300. ‘Half Sister’

Writing anything here has been problematic for some time. Yes, looking after my father every other day for the last 16 months has been increasingly draining. But it is more than that.

Every sense and instinct prods, gnaws and pinches. Nagging insistently that that a train crash is coming. Any words I find to try and describe this cannot begin to capture what is hurtling, still quietly, down global tracks. And writing about anything else usually seems pointless, frivolous.

Maybe Iain M Banks got near to nailing down the massive force that I sense approaching, with his last few chapters in the ‘Consider Phlebas’ sci-fi novel, where a group of space mercenaries land on an ostensibly deserted planet. An enemy hides within a complex of subterranean train stations. One protagonist sets a train for a collision course into a station. The slow build accelerates, steadily, into an atomic finale, mind-blowingly presented, maybe even a little orgasmic to my odd sensitivity.

What might be coming in our realm? Truth, for sure, say my guts. In bulk. Hundreds of tonnes of it, like a giant bog brush clearing a miles-long U-bend.

Which brings in Protomartyr, a US band that has come to my attention in recent months. Making this 64-year-old feel like a teenager again. The ultimate compliment to any band!

To me, their music speaks and resonates like no other at present. Check out their last two albums: ‘Descent into Relatives’ and ‘Ultimate Success Today’. Powerful art, cutting away all shite. Music and lyrics that say, quite beautifully, how darkly and direly we are positioned in time and situation. Maybe in terminal decline – social, political and economic – as things stand.  

So many brilliant tracks, rendered so poetically, but one stands out. ‘Half Sister’. Located at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sd9nEpqVOQ&list=RD5sd9nEpqVOQ&index=1.

Resonating with every part of me, it contains an opening line that any inventive writer might happily die for:

In ancient Palestine a Roman middle manager dresses down a radical.

Don’t lie. You didn’t expect that little scene-set. Teeing up par excellence. Backed by urgent guitars, bass and drums. Fucking listen, it says. Sounding like the Smiths and Mark E Smith bumped into Nick Cave and Nirvana.

I have a backlog of so-called prophets
You are of a multitude
The offender said, “I witness truth”
Perplexed and filled with pique the jailer replied,
“Truth, what is it?”

Now the second verse leaps into the near-present, stepping up the imagery with surreal crafting. Hats off to singer/writer Joe Casey. Tying together more and more themes.

Outside of Darlington in 1963

On certain mornings a specter appeared
In a well-appointed back garden
Its voice was still heard after the sun had burned away its image
Consulting physicists and mediums, the man he realized
It was a relative, living 1000 miles away
Half sister was thinking of him very poorly on those mornings

Quite a story already, huh? The wall of sound building, circling, guitar still going forwards, promising a shift up in gear. Joe belting it out with everything he has, because it’s his job to relate that things are looking decidedly dodgy.

In Northern Michigan there was an incident in winter
A horse was hit by lightning and began to speak in a foreign language
When he was finally understood, it repeated, “humans are no good”
So they shot it behind the shed and stuffed him
He’s now on display as a lesson for the kids to always do your best
Do your best always

Just 3 minutes in, and it surely can’t get any better. Eternal truths, from the poor horse’s mouth, as Protomartyr rock your nuts off. You fleetingly think of being lucky enough to witness this in a live audience, moving your body and feeling your soul lift to something very unique.

And then the bass crosses a bridge and the band hit fifth, a truth train rushing into the world’s blocked colons, dipping into an even richer, gorgeous riff that they have been saving up, more urgent than ever.

Truth is a colicking horse
That serves no purpose
Truth is a babbling prisoner
You’d rather not kill if they confess

Electrifying. And they ram it to the hilt, at a time when almost every newspaper you read and virtually every brownnosing TV and radio presenter you hear is full of utter shit.

Truth is the half sister
That will not be forgotten
Truth is the half sister
That will not forgive

She is trying to reach you
Trying to reach you

As my mate Jono says, they are THE band of these times. The final message insistently knocks on the door:

She is trying to reach you
Trying to reach you

Joe Casey says she won’t forget or forgive. Forgive me, but I’m keenly anticipating that day.

18 thoughts on “300. ‘Half Sister’

  1. Yeah, I’m jealous of some of that brilliant wordage up there.
    The part about the “Roman middle manager,” and of course the horse that has a less than flattering comment about “man” and gets shot for his troubles…while the hypocritical message to children goes forth: always do your best.
    I listened to about half of it, too, in all its hard rock rocky glory.

    Your potential prescience is unsettling, tho……
    You think more bad stuff’s coming down the pike? Related to the virus or…. something else?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Really, can’t complain. We’ve fared well. And I got to see/hug my dad for the first time in a year on Father’s Day a few weeks ago. He wouldn’t let me get near him all year! It was a nice reunion, basically the highlight of my year. 🙂 🙂 🙂

        I feel a little bit tense too. I’m trying not to dwell on it but…we shall see. Hopefully it’s just the sound and the fury, signifying nothing. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I know, I know, he really is amazing. I feel very, very lucky for our circumstances. But you are also a wonderful son because not every father, obviously, or mother, receives gentle love and care of their children. His heart must swell with pride. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant, in a train hurling into the unknown sort of way, perfectly described with all sense heightened… the chaos u describe renders a kind of bohemian beauty; truth, love, beauty, freedom….music of the spheres of existence

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never heard of that band Kev (Sorry for the late, late comment, I’ve not been feeling it, I mean coming on here or blogging)
    I’ve got to say some of those lyrics are kind of oppressive. Maybe that’s what truth is, oppressive?! I Don’t know. I kind of settle into my comfortable old chair and listen to music that takes me back. You know what I mean, familiarity is safe. Bring back the days when we could go for a walk and stop for a beer and feel comfortable.
    I WILL give them a listen, the lyrics are brilliant, soul searching.
    I hope you’re well mate? And your wife, dad and family?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely to hear from you John. Like you, I’ve fallen away from the blogs….but missed your tales of Derbyshire’s more picaresque (if unfortunate) characters. Protomartyr’s sound is a bit grim, but it struck a note with me.
    We’ve been living with dad for 5 months now. It can be all-consuming and saps any spare energy left over for writing. Watching somebody close slowly deteriorate isn’t fun, but one recent story stands out, and is worth a short blog soon.
    The wider world has quite literally gone mad. I’ve tuned right out of any news, as it all seems to be a push for WW3.
    Weird times. The best I feel most days is waking up from a good sleep.
    But I’m not complaining.
    How’s work and all your large family?


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