Feature/Literature/Paolo Bardelli

Continuing our successful collaboration with the leading Italian music publication Kalporz , the Monolith Cocktail shares reviews, interviews and other bits from our respective sites each month. Keep an eye out for future ‘synergy’ between our two great houses as we exchange posts during 2021 and beyond.

This month Kalporz head honcho Paolo Bardelli tells us how a recent radio spot promotion of his new book, 1991: The awakening of rockBrit pop, trip hop, crossover, grunge and other exciting music, sparked off a discussion on the alternative-metal band Helmet, and the travails of being swallowed whole by the majors: hungry to sign up anything rock music; any band of guitar welding hopefuls in the light of Nirvana’s success.

Recently, in promoting my latest book, I found myself mentioning Helmet on the radio, and listeners called to thank me for mentioning a band that is often, and unfairly, forgotten.

And they’re right.

Helmet were one of the symbols of that period, and of that year to which I dedicated the book, 1991, when the majors signed anyone, even my aunt, as long as they did grunge or heavy rock. It didn’t matter what genre – metal, crossover, noise, shoegaze, etc. etc. – the important thing was that there was a lot of grunge. As long as there was a lot of guitar, played loud and powerful.

And there is a song, perhaps the most famous of the New York noise band’s catalogue, which shows – in its history – the plastic representation of that transition: ‘Unsung’. The first album of Page and associates (Strap It On, 1990) was released on an independent label, Amphetamine Reptile Records, which specialised in noise, but AmRep couldn’t keep their thoroughbreds in the stable for long. They were flailing. Just before Helmet made the jump to Interscope, in May 1991, on the 26th, they recorded the Peel Sessions and played the new ‘Unsung’. Such a song did not go unnoticed: Amphetamine Reptile hastened to release it, and so it was still 1991, in the live version played by Peel, as a 45 rpm, and to provide it with a video that I thought was wonderful and still respected independent standards: you see Helmet on a disused stage in an amphitheater abandoned to weeds and cockroaches.

“Unsung” was a business card that was too greedy: among all the majors that wanted to get them and that wanted to turn them into the “new Nirvana”, Interscope Records got the better of them (for a million dollars!), immediately re-releasing Strap It On (and it was still 1991, but how fast did things happen?) and brought Helmet into the studio to give a follow-up to that album, which would then be represented by the “famous” Meantime (1992). And “Unsung” was also re-recorded and given a video more in line, in theory, with the band’s new image.

Notwithstanding that ‘Unsung’ kicks ass in its first and second versions, I much prefer the video with the cockroaches. Well, at the time when the majors were grabbing these bands, maybe they were also sucking some soul out of them, and this comparison of two videos can be a clear illustration of that. But the majors also made these bands better known to most people, and that was a good thing, something Kurt Cobain also always pointed out, happy that unlike before, a teenager could find Nevermind in a Walmart store. Today the 1991 video has 15,000 views on YouTube, the official 1992 video over 11 million. Just to give you the idea.

Even selling your soul “to the devil” has its advantages.

(Paolo Bardelli)

More info on Paolo’s book can be found here: “1991. Il risveglio del rock. Brit pop, trip hop, crossover, grunge e altra musica eccitante” (Arcana)

Written by Rick Clarke/Illustrations by Andrzej Klimowski




Expanding the Monolith Cocktail’s remit to include more in the way of new literature and poetic musings of a kind, we are pleased to announce the serialization of burgeoning author and rallying beacon of the band Vukovar Rick Clarke’s new novel The Great Immurement. Following on from the first three chapters, kindly and perceptively illustrated by the much-respected Andrzej Klimowski, you can now read the next trio of chapters below.

THE GIRL AND THE PLAY-THING

The Great Immured/I/Us/They still absorb the contents of this sticky, crumpled paper from time to all-time. The letter received:

 

Said the girl to her play-thing:

‘Sometimes I feel you don’t belong… anywhere’

          She stroked

                                And stroked

                                                                And thought…

 

‘Except I wouldn’t want you to be anywhere else – I would be enraged… inconsolable…’

 

And so they sat upon their metallic plinth, the rust gathering rust in their infinite day-time play-time.

The play-thing, red, raw, balding and seeping felt it belonged … anywhere … except its current placement, and so it left.

 

                  The girl cried. She ignored the pain of the departing-wound, with all the blood, pus, open flesh and swinging innards and all else with it, and instead, she felt the pain of her lament for her greatest lover.

 

                                                    All day she cried.
All day….
All day….
All-Every-Day.

 

On her plinth, in the outskirts of the inner Otherlands – not quite all white, all light – she cried.

The play-thing had escaped into the inner Otherlands – all white, all light – and lost itself in amongst other clawing appendages of desires and almost irretrievably gave itself to the brutality.

 

                                                   It found peace and rested.

 

The girl did not stop crying. The departing-wound was healed to a smooth white mound, hairs penetrated the flesh (inwards and outwards) unevenly at uncoordinated angles.

The play-thing heard the sobs. The glistening, slightly sticky tears it could see without seeing were replicated in excitement rather than despair.

 

The play-thing found the girl. An arrival-wound could not be forced. However, the two were reconciled in a new way; a happy ending for both.

 

Sometimes these crumpled, sticky papers would get more crumpled and sticky at differing alltimes. Unreadable, in fact.

 

 

THE PARTIAL SEIZURE

To the doctor RE: Immurement – there are things my/our body/hole is doing without instruction ||| INFORM ME THAT I MAY REINSTRUCT THEE ||| Yes doctor.

 

In the Otherlands – I know longer know anywhere else – the temporal shifts are plentiful.

                     The rooms and the dimensions… the shapes… constantly change – permanent revolution, something I would wish on noone.

                                                                      The shift comes.

 

LOSE YOURSELF TO IT AND DESCRIBE FULLY ||| … .

 

I don’t hate the weirds I see in the street. They amuse me. I find them amusing. I find it amusing that they can’t detect their own filthy stench when everybody else can. Unwashed flesh, soiled clothes… the piss of their cats spray from their throat as they invent nonsensical sentences…outloud… to themselves of course. Who else will listen?

 

An all too familiar summer’s breeze passes over and through my skin. Everything seems to be happening in slow motion, overlapping with real time, causing sickness and nausea before I’m even aware of the fact. I’m disconnected. I’m watching myself from within myself. My thoughts are about my thoughts. Maybe the faint sound of music that’s drifting into my insides from a nearby side-street is the cause, maybe it’s the scent of some familiar-unfamiliar fauna or washing powder. Maybe it’s everything combined. Whatever the trigger, I’m hit.

 

A rising liquid warmth from the pit of my stomach spreads upwards through my chest, across to my fingertips and upwards once more to every nook and darkened lump in my brain.

 

                                          It isn’t possible to overstate the sickness.

 

I see what’s in front of me as any non-blind does, but I see more… There’re images that I

                                                    can’t

                    quite

 

                                                                                     identify.

 

I can understand them for no more than a nano second, these pictures are seen with eyes open, mixed in some impossible way with the reality that’s in front of me.

 

I glimpse a man who I recognise and instantly unrecognise. I just about hold in the vomit.

 

This is the point where my deitic coronation and entitlement reigns supreme. I know all, I see all, I have lived everything that is going to happen, my foresight shows me what I am about to live, a second in advance. Just a second.

And it’s all true.

 

For half a minute I am the King of all things. And then… again…

I’m hit.

 

The line of time – the timeline – that is lay out before me, by me, collapses immediately under noteven-close scrutiny. Everything was and is ridiculous, nonsensical… This future that had been crafted that fitted glove-like now appeared to be like the crackpot ramblings of the cat-piss-breathweirds I saw before. For now, they don’t amuse me anymore. I feel hatred and I feel no sympathy for these scums. It won’t last, I know when I’m next out in amongst them, I’ll giggle inwardly at a rogue flailer, escaping with a childlike glee from its carer.

 

I get home and my body purges itself, uncontrolled by my mind or my will, and I rest. Nothing feels completely real for a v v v long while after, not until the next day.

 

HOW OFTEN DO YOU GO THROUGH THIS? ||| Every moment of every time. ||| … ||| What can you do? Relieve me. ||| NOTHING. ||| Help me. ||| NO. EMBRACE THE ALL-KNOWLEDGE. YOU CAN RELIEVE YOU AND YOU CAN RELIVE YOU. RELIVE YOUR OWN DECAY. ||| … .

 

 

WOMB OF ALL THINGS TO DIE

In which The Great Immured thought of himself, sang to himself, trapped himself.

 

Though any future of you and I
Was hastily stored and shut inside
The womb of all things to die,
Still I await you, arms open wide.

And though briefly this foetus came alive
And escaped its home in the deathly bride
The Motherly noose was quickly tied;
The babe now rots in its natal slime.

I swim the lakes of happiness denied
With each stroke I am to defy
Our deceased future over which I have cried
To punish myself in self-righteous, self-spite.

Through this act I manage to say goodbye
To the terminal tumour that engulfs my pride
And though I’ve longed and lusted and tried
I let it go to let it lie.

 

Rick Clarke


Parts One to three here…

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