~ Logical reflections on Duff #2 (after #1)
Michael Parkinson verbally abused Zsa Zsa Gabor when she confessed on his TV chat show that she loved animals more than humans. Parkinson thought that was pathetic, and worlds collided. There was a sudden battle of minds and spirits over one of the great dialectics of human reason: the value of man versus other animals. It was a collision that goes down as a great dramatic moment in human history; Parko and Zsa Zsa on the world’s forum, TV, stealing the light over a core philosophical point.
Resist the idea that we are animals, plain earthlings? Intrinsically related, by chromosomes and neurochemicals, to plants and rocks? It takes a certain kind of guy – actually, an artistic genius – to exploit such angsts. Many artists are delighters, and others light up the night-side of human nature. But few, such as Duff, shine a light upon the double dimensions of night and day, creating (not just communicating) a third factor, beyond what Parko and Zsa Zsa encapsulated. Hegel’s lyrico-scope set over Duff songs reveals something akin to paradox – that black is white and vice versa, that “this sentence is not true”, and to be happy is to be sad, and vice versa, and to feel proud in any human capacity is to be ashamed of all that makes us human. That’s all too easy, however. Go the Duff for a higher paradox.
Brechtian Verfremdung: A female officer, with joyous authority!
For the art of contradiction, see the very classes of song that Duff produces. On the one hand, there are those that, at a blush, sound funny, coy, and even silly (but always very clever) – like the fun he offers on his “Noses run in my family”, “Monkey for your love” and “Banana Song”. And then there are the ethereal jaunts of, say, “The choir inside my mind”, and “Angel Song”. And the libidinal melancholies of, say, “Come drown with me” and “Hurt me tenderly”. But that ain’t the ‘alf of it – Duff plays out such opposites of insight and delight within a song, and then often does this with a doubly surprising trick – yes, expressing the essential Gabor-Parko dialectic, the rub between the norm of pride and the extreme essential, between the obvious positive and its unguarded negative … but also as a über-Brechtian method. If all that enthusiasm of interpretation is too confusing, it’s on a plate for you here: In the following samples of Duff’s flat-lined expression of the “ostinato of opposites”:
Satanic Deity – Kush: Snow White and the Eight Straights
Cage the people at the zoo
Let the monkeys roam
A lot of men perceive the steel and concrete as his home.[…]
Now think of war as something good.
Life as something bad.
And when I cry I think I laugh,
And when I smile I’m sad.
New Boy in Heaven – Jeff Duff and the Prophets: Kiss My Apocalypse
You’re a devil with a halo. You’re an angel with a gun. […]
You’re a virgin with a dirty face, in a hang-man’s noose.
You’re the deadly silent witness, you’re the madman on the loose. […]
You’ve got the angels waiting, for your punishing embrace.
God Bless all the Clowns:
God bless all the clowns.
God bless them when they frown.
God bless all the clowns.
God bless them as they drown.
Give Me Back Me Brain – Duffo (Beggar’s Banquet album)
Now I’ve got a face without an expression
I tried to smile again, but I look so depressin. …
It could have been fate
It could have been luck
It could have fallen off the back of a truck.
It sure ain’t me
Coz my brain is my body’s employee.
John & Betty Go to L.A. – Duffo: The Disappearing Boy
I’m building an igloo in the Sahara.
It’s snowing inside my sauna.
I feel like an Eskimo in Egypt.
My deserts are covered with fauna.
God for a Day – Duffo: The Disappearing Boy
I’ll be laughing when the nails are hammered in …
Come Drown With Me
I’ll be your lifeline, I’ll take your breath away.
You’ll be my skyhook, don’t let me slip away.
You’ll be my lifeline, you’ll take my breath away.
I’ll be your skyhook, I won’t let you slip away.
I Be the Alien
You’ll wake alone but I’ll hear you scream.
A touch of Hoffmann’s “uncanny”: Tomcat Murr, the scribe
A curious thing about expressing yourself in this cha-cha of opposites, in this flux of antimonies, is the paradox that the opposites and antimonies are more related to each other than most other ideas are to each alone. … There is also a touch here of Brecht‘s Verfremdungseffekt: the “making strange” or “alienating” about something familiar and normally unattended, and so forcing (often unwelcome) attention to it, recognizing that what was normal is really strange, what was deemed passive is actually actively working upon us and shaping our visions and ideologies. Duff’s lyrical work does this, to be sure, but goes a step beyond – where the base thing being referred to is often itself outside and exceptional – something apposite to us observers. So we start, say, with mention of an Eskimo, or waking up alone – some exceptionally outsider identities and experiences – and these are themselves “made strange” – the Eskimo is set into the heat of Egypt, and the lone awakener is heard to scream – but how when they are alone? In this way, Duff’s lyrics – even when superficially simple – can have a profound subliminal effect, merging, it can be seen, Brecht’s alienation effect with a touch of E. T. A. Hoffmann‘s uncanniness within the scheme of a Hegelian dialectic! The song “Blinded by the dark” (on the Fragile Spaceman album) perhaps best and starkly epitomises this, in its very title, while Duff often accomplishes this psycho-lyrical weaving with threads not so much of starkly contrasting blacks and whites but of alternating greys … synthesising many colours … But of all that we better be silent and leave Duff to do his work.
Actually, it’s not just in the lyrics. Listen to all these intros. They’re all quite different to each other by instruments, tempo, rhythm … but there’s at least one way by which they’re all alike – and that’s in using an ostinato of opposites …
What is the effect on the listener of this artistic trick, of Duff’s moment-by-moment ostinato of conceptual opposites, drawn from the source of the kaleidoscopic manifold beyond the senses? A perfect phi spiral, naturally – from the ears to the spinal chord and all the way up and down the lifelines of every bod, and so along the kundalini highway to the songlines of all ages.
Another Brechtian connection: Mac the Knife – Duffo style …