a permanent force of occupation in Iraq (probably always the intention), the complete militarisation of the Middle East, and a revived nuclear future.

He reiterates that “the government wants to show itself as clean and new, and doesn’t want attention drawn to the elephant and the mess it has made on the carpet…” and that he intends to “exercise our right to remind our representatives that even if Iraq has slipped off their agenda, it’s still on ours.”

I know what you’re asking: Compound F, what on god’s green earth does British politics have to do with the price of beans in China?  I don’t know.  I have always been interested in Eno until he got all crass and materialistic on my ass.


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  1. he is always re-inventing himself.

  2. to heft in opposition to the occupation of iraq.  ovaries are virtually heft-proof.

  3. what on god’s green earth does British politics have to do with the price of beans in China?

  4. wtf

    • fatdave on October 7, 2007 at 5:55 am

    when Mr Eno performs this act of extreme al fresco pocket billiards. Mr Benn ( who wishes to return to parliamentary politics by standing in the Kensington seat) has arranged for us to have passes in the form of a letter he has written to the Home Secratary – Ms Moll Flanders-Smith of Redditch.

    I myself shall not be following Mr Eno’s example, my own testicular dimensions having remained fairly static since my twentieth year. No sir. I shall brandish “The Belly”, wherein live the spleens and the biles and other bubbling humours. Brandish it I shall. That, a small silver hatpin given to my garndmother by Lloyd George and a placard advertising “Chinese Beans – Much Cheapness!”

    I intend to post photographic evidence of the Belly’s power over Mr Brownshirt’s agenda and any transgressions by the Dayglo jacketed peelers in the employ of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Prancing-Showpony.

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