Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Icarus versus the miasma

"Above the lake in the valley and the grove along the hillside, high over the sea
and the passing clouds, and even past the sun!
To the farthest confines of the starry vault
mount, my spirit, wander at your ease
and range exultant through transparent space
like a rugged swimmer reveling in the waves
with an unutterable male delight.

Ascend beyond the sickly atmosphere *
to a higher plane, and purify yourself
by drinking as if it were ambrosia
the fire that fills and fuels Emptiness.
Free from the futile striving and the cares
which dim existence to a realm of mist,
happy is he who wings an upward way
on mighty pinions to the fields of light;
whose thoughts like larks spontaneously rise
into the morning sky; whose flight, unchecked,
outreaches life and readily comprehends
the language of flowers and of all mute things.

- Charles Baudelaire, Elevation

* in some translations, rendered as "miasma"


  "When U2 first hit England in the twilight of 1980, a dull cry of relief rose up from rock's murky depths. U2 were "just what we needed"... in the phrase of Island's press leaflet, "a soaring and emotional rock style that was powerful without being either musclebound or bludgeoning". Live, so it was said, U2 swept audiences into rapture and ecstasy... So what is it that the excessive plaintiveness of Bono's voice and the forced power of U2's sound is trying to hide? ... Bono's cry on this record – and it's not even an incantation – is "Rejoice!". But as his own rejoicing voice, straining and waving like an archangel's wings, arches its chords towards the lost paradise – where everything is golden and exultant forever – you start to wonder if maybe you missed something....  U2, I guess, will continue to "move" in live performance, just like James Brown. But they will only move on the lightest surface. Their music does "soar" – in fact it wings its way pretty serenely over danger zones like The Fall or The Birthday Party...."  -- -- Barney Hoskyns, review of U2's October, NME, 10 October 1981 


"U2 [correspond] to an archetype that Robert Bly calls the 'eternal boy'. Like the warrior, the eternal boy is attempting to escape the force-field of women. But instead of going to war, he attempts to rise above the earth-bound and mundane into a stratospheric realm of pure
spirituality.  Georges Bataille called this impulse 'Icarian revolt', after
Icarus, the mythological figure who built wings for himself and tried to reach the sun...   Although they were inspired into being by punk, musically, U2 were
influenced not by the ramalama buzzsaw drone of English bands but by Television, the least punkoid, most psychedelic of the New York scene groups.  Television rarefied rock of its blues traces, sublimating sexual
tension into plangent friction.  Lyrically, their subject matter was the
sublime (their songs had vague, mystical titles like 'Elevation', 'The
Fire', 'The Dream's Dream', 'Glory' and 'Carried Away'). When they emerged
in the early '80s, U2 were steeped in Television's innovatory
blues-lessness.  Like the latter's Tom Verlaine, U2 guitarist the Edge
developed a style that was a frictionless slipstream of chimes and
effects-laden tones, rather than riff or powerchord propelled. The rhythm
section was unsyncopated, sometimes martial, but always adamantly refused to
appeal to the hips...while the Edge and Bono soared and swooped, never
distracting the listeners' attention downwards to the body... 
     The cover and the song 'Stories For Boys' spelled out rather literally what had been abstract in the Television album title Adventure: a quest for grail or glory, a desire for something to be devout about.... In 'New Year's Day', the chosen few gather, 'eyes aloft', waiting to be filled with a born-again spirit...  The video was set in a snowbound zone of great altitude, blindingly white.
     'Eyes aloft': U2's secret was that, more than any other band, their
music appealed to the eyes rather than ears...."
  -- from The Sex Revolts  

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