Creative Incongruity

I was driving around running errands this morning, listening to the new Fall album, and had a little revelation about why I so like Mark E. Smith’s lyrics: he uses a lot of some tricks of incongruity and absurdism that I do, and we all like listening to things to that remind us of ourselves. F’rinstance . . . in my own writing: my favorite part of “Cronus” from a few days ago was the line about Hades tasting like old socks, because in order for it to mean anything, you have to assume that Cronus is familiar with socks, a decidedly non-Ancient-God-like garment. That poem worked far better for me when I pictured Cronus sitting around in a pair of baggy gym shorts, wearing black socks, than it did when I pictured Cronus the way the classical Greeks and Romans did. Or in “Witness,” having Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego owning an office supplies store was another similar lurch of creative incongruity, putting then and now on the same plate and stirring things up with a whimsy whisk. And that’s what Mark E. Smith does so well: one of the best songs on the new album is “Sparta F.C.”, in which “F.C.” means football club, applying a modern-day English soccer ruffian ethos to ancient Greece. I also particularly like this little riff from his song “Mountain Energei:” “So I went fishing. A note from a fish said: ‘Dear dope, if you wanna catch us, you need a rod and a line.’ Signed, The Fish.” Fish writing notes. Cronus wearing socks. Office Max precursors in Babylon. Hooligans ripping up ancient Greek soccer stadiums. I like that stuff, a lot. (And, no, I’m not comparing the quality of my writing to Mark E. Smith’s, lest you think I’m being an arrogant tool. I’m just noting that I finally figured out why it resonates so deeply with me: neither of us make much sense sometimes).

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