“Losing Faith in Words” by Peter Hammill
Post-punk and in his own pocket universe of No-Wave, Hammill lays bare the curse of communication. Especially galling to someone whose art depends on the clarity of language, he rails against the impossibility of being understood. There’s no way around the dilemma, and to “flap our hands in body telegrams” is no solution.
Form dovetails with function in this song; Hammill couldn’t have made the lyrics clunkier or more twisted if he tried. I believe this was purposeful. What better way to illustrate the problem than to aim for precision in language while showcasing just how convoluted language can become: “Most of the things we say mean we most of the time treat our speech with derision.” Indeed.
And then there’s the rage in the voice, the frustration pointed at all of us and the tools of the trade. I listen to this when my backspace key returns the screen to white.
Dan Coffey hails from Buffalo, NY and has made the Midwest his second home. The librarian for English and World Literature at Iowa State University, Dan lives in Ames, Iowa with his wife and son. He has had poems published in The Laurel Review and Kennesaw Review, among others, and is a regular music reviewer for Stereo Embers and Avant Music News.
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Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.
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