39 Clocks

I am totally in awe of the born-out-of-time German synth-punk duo 39 Clocks, a deliriously and studiedly cool early '80s duo with a broken drum machine (it seemed to have maybe two settings, total) who anticipated the Spacemen Three's obsession with the Velvets and Suicide but in a fabulously wrong, perhaps intentionally fucked-up, ESL-poetry, bad haircut and pleather pants, more than mildly Gothy and very very 'Sprockets' kinda way that seemed both ahead of and woefully behind the times but has never ceased to sound perfect to these ears.

Thirty Nine Clocks used the English language wonderfully; just peep some of their song titles: Twisted & Shouts/ New Crime Appeal/ Shake The Hippie/ 78 Soldier Dead/ Test The Beat/ Psycho Beat/ 39 Explosion Heats/ A look Into You/ Heat Of Violence/ Dom (Electricity Elects The Rain)/ Psychotic Louie Louie/ Past Tense Hope &/ Instant Fears On 42nd Street/ Virtous Girl/ Three Floors Down/ Rainy Night Insanities/ A Touch Of Rot.

I adore them and have since my ex roommate, Uncle Wiggly member and WFMU DJ Bill Berger turned me on to them ca. 1989. I know next to nothing about them, and all I own are two albums and a comp. These songs are from that compilation disc, released in 1993, called The Original Psycho Beat, which collects tunes from their four LPs. It's out of print but should be not too difficult to find.

That shit is pretty clear-cut, and raises about a million questions I'm unable to answer. Such as: Does he mean it, or is he appropriating a voice? Does it matter? Can good people make morally unsound art and still be good people? And if an utter villain creates a piece of art that I admire, do I become complicit in villainy? Does art even have an obligation to be moral? Is J.C. right ("The avant-garde need not be moral")? Is the other J.C. right ("The avant-garde is ideologically unsound, Charlotte, you need the razor to have Marat")? What about the other other J.C. ("Parents, honor your children etc.")? When dudes sing about digging little girls, should I become irate? If I'd ever actually been molested in any way myself, would I? What about you? When sly white boys with broken four-tracks make transgressive statements, do you tend to view it as some sort of social commentary or satire? But when the Ying Yang Twins whisper about "beating that pussy up", do you take it as literal and toxic? If so, does that make you a racist? When Banhart sings "I see so many little boys I want to marry / I see plenty little kids I've yet to have," should we assume he's a pedophile, even though conflating the art and the artist is a huge fallacy? But so even if it's a fallacy, I mean, does that just make saying whatever cool? Even if you don't mean it? I mean of course saying whatever is cool b/c we don't want to be prudes or facists, but does that mean we just have to open wide and swallow whatever? Do we take Lanegan's "little girl" literally, or as an affectionate figure of speech, and if it's the latter, are we offended by this child-sexualizing figure of speech? If we're offended, is our moral outrage self-serving or deeply felt? And is it mitigated by the undeniable loveliness of images like "There's a crimson bird flying when I go down on you?"