Parker Burwell Toop credit Jak Kilby


‘Disintegration Tapes’ / Disintegrating Times

I’m pleased to say that my book on the London Musicians’ Collective (LMC) is now at it’s formatting phase, and I quietly hope to “have it in the shops” next month (November). By “shops”, I mean The Wire Bookshop, my website and, hope against hope, even Waterstones, if I can navigate the latter’s byzantine publishing requirements. We shall see.

I spent the early months of the first lockdown (March-May) completing the LMC project, and barely read anything else at all. Instead, I gorged on Netflix and YouTube, as, I suspect, did much of the UK. I lost my reading mojo for a time, but have now rediscovered it, and have consumed three ‘party political’ tomes, an area into which I seldom venture. These consist of one ‘right wing’ and two ‘left wing’ publications, all of which have left me feeling that this country is on it’s own disintegrative ’loop’, the obvious accompanying soundtrack to which must surely be William Basinski’s celebrated Disintegration Loops, his massive, digital tape-decaying, ambient minimalist masterpiece, wherein you can feel and experience lapse and loss in real time. If there was ever a true ‘hauntological’ work, then this is it. Reading these three books, which variously describe the UK political scene of the last Tory-heavy decade, left me feeling that they all contributed to a literary correlative of Basinski’s six- part opus. From the Conservative side, we have Sasha Swire’s Diary of an MPs Wife: Inside and Outsider Power, and in the left hand corner, we have Owen Jones’ This Land: the Story of a Movement, and Left Out: the Inside Story of Labour Under Corbyn by Gabriel Posgrund and Patrick Maguire. I would heartily recommend all three.

Like Basinski’s composition, the past decade seems to me to be a narrative of declining and decelerating standards, presentation and meaning, resulting in an overall sense of sadness and  lamentation (Lamentations is the title of Basinski’s most recent release, by the way.) Swire’s ‘ex-MP husband’ is the lightweight Hugo Swire, whose existence I had been unaware of till his wife’s book, and whose main achievement appears to consist of being a close chum of ‘Dave’ Cameron and his spouse ‘Sam-Cam’. Her book is an entertaining piece of gossip-lit (although she clearly thinks that she is politically smart, which she definitely isn’t.) What sadly comes across is a massively entitled, spoilt smartass (as you would expect, given the territory), who clearly has the hots for Cameron and ‘Boy George’ Osborne. What effectively sums Swire up is her statement that ‘“history will judge Dave kindly”, a notion which is surely borderline delusional. 

History, unfortunately, will probably not judge Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party kindly either, going on the two books which describe his time as leader. Toxic factionalism stalk the pages of these books, and demonstrates how ultimately unsuitable the party was for government/ ‘high office’, with JC coming across as weak, conflict-avoidant, rigid and faintly arrogant, behind the bumbling bonhomie. And these were written by Corbyn sympathisers! The sheer inescapable fact that they were crushed by probably the worst, most corrupt administration in my lifetime sums up the whole dysfunctional mess, the right ‘Blairite’ wing of the Labour Party appearing particularly nasty and personal in their behaviour and actions, with the ‘Corbynistas mostly seeming merely inexperienced, incompetent and chaotic. There was never any chance of this party, in its then-form, winning any election, with the 2017 iteration merely providing Labour with premature false hope, what with Theresa May’s anti-charisma and her lack of social media savvy. Corbyn’s Glastonbury ‘rock star’ moment retrospectively looks like a ghastly moment of over-confidence and hubris. Jeremy, like his nemesis Boris, liked the lazy limelight of the converted.

Our  nation’s current situation, with a government bent on denying poor children school meals, ffs, shows how decayed we have become over the past decade, our moral, ethical and intellectual compass disintegrated by a party that appears bent on becoming as amoral as the repellent modern Republican Party. ‘Vote Biden!’ seems the only rallying call that can offer some hope for us at the present time, and one that might give Boris Johnson and his cabinet of all-the-no-talents some pause for thought if Sleepy Joe (hopefully as in ‘Sleepy’ John Estes?) wins this most significant of modern elections. Maybe “there is no alternative” of “The End of History” might prove to be somewhat premature?

William Basinski’s Disintegration Tapes 1-6 are required listening, and are available on YouTube, with suitable accompanying visual imagery.

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Banner and book cover photo credit: Jak Kilby