Friday, February 02, 2007
"I am trying to be heroic in an age of modernity."
This, if you didn't already know, is the opening line of Bloc Party's new album A Weekend In The City, out on Monday. But has anyone stopped to wonder what it actually means? The fact that Song For Clay (Disappear Here) is based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel Less Than Zero, published in 1985, adds to the ambiguity. By 'modernity', singer Kele Okereke could mean:
1. modern times. But this would be meaningless because everyone, by definition, has always lived in modern times. In 1654 peasants did not turn to each and say 'It's pretty rubbish being medieval, but I'm sure things will look up in modern times.'
2. modernism. Perhaps Kele is talking about the artistic and philosophical movement led by Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot, Brecht, Stravinsky etc. Unfortunately this took place in the 1920s.
3. behavioural modernity. This is a term used by anthropologists and archaeologists to refer to the time when humans began to use tools and bury their dead. Unfortunately this took place somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 years ago.
4. the modern era in historical terms. Is Kele saying there is some particular difficulty common to all heroism since the mid-nineteenth century, when the modern era began? Since the rest of the song is about cocaine and sleeping pills, maybe not.
5. the modern era in sociological terms. Which we might define as the progressive economic and administrative rationalization and differentiation of the social world since the Renaissance. Unfortunately, this was complete long before Less Than Zero, and has been replaced by...
6. post-modernity. Being heroic certainly is hard in this sense, since the very notion of heroism is absurd according to the moral relativism of post-modernist thought. But then why didn't Kele just say 'an age of post-modernity'? Perhaps it wouldn't scan.
You might say I'm putting too much thought into this, but since Kele chooses to begin the album singing this line almost acapella, he must really think he's on to something. Anyone have any clue?
Posted by Ned Beauman at Friday, February 02, 2007