Looking for Brassneck, Looking for Significance
Little by little I’m trying to get at a deep concern I have, some means of responding to what I consider to be a common and pressing situation …
A few years back, I stumbled across the music video for the Wedding Present’s song “Brassneck.” This was that band’s first US hit (well, the version that Steve Albini rerecorded was), and a song I’d always liked well enough, whenever I happened to hear it. (It’s from their second studio album, Bizarro .)
This was my first time seeing the video. I spent a great deal of the late ’80s / early ’90s watching MTV, and YouTube has helped me catch up on what I missed. And what struck me about this one is its dance choreography, which reminded me a great deal of Michael Clark’s work. You’ll recall that I’m a tremendous fan of his, in particular his work in Prospero’s Books and Hail the New Puritan. The more that I watched it, the more I became convinced that Clark had somehow been behind it. And so I emailed the Michael Clark Company, asking them whether I was right.
A Company representative graciously wrote me back:
Thank you for your email. As far as I am aware, and as archive shows, Michael was not involved in the choreography for Brassneck. I would usually ask Michael about this directly but he is currently in rehearsals ahead of the new production premiere in Venice in a few weeks.
This answer put me in a bit of a funk. I’d been so sure! But more importantly, if Clark hadn’t choreographed it, who had? Someone else from his Company? Someone influenced by him? Had there been a whole late-80s punk ballet scene that I was now on the verge of discovering?
The Wikipedia didn’t have any information on it.
A Google image search didn’t find any screen captures taken from it.
No one I knew (besides the one or two friends I’d shown it to) had ever seen it.
I emailed the Wedding Present (through their official site), but never received a reply.
A little while after that, the “Brassneck” video disappeared from YouTube. Now I couldn’t even watch it!
What distressed me so much about this situation was my inability to make this video signify, to relate to anything else that I already knew (or could know). Rather, it was just this anomalous thing that had surfaced in my life, then vanished—bearing with it no relevance, no importance.
I mean, I have a general idea of who the Wedding Present was (and is); that’s not the problem. But I can’t push past how little I know about this video. How correct am I to sense some connection between it and Hail the New Puritan? Or to Michael Clark in general? Whoever directed/choreographed it—did they go on to do any other work I’m familiar with, or that connects somehow with other work that I know?
My inability to answer those questions still distresses me. It isolates this bit of knowledge, and makes the “Brassneck” video something I rarely think about (which frustrates me, then, when I do remember it—like now!). For all intents and purposes, from my point of view, it’s as though this video never was.
Until I wrote this post, I put the whole thing out of my mind. What made me recall it now was my post from a few weeks back, the one about Hail. Which made me want to search for “Brassneck” again, and for information about it.
As it turns out, the “Brassneck” video is still up at YouTube; it’s just hidden inside another video:
(If that’s partly offscreen, here’s a link to it at YouTube; you’ll want to see all of its punk ballet glory! “Brassneck” starts around 1:36.)
… But my other searches have proven fruitless; I still don’t know anything more than I did. (I emailed the band again, but so far they haven’t responded. I guess David Gedge is too busy recording snotty-but-sweet Christmas songs.)
So I still don’t know what to do with the thing. Of course I still like it—but it’s still just some random thing I once found. I still lack some larger means of understanding it, of placing it inside a larger history.
Except to continue thinking that Michael Clark somehow secretly choreographed it.
As well as that David Gedge looks a lot like Charlie White’s creepy doll version of Paul Banks, in Interpol’s “Evil” video:
Tags: Brassneck, David Gedge, Hail the New Puritan, Michael Clark, Prospero's Books, Steve Albini, The Wedding Present
Anyone else not care about this?
Well, neither the music, the videos, nor “punk ballet” (much) are interesting to me, but I think the interesting larger point is that this discussion is an example that indicates a categorical question: do connections that one senses exist outside of oneself, or are they wholly projected by one’s imagination? Is some particular ‘machine’ a clockwork or a constellation?
It’s not that everything needs to be knowably connected to something else, or – worse – that understanding art is just a matter of inferring or uncovering ‘influences’, but rather, that the sense of a connection leaps on one and raises the question: discovery… or imposition?
To me, that’s a serious question shot through all of understanding and even perspective, and questioning the genealogy of a crummy-but-compelling video is a reasonable vector in the direction of asking it. No?
You cared enough about it to leave a comment. I liked it, and liked what it says about trying to reverse-engineer memory when history won’t budge, even though I’m not a Wedding Present fan.
I’m not sure the connection I made is specifically to Michael Clark. Some of the moves remind me of early DV8, for instance.
Like I said earlier, this is just not a punk ballet kind of place, Adam.
How is it not so? You and I are talking about it.
Thanks for the DV8 lead! Adam
That’s exactly right. Well said, dg!
The best part is copied:
–Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction