Saturday, September 29, 2007


There is nothing like the public sector suddenly befriending you (or, worse, claiming to value you) to bristle the hairs on the back of one's neck. The residents of Camden and Islington, of which I am one, are undergoing this process at the moment. The reason? No, don’t be silly, it’s not because the great and the good of the local NHS Mental Health and Social Care Trust has suddenly woken up to how influential we all are. It’s because it wants to become a Foundation Trust, and it needs our help.

Foundation Trusts (FTs) were the brainchild of Alan Milburn, the former Health Secretary, who stated that they represented a crucial component of the new “patient-led” NHS. It was claimed that they would be freed from the bureaucratic constraints of Whitehall and more publicly accountable. Mr Milburn said that he wished to see all hospitals achieve foundation status by around 2008, even though a hospital would need a three-star rating in order to qualify. The establishment of FTs was narrowly agreed by Parliament in 2003, and ten hospitals were given the go-ahead to achieve foundation status.

But the arguments against FTs were always far more coherent than those in favour. Trade Unions, led by Unison, argued that FTs would create a "leaky bucket" in the NHS. Whereas surpluses and monies raised by the sale of assets were redistributed within the NHS economy, FTs would be able to re-invest funds into the private sector. The fact that FTs can retain money raised from asset sales provides a strong incentive for Trusts to sell off property.

Nor did the Government's claims of increased accountability stand up to scrutiny. In the case of Camden and Islington, there are more than 250,000 people who are eligible to vote in those two Boroughs, and to whom the local Mental Health Trust must account. But to become an FT, the Trust must recruit only 1800 members ; the line of responsibility, however tenuous, which runs from each of the rest of us to the Secretary of State, will be lost. As Dave Prentis wrote in Healthmatters magazine in 2003,

Foundation trusts appear unlikely to deliver increased social ownership and local accountability. There is no guarantee that foundation trust members will be representative of the local community or a hospital's users. And if the members of a foundation trust feel strongly about an issue, it is unclear how effectively they will be able to make their views heard and how much power they will have to achieve change.

Such suspicions are borne out by a study conducted by the King's Fund at the Homerton Hospital in 2005, which dismissed the claim of increased patient ownership as "rhetoric". One governor describe his feeling of impotence thus : "I regret to say that I wouldn't be able to pinpoint a particular point or issue that I have been able to achieve by my being a governor."

Although the government has always denied that the establishment of FTs is a first step to privatisation, it has publicly stated that it is part of a much wider policy of opening the NHS up to the market:

We are shifting away from an integrated system in which the NHS provided virtually all of the care to a much more mixed one in which the private sector will play an increasingly major part - first of all in hospital care and diagnostics and probably, in time, other kinds of care from chronic conditions to what has traditionally been seen as family doctor services.

- Chris Ham, former head of strategy at Department of Health, April 2005

FTs may be a kind of "third way" between public and private provision, but they remain subject to the competition of the marketplace. Once a few hospitals in a particular area achieve foundation status, there are incentives for them to compete for both patients and staff. This is the challenge that faces Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust. There are five FTs in north London (CNWL, the Homerton, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Tavistock & Portman, and UCL), one of which (T&P) is also a provider of mental health services. C&I is therefore left with a choice : sink or swim.

For the residents of Camden and Islington, this is what the mantra of "choice" boils down to. If you oppose foundation trusts, you have a choice between two evils : sign up for a policy which you believe is wrong, or refuse to enter into the charade, in which case you will be served either by a Foundation Trust which does not represent you, or by a non-Foundation Trust which is constantly under threat of extinction. Some choice...

Sunday, September 23, 2007



Death is the only end to the odyssey of the pornographic imagination when it becomes systematic ; that is, when it becomes focused on the pleasures of transgression rather than merely pleasure itself.

- Susan Sontag, The Pornographic Imagination

Recently, the advent of the DVD has seen a curious introduction to the porn video : the bonus “behind the scenes footage”. This shows the actress, apparently just before or after the filming of the sex scene, being interviewed by the director. She is variously coquettish, flirtatious, shy, kooky – in other words, she is her natural self. The footage purports to show us the girl as she really is, away from the staging and the costumes and the moans and the siren’s gaze. But we should not mistake this for an admission that the sex scene is just theatre, that the “behind the scenes” scenes are real. The message here is, “Look – the girl is sexually charged even when she’s not acting! Even when the cameras are off her, she still wants to be fucked!"


The format of the 3D film, where two stereoscopic images are viewed in perfect synchronicity to produce an illusion of depth, feels remarkable because it transports us somewhere else, to an alternate, hyper-real world. Your stomach turns as you descend a rollercoaster. You flinch when a punch is directed towards you. You turn your head towards your armrest, where it appears that a cup of coffee has been placed. Given the intensification of the moving image which the third dimension produces, why has 3D pornography not taken off? With a bit of technology and imagination, surely one could create a sexual experience which sidesteps the inevitable impasse of the human sexual relationship?

Or perhaps the idea of of 3D pornography is a rather conservative one. Cyberspace, after all, offers us an advanced version of this phenomenon. The idea of cyberspace was conceived by William Gibson in his book Neuromancer as "a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation." Technology has turned Gibson's idea into a reality, and the term is now used quite generally to describe the Internet.

It remains an hallucination, of course. Behind the screen of your laptop there appears - quite literally, even physically - to exist another fluid and dynamic world. Social networking sites seem to offer us a place to communicate with friends and strangers. But who knows - many of these people may not exist, and even if they do, they are quite worldless. They exist to provide us with a really existing Other. Their effect is different, but their structure is like that of the analyst. They are the ego-ideal made flesh.

In an essay called "No sex please, we're posthuman," Zizek considers our problem in establishing the difference between the real world and what lies "beneath the screen" :

The uncanny feeling generated by playing with toys like tamagochi concerns the fact that we treat a virtual non-entity as an entity: we act "as if" (we believe that) there is, behind the screen, a real Self, an animal reacting to our signals, although we know well that there is nothing and nobody "behind," just the digital circuitry. However, what is even more disturbing is the implicit reflexive reversal of this insight: if there is effectively no one out there, behind the screen, what if the same goes for myself? What if the "I," my self-awareness, is also merely a superficial "screen" behind which there is only a "blind" complex neuronal circuit?

This, of course, is Lacan’s premise in his writings on the mirror stage. Early in its development, the child will identify with an image of itself – perhaps in the mirror, or from contact with its mother – whose unity jars with its motor incapacity. This image of the unified self means that the ego (the ‘I’ that Zizek refers to) is situated in what Lacan refers to as ‘a fictional direction’. We forever have an image of ourselves as being whole and complete, because this is how, corporeally, we appear to be. But we cannot tally this with the disrupted, fractured and incomplete nature of the way we feel. The unified self-as-other becomes an fictional ideal which we can never attain. If our lives were made into a film, we would choose this ego-ideal to play ourselves.

Virtual reality is a playground for our ego-ideal. When we spend time in cyberspace, we are not quite ourselves ; and when we engage in cybersex we may, as I have said before, come as close as possible to attaining the ego-ideal. The fact that cybersex is a non-bodily experience, a kind of virtual non-sex which bypasses the body, means that our perfect fantasy can be maintained. The awkward dialectic between our thoughts and our bodies is avoided. Of course, this can be dangerous, alienating oneself further and further from one’s body as one delves into the solipsistic comforts of the infobahn.

Which brings us back to porn. If our lives were made into a film, the sex scenes, as played by our ego-ideal, would probably be scenes straight out of a porn film. Developments in neural technology mean that a virtual pornography where, unlike the 3D film, one participates actively and physically in sex without actually encountering one's partner(s), may become possible.
As autonomous, constituent units, we would sally forth into a sexualised cyberspace, and stage our own sex scene, with neural transmissions providing us with a virtualised physicality. This should not be considered a particularly controversial nor a perverted concept. It is really an extension of the idea of cybersex, which many people take part in already, via Gibson's "consensual hallucination."

How might it work? And what might be its implications?

Neural implants are familiar to us via science and fiction. A device is attached to the cerebral cortex and records electrical activity in the brain. Using neuroimaging, this activity can be processed and implanted into the brain to stimulate neural networks. This has been used pathologically to restore sensory loss - a bionic eye which produces perceptions in the visual cortex - so might it not likewise be used to augment sensory / sexual impressions? Zizek quotes from Ray Kurzweil's The age of spiritual machines :

Your neural implants will provide the simulated sensory inputs of the virtual environment - and your virtual body - directly in your brain. A typical 'web site' will be a perceived virtual environment, with no external hardware required. You 'go there' by mentally selecting the site and then entering that world.

This reminds us of the Penfold Mood Organ in Philip K Dick's Do androids dream of electric sheep? whereby one can 'dial up' emotions (excitation, anxiety, depression, serenity). The combination one dials into the mood organ is regulated by subjective agency, but once a person is 'dialled up,' they are at the mercy of the Mood Organ. Could we not see neural implants in the same light?

Here lies the impasse of science. It is claimed that complete knowledge of the human genome will enable us to understand ourselves better and to re-program ourselves to eradicate our most painful disorders. But, as Zizek hints in the 'tamagochi' quote above, when we are reduced to a set of data, what can we mean by "we" and "us"? The claim that the human genome is a precise copy of ourselves (or rather, is ourselves) does not quite feel right. What is missing from the genetic information is the very thing which I claimed in my last post defines human sexuality : surface, symbolism and irreconcilable difference.

It is distance which makes cybersex exciting but rarely quite fulfilling ; it is proximity which makes physical sex threatening yet pulsatingly thrilling. Another obsession in the world of pornography is female ejaculation, or 'squirting'. This gynecological process involves a woman vigorously masturbating until, desperate and grimacing, she expels a stream of fluid (usually at the cameraman). Virtual porn, the unhappy medium to the extremes of sex and cybersex, might follow the same line - a solipsistic thud, a furious and gluttonous masturbation, a wretched, death-driven climax.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


This and the following post were originally written as one : an exploration into the psychology of pornography with specific reference to J.G. Ballard's Crash. That post became unwieldy, so I have split it up into the two posts here. This one considers Crash ; the following considers pornography and virtual reality. Since they were formulated in tamden, I suppose that is how they should be read.


After Freud's explorations within the psyche it is now the outer world which will have to be eroticised and quantified.

- J.G. Ballard, Preface to Crash

At the heart of Crash, J.G. Ballard's 1973 novel, is a kind of fantastical hyper-reality which I have only otherwise seen in pornography. It portrays a world where, unaffected by the stimuli provided by the human body, people find sexual excitement from participating in car crashes. The novel, like David Cronenberg's film adaptation, has no plot as such. Unlike most Hollywood films, which treat the audience to five minutes of sex before continuing with the principal storyline, in Crash the principal storyline is people having sex, over and over and over again. It aims for the core of human sexuality, to strip away all adornments, to deprive it of language and humanity, in order to find pure, unadorned sex.

Of course in reality, sex has no core. If a person’s brain was scanned while s/he was sexually aroused, something of their agitation might be revealed, but what characterises human sexuality – surface, symbolism and irreconcilable difference – would remain obscure. This is what I mean by the claim that sex is inherently pornographic : porn's acknowledgement of the depthlessness of sex makes it satisfying for the viewer, who becomes aroused by the very plasticity of the actors, the fakedness of the orgasms. But there is a notable lack of real orgasms in Crash. Sex has become a process, a flat plane, full of absolutely nothing.

The characters in Crash (and they are barely characters at all) are incapable of normal sexual arousal by each other. They are detached from their own bodies. In seeking the speed, the violence, the aggression of sex in car wrecks, its protagonists are searching for something primeval which man has lost.

Sometimes, when reading Ballard's novel it is difficult to tell what is being described - the bodywork of the car or the bodywork of a man or woman :

As she brought my penis to life I looked down at her strong back, at the junction between the contours of her shoulder demarked by the straps of her brassiere and the elaborately decorated instrument panel of this American car, between her thick buttock in my left hand and the pastel-shaded instrument binnacles of the clock and speedometer.

Lacan’s conception of the castration process explains why our sense of ourself is fundamentally divided - we are, at the same time, subject and object, self and other.

The mirror stage is a drama whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation - and which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality that I shall call orthopaedic - and, lastly, to the assumption of the armour of an alienating identity, which will mark with its rigid structure the subject's entire mental development.

- Jacques Lacan, 'The Mirror Stage'

It is this alienating identity, the product of the incompatability of the unified body and the divided ego which lies within, which is the source of neuroses. Along with the destruction of the present - caused by what Lacan, at his most Marxist, calls "the historical effort of a society to refuse to recognise that it has any function other than the utilitarian one" - it causes a death of effect, a lack of an outlet for our pleasure impulses, the deferral of all pleasure into the future.

Since we experience our own bodies as objects separate from ourselves, it is perhaps no wonder that we can only become aroused by inanimate objects. When the only part of ourselves that feels complete is the image of our own, alienated bodies, and when this is exacerbated by the fetishisation of the body via advertising and commercialisation, our bodies themselves become spectacular, inanimate objects.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change.
- Milton Friedmann

There is an argument put forward by the so-called liberal left that, while the execution of the Iraq invasion has been incompetent and has resulted in catastrophe, the principle of invading a country to liberate it from totalitarianism is still just. This is more or less the point of view of the Democratic Party in the US, and those sections of the left who formerly supported the US government's policy.

The invasion of Iraq has not been mismanaged. Its purpose was, as Naomi Klein describes in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, to create a tabula rasa from which the relics of state control could be erased and which could be transformed to become entirely at the whim of the free market. This is what the US government meant when it talked of freedom and democracy : these concepts were subverted long ago by the followers of Milton Friedmann's unfettered capitalism, so that they no longer relate to human liberty, but only to market fundaments.

Taken in this light, the invasion of Iraq has been hugely successful. Even the unforeseen insurgency which caused many foreign contractors to flee the country has been turned into a massive business opportunity. And the invasion can be seen as the blueprint for late capitalism, for it follows Friedmann's logic that a flourishing free market must be prefaced by a catastrophe or disaster. This was what Friedmann himself described as "economic shock treatment."

Naomi Klein's book and Alfonso Cuarón's companion film reveal the violence - the necessary violence - that drives today's capitalism. Here, from the Guardian's serialisation this week, is some essential reading and viewing :

part 1

The news racing around the shelter that day was that the Republican Congressman Richard Baker had told a group of lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans' wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: "I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities."

part 2

The uncontested heroes of September 11 were the blue-collar first responders - the New York firefighters, police and rescue workers, 403 of whom lost their lives as they tried to evacuate the towers and aid the victims. But far from shaking their determination to weaken the public sphere, the security failures of 9/11 reaffirmed in Bush and his inner circle their deepest ideological (and self-interested) beliefs - that only private firms possessed the intelligence and innovation to meet the new security challenge.

part 3

In hostile interrogations, the first stage of breaking down prisoners is stripping them of their own clothes and any items that have the power to evoke their sense of self - so-called comfort items. Often objects that are of particular value to a prisoner, such as the Qur'an or a cherished photograph, are treated with open disrespect. The message is "You are no one, you are who we want you to be," the essence of dehumanisation. Iraqis went through this unmaking process collectively, as they watched their most important institutions desecrated, their history loaded on to trucks and disappeared.

Thanks mostly to the efforts of clerics who organised salvage missions in the midst of the looting, a portion of the artefacts has been recovered. But many Iraqis were, and still are, convinced that the memory lobotomy was intentional - part of Washington's plans to excise the strong, rooted nation that was and replace it with their own model. "Baghdad is the mother of Arab culture," 70-year-old Ahmed Abdullah told the Washington Post, "and they want to wipe out our culture."

part 4

While the reconstruction of Iraq was certainly a failure for Iraqis and for US taxpayers, it has been anything but for the disaster capitalism complex. Made possible by the September 11 attacks, the war in Iraq represented nothing less than the violent birth of a new economy. This was the genius of Rumsfeld's "transformation" plan: since every possible aspect of both destruction and reconstruction has been outsourced and privatised, there is an economic boom when the bombs start falling, when they stop and when they start up again - a closed profit-loop of destruction and reconstruction, of tearing down and building up. For companies that are clever and far-sighted, such as Halliburton and the Carlyle Group, the destroyers and rebuilders are different divisions of the same corporations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I should like to point that any publicity you may see regarding my predilection for a certain vegetable extract was made without my permission, and does not reflect my taste in sandwich fillers. As it happens, I am still partial to marmalade, both on toast and bread, and any donations to that end are always received gratefully (for your information, I prefer coarse-cut).

I shall be raising this unfortunate (not to mention defamatory) incident with the highest authorities in the land, and may even sue.


Saturday, September 08, 2007


1 : The Psychotic

In One-eyed Jacks, the only film he ever directed, Marlon Brando plays Rio the Kid, an American bandit in pre-revolutionary Mexico, who earns his living by holding up banks with his partner, Dad Longworth.

One day, Rio and Longworth, fleeing from the Rurales after an especially bounteous bank job, find themselves surrounded and outnumbered in the desert. Sheltering from a sandstorm, Dad tells Rio that there's a small town, just a short ride down the valley, through which they passed some time before. There's a guy who lives in the town, says Dad, who sells horses - horses with more life in them than their own knackered animal. With horses, Dad and the Kid could escape from the Rurales and make a break for the border.

While Rio waits, Dad rides off to the town, where he finds a man who sells him a fit, lively horse. Dad mounts the horse, picks up his bag of gold - and crosses the border to Monterey, California alone. Back in the Mexican desert Rio, abandoned by his older friend, is captured by the authorities, paraded round as a trophy, and lands up in the peninentiary to serve a five-year sentence.

When Rio is eventually released and revisits some of his old haunts, he meets a man who is planning a bank robbery in the city of Monterey, where Dad Longworth - unrecognisable as a pillar of respectability - is now mayor.

Longworth, racked by guilt, welcomes Rio to the town and invites him to join in the annual fiesta. Rio seduces Longworth's step-daugher Louisa and the next day, after killing a drunk in a bar, he is arrested. In an echo of five years before, the sadistic Dad violently whips Rio in front of the town's more voyeuristic spectators, and smashes his hand with the butt of a gun.

Rio soon returns to Monterey and when a young girl is killed in a bank-robbery, he is chief suspect. Dad sentences the Kid to hang, but his step-daughter, now pregnant with Rio's child, has other ideas. She manages to get a gun past the guard, Rio escapes his cell and easily kills Dad in a shoot-out. Having committed his revenge, Rio heads up to Oregon, leaving Louisa to wonder if he will ever return.

2 : The Neurotic

In "An Adventure at Brownville," a short horror story by Ambrose Bierce (every bit as great an American writer as Twain and Poe), a young schoolmaster walks home at sunset, satisfied after completing the last day of term. As he absorbs the nature around him, he hears voices coming from the woods.

"I will have no threats ; you are powerless, as you very well know. Let things remain as they are or, by God! you shall both suffer for it," says a man angrily.

"What do you mean?" replies the 'cultivated voice' of a young lady. "You would not - murder us." The schoolmaster sees, among the moonlit trees, the woman sink to her knees in front of the man, but the man does not reply. The schoolmaster tries to intercept - but the voices and the figures vanish into the night.

The next morning, he sees the two women at breakfast : they are sisters from San Francisco. Later he sees the older woman, Pauline, with a man, Richard Benning, whose voice he recognises as the one which haunted the woods the previous evening.

"He was apparently of middle age, dark and uncommonly handsome. His attire was faultless, his bearing easy and graceful, the look which he turned upon me open, free, and devoid of any suggestion of rudeness. Nevertheless it affected me with a distinct emotion which on subsequent analysis in memory appeared to be compounded of hatred and dread - I am unwilling to call it fear."

It emerges that Benning has come to Brownville with his wards Pauline and Eva, who is unwell. Since there is no sign that Benning is acting in ill faith, the schoolmaster tries to forget what he heard in the woods, and lets the matter lie.

But a month matter, Pauline dies suddenly. Eva blames Benning, but when our narrator watches them out on the veranda one day, it emerges that Eva Maynard and Richard Benning are lovers. Later, he approaches Eva, begging her to reveal the true identity and intentions of Richard Benning. "Perhaps this is rude in me, but it is not a matter for idle civilities. When a woman is in danger any man has a right to act. If you had no love for your sister I, at least, am concerned for you."

"I loved her, yes, God knows!" Eva interrupts, "But more than that - beyond all, beyond expression, I love him. You have overheard a secret, but you shall not make use of it to harm him. I shall deny all." At which, the schoolmaster falls madly in love with her.

Eva takes the schoolmaster's arm and walks with him to the Eagle's Nest, the summit of a cliff hundreds of feet about the forest and the valley. There they are intercepted by Richard Benning. "Being a fool," confesses the schoolmaster, "I neglected to take him by the throat and pitch him into the treetops below, but muttered some polite lie instead."

Benning sweeps Eva off her feet, and tells her about the various wild flowers of the region. Suddenly, with a mere look from Benning, "with the smile of an angel upon her lips and that look of terror in her beautiful eyes Eva Maynard sprang from the cliff and shot crashing into the tops of the pines below!"

3. To be determined...

In Hampstead late one afternoon last week, I watched as a mother and her young son alighted the bus. The mother was pushing a pushchair, in which a very young girl slept. The boy tried to pick his sister out of the pushchair, but was held back by his mother. "I'm only trying to help," he protested. "She's my baby as well!"

Sunday, September 02, 2007


I suppose everybody gets this : yr a music fan, a muso even, you know a bit about everything and a lot about particulars etc etc - but still, there are one or two seminal bands about whose output you are entirely ignorant. Well, I have been obsessively devouring pop music pretty much since I could talk, but I have never listened to a Roxy Music album.

Until tonight...

My flatmate, who for four or five years during his adolescence, literally refused to listen to anything but Bryan Ferry and/or Roxy Music, is rectifying this situation by lending me Roxy's Thrill of it all box-set. The first track on the box-set is the first track on Roxy Music's debut album : "Remake Remodel". It is named after a Derek Boshier painting

and aside from its semi-normal structure and its almost-conventional collection of instruments, it is insane. But, from what I can make out from a couple of early listens to Roxy Music and For your pleasure and from a keenness for Ferry's early covers records, it seems to set the tone for the aurgasm I am about to experience : a masochistic lyric, set in the liminal space of pure desire, far away from realised sexuality, and a butch-camp, subliminally class-conscious music.

I've a feeling I'm going to like Roxy Music...

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Thurston Moore described the sound of Sonic Youth’s New York trilogy of albums (NYC ghosts and flowers – Murray street – Sonic nurse) as Black Flag playing Bare Trees­-era Fleetwood Mac. It’s a great description – and perhaps it’s no coincidence that I have always wanted SY to cover FM’s Rumours, just like Camper van Beethoven did with Tusk­ – imagine Kim Gordon doing “Gold dust woman” as a kind of Broken English style torch-song…

Even if their artiness and jazziness and improvisational seriousness is rooted in the early 80s no-fi scene in New York, even if their prophets were Glenn Branca and DNA and Teenage Jesus, they always hang their more protracted tendencies over a structure that is, in essence, pretty straightforward. They play songs, most of which have verses and choruses and middle eights (it is the middle eights where SY crank up the feedback and often produce their most enraptured moments), and they sing about William Gibson and Andy Warhol and Joni Mitchell. Really, they’re just a great rock band, a bit like Fleetwood Mac, except where FM made the subversive popular, SY make the popular subversive.

On Thursday, I was lucky enough to be taken to the Roundhouse by these two good people to see SY play Daydream nation (my favourite album in the whole wide world) in its entirety. The last time I saw SY live, at Brixton in 2004, they were very flat, and finished with an “Expressway to yr skull” that went on for half an hour. I walked out of the Academy, bought the t-shirt and pretended that I had enjoyed myself, but in truth, it was dull.

Last night was revelatory. SY played their landmark with a rare attention to detail. Having seen John Martyn perform Solid air out of sequence last year, I was worried that SY might do the same with Daydream nation. This would have been a mistake – Daydream nation is not an arbitrarily assembled collection of songs ; it is a 70-minute rhapsody. The whole piece ebbs and flows beautifully, rhythms and melodies accumulating and mutating from ferocity to fragility to carnality, and thankfully SY played it faithfully, restraining their more meandering urges and keeping it hip-claspingly tight.

SY are not usually the sort of band you dance to – like their great hero Neil Young, there is always a scent of Death Valley, Helter Skelter evil in their music – but I couldn’t resist a whole lot of lurching on Thursday – especially to "‘Cross the breeze", Kim Gordon’s brutally childlike centrepiece, and to all three of Lee Ranaldo’s (who looked more like a palaeontologist than ever), roaring, wired, chugging garage anthems. “Providence,” the ansaphone-message-as-song which provides an interval on the record served the same, functional purpose at the show, but I have always found that track exceptionally beautiful :

The second half was, if anything, more driven then the first – “Rain king,” “Kissability” and the Trilogy were all violence and tension, undercut with the pounding, Mo Tucker-like drums of Steve Shelley. And after Kim’s lustful panegyric to her “poor rich boy coming right through me”, they came on again and played the singles from last year’s Rather ripped, and “Mote” from Goo, and “What a waste”, in which Kim danced bewitchingly, like a euphoric teenager – and then, like us, they were gone, off to daydream new dreams in another daydream nation.