Thursday, June 29, 2006
 
TAKE HIS NAME IN VAIN
HATE IS THE NEW LOVE
ONLY YOU AND YOUR GHOST WILL KNOW
The Mekons
OOOH! (Out of Our Heads)
Quarter Stick : 2002
[Buy It]

I'd like to begin my comments by directing you to Sam Lipsyte's post, because it's funny. Next: Have you ever, in the years since your adolescence, relived that adolescent longing to proclaim your own secret clutched desperate euphoric love to all the world, as though the world gave a shit? That's how I feel about the Mekons. I fell in love with them in 1991 and have never gone back. Sure it's unrequited. The best love always is.

Those Mekons have broken my heart with tracks as ancient as "Teeth" (1979) and "Darkness and Doubt" ('85). They did it again when I first heard "Take His Name In Vain," which made me long for religion, almost made me run off and join a nunnery in the hopes of delivering myself up to an ecstatic and shimmering God. An unearthly presence calls out from the song-either the vampire of the lyrics or a charming demagogue or a Tall Grey, hard to choose between them. "I've forgotten more/Than I care to remember/Try to tell me something/Please, please keep trying..." A phantasm glowing up in the stratosphere, barely visible to the naked eye as the moon is rising. A God? A dream of a God, glinting there? It might also be an old piece of Soviet military hardware snapped off a satellite now commanded by Rupert Murdoch. Anyway, a weary idealist invokes the sublime in an exhortation to blaspheme: what could be a more pleasant prospect for a night's entertainment? I say swear till your mouth is aching, then fall asleep as we all float away, arms and legs spread-eagled, into the cold arms of space.

Listening to "Hate Is the New Love," if you choose to disregard the slightly hackneyed title, you can sweep into melancholy on the back of the lyrics sung by always stunning-voiced Sally Timms. "Underneath all this/The only thing that matters is/What and where you born ...cause there's no peace/On this terrible shore/And every day is a battle/How we still love the war." Battle cries are the Mekons' hallmark. When the Mekons rage and mourn all of us Yuppies who yearn for a Western hemisphere that's run by the righteous-or at least reasonable people from Europe-tear up our subscriptions to Self and run out onto the street to lead the mangy stray dogs into warmth and shelter.

Finally there is "Only You and Your Ghost Will Know," which performs the ultimate pop-music service of making the lonely feel romantic about their solitude. I'm not sure there's a simpler or more time-honored job description in the world than this mission of mournful rock and roll, namely to stoke a sweet romance between me and me. "You've got just one sympathetic companion/First the chill and then the stupor/Then the letting go/If you found one thing out on that road/Only you and your ghost will know." How pained I am by my outsiderness, and yet how rarefied is the company! Ghosts and demigods and dead astronauts and criminals and aging communists: enter the Mekons' pantheon and number yourself lovingly among the dispossessed.

. . . . . . . . . .

Lydia Millet's most recent book is Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, a novel about the physicists who invented the A-bomb.

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