27 February 2006

Red Guitars - Good Technology

Self Drive
(reissued 1984 SD009 7" and SD008 12")

In December the venerable Zoe over at Goldfish Nation did a post quoting the lyrics for this track. I asked her about it and she didn't know the song, so it's nudged me to post it here. With the pulling-me-apart pace of my life these days it takes me ten fuckin weeks to get round to doing a half-hour job. I need to amend this.

Incidentally, whilst I can refer to Zoe as 'Zo-ster' (rhymes with 'toaster'), I find it very difficult to find a way to spell the word. 'Zoster' looks like it rhymes with 'roster'. 'Zohster' likewise. 'Zoaster' looks like there's a syllable break there, 'Zo-aster'. The hyphenated version used above delivers the right phonetics but looks a bit clumsy. I'd be grateful if you'd tell me of a solution to this problem.

So, on with the music. Good Technology is one of those tracks that grabs you by the ears on first listen, the sort of thing that even before it's halfway through you know you love. Tense pulsing background with sharp spikes of guitar, it's clearly not long after early Talking Heads and New Romantics. It swells and spreads, expansive and awkward, but the thing that sets it apart and makes it worthy of remembering 20 years on is the arresting lyric.

We've got photographs of men on the moon
We've got water that is good for us
We've got coffee that's instantaneous
We've got buildings that are very tall
We've got cigarettes that are low in tar
We've got policemen can tell us who we are
We can reproduce a work of art
We've got missiles can tear the world apart
Good, good, good, good, good, good technology

We've got trains that run underground
Aeroplanes that fly very fast
We've got music that is popular
We've got machines that sound like orchestras
We've got ability to transplant a heart
We've got freezers full of body parts
We've got computers that can find us friends
We know roughly when the world will end
Good, good, good, good, good, good technology

We've got animals with transistors in
We've got pills that can make you slim
We've got factories turning frozen chickens out
We've got ovens that cook in seconds flat
We've got plastics that are indestructible
We've got deodorants that make us smell of flowers
We've got detergents to clean up the sea
We've got sounds can turn you inside out

Sometimes I wonder what it is all about
There's lots of leisure time to sit and work it out
There's a TV show I've got to see
Good, good, good, good, good, good technology
Good technology

It's that final bit that does it for me. After this random list of the things that we have, the mundane and the extraordinary, the fucked-up and the fantastic, it turns to the liberation from drudgery offered by labour saving devices. And what do we do with the time given us? Watch telly.

As I've said elsewhere

These days the hearth is the TV. Living rooms are arranged exactly like a hundred years ago, but with that one difference. The average Briton watches four hours of TV every day!

Which is really worrying. People would spend four hours looking at a hearth, but TV is so one-way. It doesn't present you with coloured patterns that let your mind wander and exercise, it tells your mind to shut the fuck up while it tells you what to think about and what to think about the things you think about. It delivers itself as absolute and authoritative. It shows 'experts' in whatever field, who are always portrayed as more informed and eloquent than you, which takes away your sense of power and feeling of ability and worth, and the idea that you might be able to go out there and affect the things that affect you.

And they are lying, TV is so superficial that its main task is to stop you realising its superficiality and artificiality. They pretend things aren't carefully edited to make implications. They try to make it look like the situation being shown is normal, and not rendered fake by an intrusive TV camera being there. We think if someone looks shifty on TV they must be shifty, whereas it's probably actually cos they're not used to having 600 watts of lightbulb in their face while they try to explain years of experience in an eight second soundbite. It's all about veneers. I've actually done TV shows where I've been portrayed as an authoritative expert, and I got believed. I found the MPs and ministers and journalists were bluffing even more than I was!

It doesn't matter that loads of TV is junk. The problem is that it treats everything the same, that a war or a football match or a McDonalds special offer are treated with equal import. It's OK when junk is undisguised junk, when it's meant to be forgettable nonsense. But when it pretends to be serious it distracts us from the real serious stuff, it lowers the standards of what we consider serious. As TV has become the dominant medium, other media have learned that they must imitate TV or die. Have you noticed how our newspapers now look like TV, and our radio sounds more and more like TV? Even when the TV is off, it has set out the methods by which we understand what's going on. The result is a whole TV culture that makes us as individuals insignificant and disconnected, and everything seem irrelevant and unreal.

Four hefty paragraphs, yet Red Guitars say it all in three lines. That, my friends, is what we mean by poetry.

Background stuff about the track - recording info etc - is on this page.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]


zoe said...


Anonymous said...

You have made my friggin' year! Been after this song for an age - used to play it at the start of an indie disco in Salford, late 1980s, when no-one was around and freewheel around the dancefloor on my tod. I'm made up!

anthonyqkiernan said...

Picked this up recently on eBay (after years trying to track it down). However, nice to have a version I can listen to at work. Fucken cheers M.

About six months before he died, John Peel got an email asking him to play "something from 1983 when I was last listening to you". He said he'd like suggestions as he couldn't think off the top of his head. I emailed this. After he played it he said "they never seemed to really match the promise of that. but then, very few could."

Steven said...

I suggest a macron, and I hope this html entity shows up: Zōster.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this, haven't heard it for about 20 years - brings back some great memories.

Anonymous said...

You made my day. Thank you.

I to have been after this for years....

I feel very old though...1983!

Anonymous said...

The studio version is included on the CD reissue of Slow To Fade, if I'm allowed to mention CDs in this vinyl ambience which smells of warm electricity.

I think you're OK with Zoaster. One doesn't trip over the dipthong in toaster or boaster or coaster or Mickie Moaster.

merrick said...

Adamsez: yeah, but to me it loks so similar to Zoroaster that I'm tempted to pronounce it the same way.

zoe said...

(they're ungooglable, by the way. i demand evidence and pictures.)

Anonymous said...

I just read the lyrics and they give me a lump in my throat and my skin went like goose bumps.

Please repost this again

merrick said...

Gary, I don't re-post files due to a lack of server space, but if people leave their email addresses in the Comments than I can email the track (I do it via yousendit.com so it doesn't crash your inbox)