Jason Williamsons’ Crackanory: Tony, Wrong John Silver, Southcrampton, Fuckin Nora, Mad Carol.
“Communication is not only transmission; it is also reception and response” – Raymond Williams, 1963, Culture and Society 1780-1950.
We’re in self-isolation but things still need to keep swinging; short stories are a perfect way to narrate the barrage of other people’s echoes in a voiceless chamber which has been emptied since the first egg of an idea hatched and infected the hysterical panic buying mob. So, let it swing, and let it be spoken, Sleaford Mods mouthpiece Jason Williamson released his first book, a collection of tales taken from Slabs of Paradise, released via Amphetamine Sulphate; and rather than do nothing; he does what he’s the best at; which is providing abstract anecdotes drawn upon the images of ones’ own experiences and simply: speaks, and stands there, still, but galvanised in the mind.
It’s refreshing to hear something spoken, rather than something both sung, and something shouted. The spoken word; the natural ambience, the outside space; the grunts and groans, the snorts and sniffles, a delight for the eyes and the ears. Of course; the other half of Sleaford Mods, Andrew Fearn; and the music he makes, to provide room for the words to move and the blanks to be filled on behalf of Williamson; are missing. But there’s more to the Mods than meets the senses; and this series of showcases of Jason’s work as a published poet, a storyteller; is another way to be ripped to pieces; without beat, but apparent in being executed with a natural killer rhythm. Tony’s puppets aren’t valuable to him. We can relate to the many snippets of the past we are yearning to live once more once the lockdown has been lifted. Once again, inflate ourselves on milkshakes and photographs. Remember the ‘wank beer’? The ‘shit bands’? The ‘philosophical’ Orwellian posters? I do, I did yesterday, I did this morning. They’ve invades sacred space and permeated pop culture to the point it’s just a pigsty of mundane emotions, meandering sitcoms and bad haircuts. Ignorance is, occasionally, blissful; but there’s a blockage in such a source of sensation and it crushes your heart from both sides with guilt and presses weights against your ribcage. In times of social distancing; the profile picture, the post on the wall; is the graffiti on the bridge.
Williamson’s’ Tony encapsulates this notion beautifully; coolly cruising from one idea to another, one line leading to another line. We’re all feeling like flies hitting webs, weary and weakened under the weather of ‘Western reason’, won over by some illogical optimism, simultaneously blinded by the hard knocks and jagged rocks of the ‘digital unseen’, against all those sodding odds. And there sits Tony; the Tony in everybody, craving the contact; the physical impressions of another body rather than something that just haphazardly appears on a screen or on the street, awkwardly shuffling, strangely shimmering, then dissipates into a puff of smoke. We resemble, in out interconnected networks and signals shot from fingertip to mindset: the lightly blue lit inbox box which contains conversations from people we love and people we don’t care about; between the lot we’d like to like, but just cant stand the sight of; It contaminates us, convinces us, that what we read, is what we need. Tony is tempted, torn apart back and forth; drugs and drink, sobriety and sanity, confusion and clarity, a real patchworking of variously violent and vivid emotions of what he is and what he’d like to be. I’m sure people can relate. Respond to the idea of indulgence, the notions of fetishizing the fragments, the fearing of the future, a demand for the past to be perfect. Yet, as the stigma of one culture unto another becomes a symptom of our increasing suspicions during this noise: so to, is the generational divide between the souls both built by and trapped inside dark brown 80’s brickwork the 90’s knowitall goodfornothing millennial hellions forced to come under inspection; whether it needs deepening, or digging up and binning. Tony is the tenant in our own subconscious; a character in a cheap film we are all living; hyperreal populated by automatons and idiots; thank god for Tony; he should be do a charity single.
Wrong John Silver says that, “cunts drive porsches”. Tell me about it. Sonic Youth; never got it (and Talking Heads…) More conversational; a toing and froing between those all too familiar ‘you know as well as I do’ or ‘don’t get me started’ type conversations between: the co-worker, the partner in crime, one lost Laurel to another dark Hardy, or in this case: John jumping with Karl, broken by work, the bitchiness and childish nightmares and the search for something stronger other than the sugar they coat your current situation with. But gloss can be gotten rid of, peel it back and see the shit; perhaps a ‘plate of it’ underneath. Cinderella’s slipper is a cheap knockoff of a Clark’s original desert boot. We’ve always only ‘fancied one beer’, it’s always Friday after all, in a land with ‘no rules, no respect’ for anything, so fuck it, the days melt into each other, week one bleeds into week two. Holes and mouths, magazines and websites; porn on the phone, sticking to the pricks in a world where lampposts are artwork. It’s a sharpened and focused satirical spin on our nightmarish state of mind. With wild eyes and a tired mind; John has committed sins more than most people can commit in an average working week and loves it. That strange taste in your mouth is last night, that lingering smell in your nostrils is your own skin; it shudders; inescapable hell; yourself ensnared by the symptoms of dystopia you are now so easily stereotyping; a model for the modern man, nasty, naughty, gone horribly wrong. The crumbling rocks of sleep which gather, accumulating over extensive periods of porn and perfecting the profile, laptop glare and supermarket neon; blocking any moisture from making its way past the eyeballs; literally, is Williamson lost to the lines; and its perfect.
Southcrampton details “The land that time fucked off”; people are ‘kamikaze pilots’; forced to, in Year 5, find ourselves; and gradually, our limbs are fed in the sociological mincing machine as though this existence, this crisis, as meat in the pit, bear the brunt some systematic social experiment, whereby existentialism as the new entertainment. The geography of Southcrampton is polluted with a different atmosphere compared to whatever other cities, or even countries, are drawn on the map.
It radiates with a certain glow, a hue, a heaviness we all know; finding some familiarity in the fragments which piece it together; synonymous with our own cultures, estates, subcultures in microcosms, lifestyles plagued by the lingering, lynching denial. It’s on the edge; the peripheries and parameters; inhabited by the victims of history and the rats of the past, who continue to spew tired empowerment stories and the Mark/John’s we all know who lift weights but are a little light in the head; all brawn and no brain, flat and featureless, a life of scripts without edits but forced to experience the inflicted delirium of the powers that be (cocaine) installing, on a regular basis, a false sense of confidence in the nut jobs and crackpots and routinely rotten dickheads we have come to consider the next step in our evolutionary chain: the savage man, with a stagnate mind, primordial and corrupt, not inspired and common. Here, headlines are the new guidebooks. ‘In the world of dancing, emotions don’t matter’, where we wish it was only so easy to slip into another room like slicing bread with a sharp knife whilst the gangster car outside keeps the cars in the ignition, the only way to keep warm, in a context, as cold shouldered as our own. The tale to tell is acidic, acerbic, cuts through the mud, slices to the core, the wit still intact and, when running with this kind of rhetoric; allows Williamson to emerge entirely into his own public speaker on a platform more William Burroughs than Bukowski; more Sean William Ryder without the E, more Mark Smith with the E. Here’s to Lisa and Karla.
Fuckin Nora is the final upload in this series of shorts; the visions of a woman sipping white wine, eating ‘cat soup curry’; split between the promise of religion and the promiscuity deep within her being. The tricks of the weirdness we are lead to believe is the right path for us; the one paved for the clients and the Clides; those steamy, saucy, spicy incentives for betterment in the bedrooms of a couple encountered on those deadly graveyard shifts, more blindfolded in the city than spellbound in fairyland swinging from the substances we feed each other, to feel better; to prevent being swept off our feet by tomorrow and thrown into the cold. We see Nora; but we don’t hear her, and love is poor; a cheap drug; dead meat. She’s a stone throw away from Carol, possibly her neighbour; in a previous life, in a distant future’s smoking shelter. To be more precise, Mad Carol she’s also known as; well…actually Carol is someone who nobody knows; Carol wasn’t anybody, anybody knew. That blast and beam of observing the position of women in culture; the tarmac of the tortured flat-pack estates haunted by the victims of its domestic hell unleashed. The internal panic room; the sadomasochistic sitcom; the human condition itching the skin like something crawls within and haunts the peeling walls, pinned to the surface of the seat, elegantly, effortlessly by Williamson.
The liveness of the word being read; the passage being chewed in the mouth before spoken in the moment, captivating and charming with natural poetic urgency, a man and his mind, his words, his vision, wrapping itself around the everyday like lines of barbed wire hooking onto what its finds alluring, excited and stimulated by. Mad Carol’s roll-up, being smoked in the hallway; the piercing noise; is all we’re ever interested in. And the spectre of Richard Credit lingers like a smell; hovers like a raven, descending onto the backgrounds of the dome’s hazy atmosphere. There’s the cast of characters; circulating each other; embedded in each other’s heads and imaginary narratives – the thick-hicks, the criminal coppers; the ones who suit the scooters and slouch on it like some kind of speeding bikers, maximum capacity packages in motion through the shredded metropolitan landscapes. These details drip with acidic vividness; the dog barking in the background of the reading making it all the more moving, rawer, more tender; more grounded in the gardens of our decadent, but oddly inspired grounds – the place in our own lives, a lot like Carol’s, is doomed.
These are nursery rhymes for the isolated masses: the itching misfits, the ethereal elites and postponed plebeian lifeforces sucked into the same vacuum. One man’s pot to piss in is another man’s swimming pool; and in this life, at this moment, in this time; everything which raises up from the ashes of current cultures will turn to dust on the planes of televisual rot and shows of modern horror. The natural ambience works a treat here, offering something interesting and unhinged. We expect one half of Sleaford Mods, the literary one, the one with the voice, to feel comfortable in evoking these kinds of images; conveying these kinds of incidents and angular anecdotes that erupt with poignant delivery and potent dynamic effervescence. The vulgarities guised as false niceties, from the 90’s to now, in the form of the rapid, written word; but still; its’s a demonstration of the delicacy and fragility; the volatility and strength, of something performed in the moment, recorded sure, but something without music; something unrehearsed, not gridlocked, or perfected, but penetrates the surface; unsettled and let loose, humorously guttural, emotively poetic and very real.
Williamson wrestles with the words, and the words are often awkward to apprehend successfully. This is no detraction from the impact of the spoken word – without microphones or podiums; the story is more than the sum of its parts – it lives and breathes and stinks and seeps into all of ours experiences, warriors and witnesses of every attack and tumultuous trajectory that shakes our bones to brittle, frail blocks of concrete. The three incredibly recited monologues here are experiences as well as observations: when something in its rawest form, its purest state, prevails without distraction, but susceptible to the approaching inconveniences, beauties, cruelties and conditions of the world outside the window: the sirens and birdsong, air being inhaled, the same air being exhaled, the mistakes and the hiccups; the pages turned, microphones lightly rustle, something being sawn in half, someone being stitched together; all make for an even more impressive performance; one without instrumentation, without melody or beat as such, but a dialogue between silence and sound; rhythm and the being.
The start of this piece of work quoted Raymond Williams on the notions of communication; what communication symbolised for literate culture, where it situated itself and how it was used by the masses. What that means; is ambiguous. It adopts many guises, takes many turns, changes into many shapes. But in this case; for me anyways, communication is a way to convey images and incidents, factual or imaginary; about experiences parallel to our own; with no regards for the distance; but aware of how in that void, a voice can be heard, a passage can be read; and the world appears to be a tad more creative than the constant mindlessly propagated cynicism and broadcasted bitterness, on radio, on television, in the household, in the workplace, we are slowly burrowing ourselves into. There are countless occasions where bands are making the most of their time at home, and fair play to them, but spare me the guitar gimmicks and the foolish blues scales; your experiences of drinking whiskey with the kings in the saloons of the wild Northwest are illusory. We’ve had The Rolling Stones release a fart about Ghost town or something, which must surely be; as the undead emperors of novelty fossil rock history; they’re final breath in charted musical territory. Communicating what? That they can still strum a six-string telecaster or sing something about having one’s heart broken in pieces in a hotel room Las Vegas? We’re fighting an epidemic, so fuck you and your stinker of a private pirate party anthem. We’ve also had some better musical moments from Oasis (Noel) and the release of Don’t Stop (demo), which is a classic slice of Oasis B-side pop rock – slow, acoustic, youthful and simple, but overshadowed by a desire for Noel to release anything noteworthy, with even a faint hint of something which resembles the more introspective and quieter side of the group for the larger lads in the latest sambas. If he was to put out anything that said Oasis on the tin, you’d get just about anybody sucking the juice inside without having to open it. Communicates optimism levels and togetherness perfectly well. Then, there’s this. Communicating the critique of the life stood outside these opulent circles, these citadels and spectacles of the rich filth and rotten stink. The stories here, the images ignited, the clockwork relaxed, the fluency of the form unshakeable and airtight; enable the conclusion to emerge unquestionably that – the spoken word is a sword; and for Williamson, it is always drawn.
A review by our very own Paul Clarke is also available to nosey at here.
Photo Credit – Duncan Stafford.
Review by Ryan Walker©. This is his first write up for Louder Than War.