Tuesday, February 08, 2011

v/a "nlgbbbblth CD 10.11: Like Standing In A Power Station On Acid"

For me, this compilation is all about one track. That track is 'The Boiler', by the Special AKA. I had never heard it before, but I knew of it by reputation. When it came out, I remember reading something about it being banned from the radio for featuring the terrifying scream of a woman being raped. More recently, in the pages of Frank's APA I have read many people talking of it as one of those tunes they admired but hoped never to hear again. So listening to it for the first time was something of a special moment, and doing so I was reminded of that website where pictures are posted of the facial expressions of people looking at the goats.ex* website for the first time.

And so to the track, which I listened to on my iPod will walking along on a brisk autumnal afternoon. The music has that cheery, easy-listening quality that I associate with late period Specials. Initially the spoken vocals match the mood, as this woman tells the story of meeting some handsome man who asks her out on a date. But then it gets a bit less perky, and it ends with the man dragging her into a laneway to sexually assault her. And then she screams.

It is a rather unnerving tune, one deserving of its reputation of horror. There is a part of me that asks – why? Jerry Dammers never struck me as someone who likes to shock for the sake of it, so what is the point of this record? Maybe to tell us that rape is bad, but anyone who does not know that already is probably not a big Specials fan. So what is it for?

I used to wonder why the track was called 'The Boiler'. Maybe there was some kind of water heating apparatus involved, I thought. But no, it is just that the woman keeps referring to herself as an old boiler, self-deprecatingly using a common English put-down for older women. But then, why call the track 'The Boiler'? Giving the track this title seems almost to make it complicit in her degradation and abuse.

So, more questions than answers. Sadly, fear of finding myself accidentally listening to 'The Boiler' again has largely kept this disc from the stereo. I therefore cannot tell you anything about the other tracks, except that many non-horrible tracks by many other popular artists appear on it.

*I think this may be the wrong URL, but trust me, you do not want the right one.

An inuit panda production


Simon said...

Anyone who is now a Specials fan, probably knows. But back then a lot of their fans were still in their early teens, and the attitude that ugly birds would probably be glad of a little rape every now and again wasn't too uncommon.

A lot of the impact comes from the fact that the title doesn't hint at what's to come. The music and spoken word engage more immediately than prose or film or theatre. When it arrives, the horror is all the more effective because there you cannot ignore it, or allow yourself to be distracted by the visuals of film, or permit yourself to attach the dead or subdued voice of a victim as you read it to yourself.

I think I was pretty young when I first heard it, and it's probably 10 years since I last listened to it. I won't forget it.

Andrew Sherman said...

That didactic element that was sometimes part of the Specials (e.g. Racist Friend) somehow took over. Plus the well was dry.