The Null Device

2004/5/27

Gorgeous black-and-white photographs of abandoned buildings on Gunkanjima, an island used for coal mining, but completely abandoned since 1974.

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An economic-rationalist arguments for why writing computer viruses should be punishable by death; it basically comes down to society getting more economic benefits from executing worm writers than from killing murderers. It reminds me a bit of the argument in K.W. Jeter's Noir about why copyright violation had to become punishable by death, and worse. (via Techdirt)

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Cookie Mongoloid are a band who do speed-metal covers of Sesame Street songs. The singer sounds like Cookie Monster, though that could probably be said of many metal vocalists. (via bOING bOING)

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This book looks interesting. (via bOING bOING)

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I picked up a copy of Morrissey's new album, You Are The Quarry, last week. I rather like it.

You Are The Quarry was produced by Jerry Finn, best known for his work with mook bands like Blink 182 and Green Day. Perhaps Finn took this project up for the credibility (much as Trevor Horn is said to have done with the last Belle & Sebastian album); in any case, there are no big grinding nu-metal guitars, no shouted rap lyrics and no obscenities, save for the word "shit" appearing a few times. There are, however, electronics; drum machines, sampled loops, analogue synth burblings and filter sweeps, and even what sounds like a 303 squippling away under the guitars in one song. (A 303 in a Morrissey song? Surely the end times must be nigh.) The electronics are never obstrusive. Perhaps Morrissey's Smiths-era hard line against electronic music has softened over time, or possibly Finn, who, presumably, is more aware of commercial realities, persuaded him to allow them in. In any case, the decision works well, successfully maintaining the integrity of Morrissey's sound without sounding stale or rehashed.

The lyrical content is vintage Morrissey; opinionated, self-deprecating and archly humorous. He takes America to task for arrogance, prejudice and hamburgers in America Is Not The World, denounces the insipidness of mass culture in The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores, and defiantly asserts his vision for England in Irish Blood, English Heart ("I'm dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour and the Tories, and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell, and denounce this royal line").

Those expecting Morrisseyisms won't be disappointed. I Have Forgiven Jesus is, thematically, Unloveable crossed with November Spawned A Monster ("I have forgiven Jesus, for all the love He has placed in me, when there's no-one I can turn to with this love"); How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel is a defiant, almost solipsistic assertion of alienation from the human race, preemptively writing off the possibility of any meaningful connection with a fellow human being ("She told me she loved me, which means she must be insane"), whereas, in I Like You, he sings "You're not right in the head, and nor am I, and this is why I like you". In the almost New Order-esque I'm Not Sorry, he teases the listener with another non-acknowledgment of any particular sexual orientation "The woman of my dreams, she never came along, the woman of my dreams, well, there never was one".

Other songs tell stories; The First Of The Gang To Die is presumably a Sweet and Tender Hooligan inspired by the Mexican gangbangers who have become Morrissey's biggest audience, and All The Lazy Dykes is addressed to a woman trapped in a loveless marriage. The last track, You Know I Couldn't Last, is a broadside aiming at everybody Morrissey ever was let down by: journalists, fickle fans, those who accused him of racism, and his former bandmates (described as "Northern leeches").

The US special edition of You Are The Quarry comes in a gatefold sleeve, much like a miniaturised LP sleeve, with a bonus DVD. The DVD contains the video for Irish Blood, English Heart, a handful of photographs and a copy of the lyrics which are also in the booklet. There's nothing truly essential there, though hardcore Morrissey fans will want it for the video.

For the most part, I am pleased with You Are The Quarry; it has lived up to the expectations I had from seeing him play in 2002. Though, if he really lives the life he sings about, it's a worry. Being an ungainly, lonely, misanthrope at 16 is almost normal, but if one hasn't snapped out of it by the age of 44, one is well on the way to being a cranky old curmudgeon. Listen and enjoy, but also let it be a warning: go out, make some friends, find somewhere where you belong, maybe meet a nice boy or girl and find some sort of contentment, or else you may end up like Morrissey, only without the fame and record royalties.

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