William Carlos Whitten, aka Grand Mal, aka St. Johnny has been uncompromising in his anti-career since the beginning. Famously burning down multiple major label deals that lesser artists would give a limb for, he never strayed into bad fashion or made an embarrassing twee album. His output is simultaneously low and high brow, working class to the core while towering over his contemporaries intellectually. His music and writing battle time, in the sense that they’ve always been post-modern, but only because the world is now post-post-modern. References to things called ‘letters’, ‘rock & roll’ and black and white cinema are common. His recordings are always staffed by the same loyal circle of losers (chief among them, in the loser-sense, is yours truly) – members of successful / once-successful / soon-to-be-successful / never-to-be-successful bands, footnotes, local drunks, etc.
It’s easier to compare his latest, Burn My Letters, to pomo literature rather than music, e.g. Don DeLillo with a drum machine or Bolaño with an 8 track. This new video is not surprising, it looks like the music sounds: disembodied, submerged, and oppressed. You can almost taste the long walks in a dirty city before smartphones robbed us of our boredom. That the YouTube description claims the video includes shock treatment and an overdose is redundant. Neither event is depicted, but they are implied, long before you hit play.