Płyta dostępna od 20.05.2019
This is the third album by Charles Hayward,
published in 1991. Second printing: 2004.
MUSIC FOR THE ARMCHAIR THEATRE OF WAR.
A UNIQUE AND ENTERTAINING SOUVENIR
FOR YOU TO TREASURE AND KEEP
'Switch on War' a dream state synthesis of nights watching live TV coverage of the 1st Gulf War, the reduction of colours to an electron midnight blue, the long periods of nothing really happening, the contrasting landscapes, (the desert, the city at night, the newsroom), the sudden hurtling through space, through a doorway, a camera on the nose of a missile, the bearing of silent witness slowly turning into complicity and mute acquiescence. At the back of the mind the thought that all this would soon be reduced to snapshot memories, archive, newsreel, history.
Originally devised as a performance for the Club Integral, in South London, at the height of the military activity, 'Switch on War' was a harsh and brutal response to the media coverage of the conflict informed by a grotesque and disconcerting anti-music aesthetic heavily influenced by the disorientating, overloaded sound world of Space Invaders arcades.
The CD version was recorded binaurally some weeks later, live in a disused morgue, as the war came to its stalemate close. By this time the anger had a bleak streak of sadness, a distorted expressionist requiem.
This CD had the life expectancy of a magazine article or some such, no more than a year and it would be archive, a mere souvenir.
Switch On War opens with discorporate howling and the first semblance of a drone that's felt, if not actually heard, throughout the record. Charles Hayward gained acclaim as drummer for seminal British art rock trio This Heat, but he has since recorded a number of solo releases, including this album in 1991, subtitled "Music for the Armchair Theatre of War." Hayward was responding to the Gulf War as it existed on the airwaves of Western television (its only form to most Westerners): Night vision TV images of bombs lighting the skies above Baghdad; the mesmerizing monotony of 24-hour dissimulation of combat. Hayward reimagined the carnage as an industrial march fundamentally corrupted by harrowing futility.
Switch On War was expected to have a shelf life as brief as the conflict itself or, at least, as brief as the public's attention span or collective memory. Sub Rosa recently reissued the record as, ostensibly, a premonitory response to the second Bush's war in Iraq. Consisting mainly of sterile and distant percussive clatter dispersed across a vail of organ swells, squeals and drones, the record is alternately meditative and assaulting; sometimes it manages to be both at once.
As the elder Bush's war never really ended - it just slipped into the dreamworld of archived images and latent threats - it is appropriate that Switch On War be recycled along with the return of hostilities. Few musicians in the past few years have leveled poignant or even serious criticisms of the Bush administration - the Beastie Boys and Chuck D., among others, have issued particularly cringe-worthy fare. This alone makes Switch On War a record to relish.
Hayward attempts to portray the brute sounds cautiously avoided by the mainstream media. His metallic trance seems to point out the vacuity of a mediated reality while also capturing the psychology of the viewer. Wailed vocals don't sound as desperate as they should. An extended snare roll marches over discombobulated organ noise at the end of "Pinpoint," but the irony is couched in numbness, acceptance. In "Sweetheart," interwoven tones give way to pounding distorted toms accompanied by a piercing high-end buzz - stasis and movement, fantasy and horror begin to occupy the same space.
Switch On War offers no way out. In fact, it reinforces and reanimates what we might have forgotten over the past decade, that the nightmare wasn't just a bad dream. The tendency of government and compliant media to reduce the reality of war to a series of disarticulated images and restrictive narratives has only gotten worse since 1991, making Hayward's dead end all the more relevant. It is an important sidebar temporarily plucked from the dustbins of history; though it would seem a paroxysm whose meaning is destined to once again fade from our collective consciousness like so many press conferences, terror alerts and dead soldiers' names, the sad irony of Switch On War's continuing relevance suggests that a record can compel one to fight the urge to forget.
01 Crying shame 11:18
02 Strong-arm dead-line 10:47
03 Pinpoint 11:31
04 Sweetheart 13:51
05 Never before 12:39