A Few Short Words

Dense not thick


We take no direction. Driving deep into the bush where the sunlight chokes on yarra pine and canopy sprawl defines the sky. Little lights do break inside the cabin, though, and mingle with the motes; seed, grass, ash-fire, water, grease, precipitation, machines in nature. We wind the windows down and force the forest air to flow. I can feel her smiling on my skin, the warmth and promise. We hold hands between stick shifts and watch the road ahead, summer-crisp anticipation fuelling our desires. We take no direction and feel free to be lost with each other.



Suicide sticks his finger in my beer, swirls it around, then pops it in his mouth down to the last knuckle. I motion to the tender for another and we transact without incident. ‘I fucking hate you,’ Suicide says, ‘even the worst of them are better than you by an immeasurable margin.’ I just want to drink in silence, sit in silence, live in silence. Suicide looks at the decor and snickers. ‘Drab isn’t it?’ I don’t say anything, he knows what I’m thinking. ‘Maybe on the way home I’ll push you into traffic.’ I wish he was dead.


Because Sarah never knocks she walks in on me and freaks out but I think the worst part was how she looked at those bloody towels, like I was why she couldn’t have nice things. Later, after clean up and calm down, we sit at the table for a long time and say nothing over instant coffee. I scratch at the bandage. She won’t hold my hand. I needed to know how much I could hurt myself before it meant something. ‘And?’ I guess I still don’t know. ‘And me? How much should I hurt before it means something?’


Because she asks me how I feel, I say, I feel incapable of goodness, then she wonders, ‘What does that even mean?’ I tell her, I don’t actually know but I know something is wrong, and we sit there, as we do, inside our own skulls. ‘I think you’re a cunt,’ she says. For a while I contemplate the existence of malice in passivity; can evil become inert, living outside of social conscience like a benign tumour, or would the detachment of purpose render classification equally redundant? That’s probably it, I say, the cunt thing. That sounds about right.

Nadine Shah: Holiday Destination

Article originally appeared on The Music 18th Aug 2017

Taking us on a tour through human atrocity as guided by thoughtful earworms, saying Shah’s Holiday Destination is politically charged is like saying batteries hold electricity – true but meaningless unless that energy is channelled. Once again, Shah shows her greatest strength is an ability to craft pieces that float high ideas above grounded musicianship without sacrificing the merits of either. Like a nightingale floor, it’s a tightly constructed artefact full of traps for the careless and meaning for the wary, an album that delicately balances its rhythmic joys against dark purpose developed in a complex climate.


The pressure drops and I have the painful sensation of wind over wet ears. ‘You’re more when you’re around other people,’ she says. More what? ‘I don’t know… just, more you. It’s like you become some hyper realised version. I wish you got like that when you talked to me. Why don’t you?’ Because that’s what they want, I tell her, a fictional model full of charm and eloquence, twisted to sate their tastes. ‘So, what? You don’t want to be better for me?’ I thought you liked me for me, I say, but I’ll change if you like.


I lean in quick and kiss her unevenly, a grossly affine plane. Pull back and make eye contact and feel like I know less than ever. ‘Are you going to do it again,’ she says. Standing in her pupils, I tell her, I’d like to, and touch my own face lightly. Her patience extends into the street, mingling with the fog and neon city vapour. ‘Will you do it again?’ I lower my guard and let the back of our hands dance at waist height, seasoned amateurs practicing excitement. I will, I tell her, I’m pretty sure I will.

Devil Electric: Devil Electric

Article originally appeared on The Music Aug 11th 2017

Devil Electric are dark in the same way that Venetian blinds block out the sun – it works but there are pitch black solutions out there you may prefer. Positioning themselves as purveyors of a profound doom, the songwriting is more syllogism than soliloquy and sits on a platform that panders to whatever derivation of “Put a bird on it,” plays in the monochrome twilight. They’re much more engaging when they lean into the rougher riffs and grit. Oh sure, they’ve got licks for days, and they’re very happy to show them off, but it’s more slideshow trudge than triumphant spectacle.


This time it was a bee with a broken wing doing tumbles on my patio, trying vainly to make flight. I told myself it was a sad metaphor for the world so I could feel bad, emotional colony collapse. It’s bullshit of course, not every broken thing has purpose and meaning is a monocular myth we spend entire generations failing to prove. Tumbling and stingerless, it’s poignant to a point and obviously sad, though its wrongness is utterly wrong. They’re meaningless, all these melancholic analogues, but I can’t help it, I desperately want to be miserable for a reason.


I put my arm into a bucket of needles because it said Prizes in glitter on the side. My fingers probed the corners, scraped the bottom, contracted around nothing. Though, in retrospect I should have known, it seemed to take months before I felt the first pricking and longer still for suspicion to congeal into knowledge. Even then, with a thousand undeniable sharpnesses embedded in my skin, I kept standing there, honing my dull bewilderment like a cactus growing peyote. I couldn’t believe it, the bucket had said prizes, had promised fulfilment. I was meant to be a winner.


We pull into a station and I think, maybe I could kill myself, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. The family a few seats up and over the aisle chatter over each other with the high pitched nasal wonder of northern tourists. I wish I didn’t care. My body starts feeling conspicuous so I wrap an arm across my stomach and say an invisibility prayer. If I don’t look I won’t know if they don’t see me. Somewhere past central I stop not crying and ready myself for the end of my trip. Maybe it won’t be so bad.


He puts his bullshit hand on my shoulder while she smirks into my face. ‘You look tired,’ she says. You know me, I say, shrugging, but she doesn’t and his hand stays on my shoulder. ‘We’re looking forward to seeing you up there,’ he says. ‘Really seeing you,’ she says. They’ve got eyes like cocktail onions. I just wanna do my best, I tell them, and they laugh, one of those chittery things. ‘Don’t worry, dear heart,’ she says. ‘You’ll be marvellous,’ he tells me. Some part of me hopes I’m not, knows I’m not, worries I will be.


Mikey puts out the roach and reaches to roll another. He must have seen me watching because he starts to extrapolate. ‘It’s not the drugs, you understand, it’s the habits. I could lose one if I could keep the other but they’re part of the same whole and there’s wholly nothing good enough to replace them.’ I don’t know what to say, I’ve been here with him for every high, I understand the restriction of want and banality of restraint, I just don’t get why he’d think I’d care. I tell him, I’ll roll the next one after this.


I’m just trying to ride the bus when some fucking droog starts offering me an ice cream. When I do the polite decline thing he starts angling to pay it forward. I watch the whole bus circulating this cinema style, plastic wrapped choc-top, a wave of a pained bewilderment passing over the patrons like belligerent children playing pass the parcel with a melting sack of increasing obligation. Nobody appeared to eat it, but the cone eventually disappeared, the driver unaware, the passengers returning to states of awkward passivity and me just trying to keep my peak-hour calm.


Jo’s standing in the kitchen with a paring knife and an expression of torpid decimation, not vacant but vacated. I call out his name and hear the inside of a seashell, the frightening hush of unmeasured depths. He doesn’t move while I slide the knife away, the stillness of it more dangerous than the blade and intrusive in a way that an incision could never be. I stand with him for a time, horrified and curious, enraged by my own inability and actively drawn into dark and quiet introspection. If someone calls out my name, what will they hear?

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