Tuesday, August 7, 2012
I met Matt Fishbeck a couple years ago and one of the first things he asked me that night was, “what do you think of Bruce Mitchell?” Well almost no one (except of course, me) would have known that he was referring to the longtime Durutti Column drummer and manager who made his debut on LC. It’s a name that you sometimes read but never hear.
I responded, “He’s one of the most underappreciated drummers I can think of.”
Fishbeck gazed back into my eyes with a kind feral intensity and corrected me. “Not underappreciated - overlooked.”
In the course of our friendship Matt’s done this often and it took me a while to realize that he’s not being pedantic. It’s more that he loves to put a finer point on things and he’s usually right in doing so. Case in point: Bruce Mitchell is totally overlooked. Right on. He also once pointed out to me that the title For Belgian Friends (a track that originally appeared on the Factory Quartet comp and a later Factory CD reissue of LC) is an anagram for “fingers bled for Ian.” I know that seems a little crazy but there it was alongside “The Missing Boy,” Vini’s threnody for the recently deceased Ian Curtis. Once I saw it there was no going back.
Anyway, it’s obvious that if Matt Fishbeck had his druthers he’d live in a world surrounded by gleaming, razor sharp perceptions. In writing about LC I wanted to hone that edge and I knew that Fishbeck loves this record as much as I do, maybe more. So I sent him an email to talk about it. The block capitals are his - they always are.
By the way I liked your 'Lotta Continua' shirt at the party the other night. An Italo-anarcho slogan from which the album takes its name, meaning "the struggle continues." Right? Seems in high contrast to the devastating existential beauty of the music.
“HIGH CONTRAST" AND HOW! LC IS A MONUMENT TO CONTRAST. IT'S BUILT OF BRIGHTNESS AND SHADOWS; IT HOUSES BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS, ARRIVALS AND EXITS, SHAPES AND SOFTNESSES, DRUMS AND NO DRUMS, WORDS AND WORDLESSNESS. IT'S AT ONCE INDOORS AND OUTDOORS, DRIFTING DREAMWARDS, WAKING INTO LIGHT. THE BIRD IS ALOFT, THE BIRD IS ON THE GROUND.
IT STANDS SOLITARY AND IT NEVER LEAVES YOUR SIDE. EXQUISITE TENSION, NO?
AND ISN'T BEAUTY THE ULTIMATE STRUGGLE? TRANQUILITY AMIDST THE CHAOS OF NOISE, COMPOSURE UNDER THATCHER AND EVERYTHING ELSE, PEACE IN THE WAKE OF A FRIEND'S DEATH: THESE CAN'T HAVE BEEN EASY MOVES. VINI'S IS A RADICAL CALM.
So what do you make of the connection with Italian leftism?
LOTTA CONTINUA, THE ORGANIZATION AND THE NEWSPAPER, WAS AN EXPONENT OF AUTONOMIA, A LARGER MOVEMENT IN 1970s ITALIAN RADICALISM.
A playful appropriation?
IF THERE'S ONE THING THE MAN DOES, IT'S PLAY. AND I THINK HE'S PLAYING A BIT HERE.
HOW ELSE, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE WE TO READ THE LINE "I DON'T BELIEVE IN STARDOM?" THIS INTO A MICROPHONE, THIS FROM THE MAN ON THE STAGE, FROM A SONG ON A POP RECORD, ON A LABEL THAT WAS DESIGNED TO PRODUCE STARS, THE LABEL HAVING BEEN STARTED BY A MAN WHO WAS -- AMONG OTHER THINGS BUT LET'S FACE IT -- A TELEVISION STAR. TONY WILSON CALLED HIMSELF A SITUATIONIST. I CALL VINI REILLY A SITUATION.
A COMIC STRIP HERE, SOME GRAFFITI THERE. I DON'T KNOW HOW SERIOUS VINI WAS (OR REMAINS) ABOUT S.I. OR AUTONOMIA, BUT THERE IT IS, IN THE NAME OF HIS BAND AND THE TITLE OF HIS FIRST RECORD, AND NOW HERE, WITH LC, WHERE THOSE LETTERS ARE EMBLAZONED IN BOLD FUTURIST TYPE ON A SOFT PALIMPSEST OF COLOR. HE'S SEEN IT ON THE WALLS -- IN FRANCE, IN ITALY -- AND HE'S KEEPING THE PHILOSOPHIES "IN ACTION."
AND HE'S READ IT IN BOOKS. ME AND MY BIG NOSE, I SMELL THE WORDSWORTH ('THE MISSING BOY') AND THE PROUST ('SWEET CHEAT'), AND I BET THAT VINI HAD GEORGE MEREDITH'S 'THE LARK ASCENDING' TACKED UP ON THE WALL IN HIS FLAT.
NOW IT'S DAWN, NOW IT'S GONE. THANKFULLY ALL IS PRESERVED BY OUR VINI, DEMIURGE AND SHEPHERDER OF ECHOES.
There you have it... Or at least some of it. I think either a scholarly paper or Fishbeck-curated zine is in order. Meanwhile, I suppose I can listen to LC ten thousand more times. The pleasure never diminishes.
Matt Baldwin and Matt Fishbeck
Oakland, May 18th 2012
at 6:34 PM