The Love Detective

Cybernetic Cycles and the Mysteries of Desire in Arab Strap

Authored by: Stephen Overy , Kenneth Smith

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music Analysis

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138683112
eBook ISBN: 9781315544700
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, we consider two of the twentieth century’s most influential theories of desire as alternative ways of engaging with groove-based music. As a test case, the project provides two competing readings of selected songs by the Scottish band Arab Strap. Initially, we apply a Lacanian model of desire—a view of desire characterised by lack, negativity, and the impossibility of satiation. This model depicts the music of Arab Strap according to a dark theory in which the psychologically complex, musically expressive, subject can never attain what s/he desires. However, an alternative reading as outlined in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus endeavours to show how Arab Strap’s music can be interpreted according to a positive, productive conception of desire.

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