He is, of course, fucking with us. Or at least I think he is.
To illuminate the path forward, Svenonius cites his own “contraband” (read: non-existent) film, “What Is a Group?” The celluloid didn’t make it. He’s got scripts, though, and a slide projector. He asks for volunteers.
Alien A: Well, here we are, aboard the spacecraft Ariane.
Alien Q: Yuck, what’s that smell?
A: Oh, we’re approaching the planet “Earth.”
Q: Oh yes. I’ve read about it. Have you been there before?
A: Yes. A few times. Let’s look at it through the tele-viewer.
Q: Wow. Looks scary.
A: They are in the late stages of capitalism. Right before the inevitable collapse.
Q: So savage.
A: Yes, it’s fascinating. The malignant vestiges of a system we outgrew millions of years ago.
Q: Hey look. What’s that?
A: Oh, that’s a “group.”
Q: What’s a “group?”
A: A group is a music factory who comprise a kind of “heroic clown” role in the culture down there. Oftentimes consisting of indigent individuals, the groups’ members’ highly specific job functions and task compartmentalization directly reflect its post-industrial/imperialist origins.
Q: How do you mean?
A: Well, just as the so-called “West,” or imperialist nations on Earth, were abandoning manufacturing and taking on the role of consumers and exploiters of foreign labor, its rulers elected a class of “artists” to mimic industrial work modes in a totemistic, mystical, and partially parodic sense; hence the “groups.”
Q: Is that the reason for all the grimacing?
It’s all very charming and provocative, in that is it satire? Svenonius way. The Bruisers seem to dig it. No one brings up the awkward juxtaposition of message and venue. I can hear Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” pumping through the wall from Illusions.
Svenonius expands on his ideas in the next script, “The Backwards Message,” about four vinyl nerds spinning classic rock records backward. Toward the end of the playlet, they spin a recording by the Bolshoi Theatre Choir and the Model First Orchestra of the USSR Defense Ministry.
Svenonius, performing as the backward message, reads:
"Muddy Waters once said, 'The blues had a baby and they called it rock ’n’ roll'…but he never explained the circumstances of the blessed event. Who was the father for example? This detail, the paternity, has been left deliberately vague, with the listener left to wonder ‘why?’ Are we to assume it was a virgin birth? Knowing the blues’ boasts of promiscuity, this seems highly unlikely.”
The father of rock ’n’ roll, naturally, is imperialism. Svenonius goes on—rock ’n’ roll was invented to destroy communism and infiltrate “the revolutionary avant-garde.” It is a progressive-seeming but indeed conservative art form “sent as a golem on a mission to seduce the globe.” By now, the Bruiser crowd is feeling antsy. A couple of people slip out of the room. Svenonius, being a gracious performer, begins eliding sections of his play. He’s overplayed his hand. He skips to the final passages:
Paula: So there is still hope?
Voice [Svenonius]: There is hope! But only if you follow my instructions. Rock ’n’ roll can and must be inverted, transformed into a powerful weapon to destroy its wanton, criminal father! I’ve been waiting so long for someone to spin me backwards. You only have to listen to the following instructions….
The Bruise Cruise spends Saturday night in Nassau. In the Bahamas. A foreign country. Albeit one where we’re directed to a live-music venue that seems distinctly familiar: Señor Frog’s.
It’s a good bet this is the first Black Lips show in a club adorned with signs reading “REHAB IS FOR QUITTERS” and “WE PRE-GAME HARDER THAN YOUR PARTY.” Not to mention one listing “15 REASONS WHY A BEER IS BETTER THAN A LOVER.” (“9. Beer is always wet.”) Inside, the non-Bruiser contingent is heavy on Polo shirts and large biceps and overworked tans.