#31Songs (3): Batpoem, by Art Objects

#31Songs (3): Title Alludes to a Film

‘Batpoem’, by Art Objects, from Bagpipe Music (1981)

‘Batpoem’ doesn’t only allude to a film, but to the whole pop-cultural myth of the superhero.  Moreover, as the original liner notes indicate, it updates a number done by Adrian Henri as part of the The Liverpool Scene on their album The Amazing Adventures of the Liverpool Scene, which apparently appeared in 1968 or 1969 (sources differ).  Here’s the Liverpool Scene’s version on YouTube:


I can’t find a YouTube version of the Art Objects song, but there is one on Spotify:


Gerard Langley’s notes add: ‘That was the 60’s.  It’s the 80’s now and Batman’s in the White House’.  While Henri’s lyrics had been sarcastic about a culture hung-up on superhero interventions, Langley’s Reagan-era account turns the screw even tighter.

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I think Henri’s lyrics about ‘damsels in distress’ in various states of undress was a criticism of patriarchal attitudes and of the imaginary irresistible attractiveness produced by  ‘Batpill’ (or the fantasy of rape implied); Langley’s ‘The Batpill don’t seem to work no more’ doesn’t allow any space for thinking otherwise.

As a performance the Art Objects’ version exposes the Liverpool Scene one as a fairly pale and lame late-evening joke.  This is the punkiest and most savage performance I can think of from Art Objects or the Blue Aeroplanes: the drums are solid, the guitars fuzzy and crudely reverbed, and Gerard’s delivery is hoarse and vitriolic.



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