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Research + Work

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Research + Work

Unreasonable Records: the deviant convictions and sonic wreckage of mad music

Mark Harris

The graveyards of obscure records remain silent, their outlandish philosophies unappreciated, their sonic wilderness unexplored. The least known vinyl languishes in bargain bins of record stores, stacked sleeveless on charity shop racks, boxed up in song poem writers’ attics. The acoustic radioactivity of the better known records refuses classification. Suspended in audio purgatory, these records’ wayward postions on chronic issues remain unanalyzed. Inveterate and intractable themes are a magnet for much of this music: meaningless war, human-animal threshholds, frontiers of eroticism, crushing work, the arbitrariness of language, and political injustice. What askew perspectives and unusual musicality do these records bring to such preoccupations and do they help us shake off over-used analytical paradigms? Book chapters include discussion of unreasonable records about airplane crashes, sex, murder, politics, war, language, art, and drugs. Considered as a kind of lyrical unconscious that momentarily reveals impulses and desires buried by commercial music, the warped anxieties and impulses of these records are taken here as symptomatic of enduring social, psychological and political conditions. Unreasonable Records accesses the critical value of such obscure and marginal songs not as a sonic freak show, but rather to recognize their nonconformist acoustics as subversive cracks in normative popular music.