revew: Powder Keg – Morale is High (Since we gave up Hope)
Morale is High (Since we gave up Hope)/
International Anthony Burgess Institute/
I am frightened for the future. I am frightened for the present. I am frightened because the past used to be something we were moving towards and now it’s something we have to learn from and suffer the consequences of. Fortunately, Powder Keg are frightened of similar things, some of them nebulous and huge and difficult to define, some of them small and specific. Sometimes when you’re scared inside, it can help immensely to have someone shout at you that THEYRE SCARED TOO.
/time is a tool you can put on the wall or wear it on your rizd/ the past is far behind us/ the future doesnt exist//
Morale is High (Since we gave up Hope) is at its heart an incredibly anxious view on the world and where it’s heading. It’s also a piece of speculative fiction, encompassing all of the genre’s ability to hold up a black mirror to the little ways we shuffle past each other. It’s also a story about two mates, each tired of the other’s shit. Perhaps I pick up on these things because they are the parts I relate to most. It seems strange to place Morale is High on a continuum with News from Nowhere and Slaughterhouse 5, but that’s the sort of shit I’ve been reading lately so I can.
Morale is High is difficult to pin down. The time slips from the present (2016) to various futures between here and 2020 and it’s difficult to keep track of which future event happens when. But I don’t particularly care. Morale is High doesn’t feel like it’s earnestly asking us to plan for the future, but to stop pissing about and sit down and have a good hard look at the present. Though Ross has a nice (very nice) and shiny (very shiny) jacket from the future (very fashion forward) and a sackful of [empty beer cans and] tales to tell, that doesn’t matter. He’s talking to his mate Jake. And he’s angry and he’s stressed and he’s shutting Jake out, and Jake is shutting him out and nothing’s going to get done if it carries on like that.
/in the summertime ive got space and science fiction on me mind//
I don’t know if I’m empowered or just vindicated by the nihilism of Morale is High. It feeds into a lot of how I’ve been feeling lately about the world, the direction it’s heading and what my place is in it and whether I can enact any meaningful change. I’ve also been thinking a lot about my friends and what they mean to me, what a coincidence that I go to see a show about looking into the future and my takeaway is all political impotence and friends. I can’t separate what I bring with me from what I see. Ross cannot bring back an objective account of the future. Politics is not black and white, our eyes are too good at seeing colour.
Morale is High is less about the stories it tells than how they are told.* Ross and Jake are storytellers-cum-frontmen, between squabbles performing songs alternately reminiscent of Frank Sidebottom and Fat White Family. They are witty, ascerbic, and to a good degree, diverting. There’s a sense that the real job of Morale is High is to comment on distraction, to question the value of the things to which we pay attention, and the values by which we discern which pieces of the political spread are important to us. What is it to be entertained in the course of a political rant? What is it to enjoy seeing Ross parody political nonsense-speak that sounds like it could have been lifted direct from a press conference?
Powder Keg know, though, the danger (the necessity?) of diversion. Morale is High is in control of its own daftness, it is a show of daftness, through which it communicates its deep anxieties about what we are diverting ourselves from. Morale is High is not a call to arms, is not a command, but a suggestion, that whatever we believe, whatever might be filling us with fear, the best solution might, just might be to think about where we stand, and who we stand with and out from. And a suggestion to recognise that there is value in shouting, in being heard, in making oneself known, and that that is exhausting and difficult and in the end we will need help if we are to recover.
*That is, with the exception of Lindsey’s story, which steps calmly to the front with a cold account of grinding misery at the hands of the DWP. That moment where boiling water at first feels cold on your hand. Lindsey’s story is a glimpse at the burning anger that is restrained, controlled, and put to use in Morale is High. It would be a story of despair if Powder Keg were not aware that despair is not a weapon.
/theres a time to shit and a time for god/ the last shit that i took was pretty fuckin odd//