Friday, August 21, 2020

The Mad Fuckers (flowers in the dustbin)

"Where "WFL" focuses entirely on the sensation of being a drugged member of a drugged dancefloor, Flowered Up's "Weekender" documents both the hallucinatory delirium and the sociocultural framework that both explains and ultimately contains it. ("WFL" might itself have been intended as a component of such a broader vision; the Bailey Brothers had originally been approached by Happy Monday's label Factory Records to work on a movie project about Manchester provisionally entitled The Mad Fuckers). A 15 minute mini-movie that follows a hard day's night in the life of a working class London youth called Little Joe, "Weekender" is a mélange of traditional "gritty Brit" social realism (Joe eats his dinner while his mother neurotically twirls her wedding ring on her finger and silently watches TV, its screen reflected in her spectacles; Joe smokes a spliff in the grim hallway of concrete tower block of flats; the sordid sex-and-drugs squalor of a nightclub's lavatory, seen in a overhead pass that peeks down into each cubicle in a row of toilet stalls); trippy dancefloor commotion; heavily symbolic fantasy/hallucination sequences; and urban derive (Joe, still in the Ecstasy haze, wandering the deserted metropolis in the grey pre-dawn hours). Think Ken Loach filtered through the prism of MDMA....

"Like Happy Mondays, Flowered Up were a rock band inspired by and caught up in the frenzy of British rave culture in its early years; despite its remix by DJ Andy Weatherall, "Weekender" is therefore more a rock song about the joys and anguishes of the rave lifestyle than an example of where dance music was at in 1992. Still, Wiz's screenplay and script preempts the basic narrative arc of all the clubbing-and-drugging movies and fiction that followed in the Nineties: having the time of your life and then paying for it, flying high and crashing hard. The film is both a documentary snapshot of early Nineties London clubland (listening to pirate radio, going down to Quaff Records to pick up the new house imports and rave flyers) and a more timeless statement about British proletarian "weekenderism": the "workhard/play harder" life-cycle that goes back to the pill-popping mods of Sixties London, via the Northern Soul fans of the Seventies with their obscure sub-Motown singles and amphetamine wraps, and the jazz-funk and soul All-Dayers of the early Eighties. Both song and video pay homage to The Who's mod movie Quadrophrenia: there's a sample of the film's hero telling his boss to take his job and stick it where the sun don't shine, and Little Joe is picked up by a friend driving a mod-style scooter.

"More eloquently than Flowered Up's crudely expressed and sketchy lyric,Wiz's scripted dialogue lays out both the exhilaration and the impasses of the raver's lifestyle:Joe's feelings of limitless power and possibility ("when I'm out with my mates, and we're all one on, buzzing off our nuts, all together, it feels like we could... like we could do fucking ANYTHING!") versus the eternal return of Monday "like a jail on wheels" (to quote The Clash), the comedown to a reality with all its limits intact and un-altered ("I used to feel like that when I was young, but look at me, I'm still cleaning windows,"responds Joe's older, wiser, and wearier workmate).

Unlike his mother and his equally crushed, domesticated sister, jack-the-lad Joe is determined to out-run his inevitable fate (mediocrity) for as long as he can, fueled by music and drugs. The most striking sequences in the video depicts him doing just that--a fantasy set-piece in which Joe sprints full-tilt inside the grooves of a gigantic 12-inch dance single, giggling with glee despite the malevolent stylus that is hard on his heels. Redolent of the set-pieces in Julien Temple's musical Absolute Beginners (his flawed version of Colin MacInnes famous novel about the early, just-before-mod days of British youth culture/cult of youth), this sequence vividly captures the sense of dance culture as both groovy and a locked groove. Adding to this sense of a loop,a deadening dead-end, is the image that opens and closes Wiz's mini-movie:Joe--gaunt, pallid, a devitalized ghost of himself, an ember of the disco inferno--descending the side of a huge office building in his window cleaner's pallet; literally coming down after the high.

"Focusing on the story of one face in the crowd (a Face in the Sixties mod sense: a figure "on the scene"), "Weekender" represents one attempt to circumvent the problem of techno's facelessness, its lack of a performance model or star glamour..."

excerpt from my Oberhausen Film Festival talk / Stylus magazine essay Seeing The Beat: Retinal Intensities in Techno and Electronic Dance Videos (2002)

Really unconvinced / turned-off by Flowered Up's first forays into "Southern Baggy"

 ... but came around to them, somewhat, with "Weekender" 

Northern sister songs to "Weekender": 

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