The Joyzine Book Club: Leeds art-rockers Mush recommend titles by Don Delilo and Kurt Vonnegut

Lines Redacted, the second album from Leeds-based art-rock trio Mush is released today through Memphis Industries. Documenting our modern dystopia through the tales of a loosely linked series of protagonists set to a soundtrack melding ferocious post-punk to ambulatory prog and funk, and barbed with surrealism, satire, cynicism and sarcasm in equal measure, the band have called it their ‘manifesto for misinformation’.

We asked the band’s main songwriter, Dan Hyndman, about the books that have influenced the record.

Don Delillo: White Noise 

I have been thinking about this book a lot in the context of the current pandemic. In the story the characters are being fed information/misinformation about an upcoming disaster, which starts in the abstract and then actualises in the form of an ‘Airborne Toxic Event.’ There is a company SIMUVAC (simulated evacuation) that specialises in running drills for crisis scenarios, they all wear Hazmat Suits. The lines between reality and simulation blur when you discover SIMUVAC are using the real life disaster to prepare for future simulation evacuations. It’s basically about as confusing as it sounds but the absurdity is really funny to go along with. 

Anyway… on Lines Redacted there is a tune called ‘Hazmat Suits’. Weirdly though it was the only one conceived prior to lockdown, so it actually felt kinda prescient. Around March I actually saw a bunch of dudes go into a building in Leeds City Centre all in Hazmat Suits. I felt like I was inside this book. I went back home and retroactively rewrote some of the verses to have more context to the current pandemic. So in its original conception the song was referential to the literature, but then the literature began to blend into reality, which kind of parallels the themes of the book. Am I overthinking this? Yes, probably. 

The book has a real tangential quality with musings on: death anxiety, consumerism, crowds and mass hysteria. I think Lines Redacted has a similar scattershot thing going on bouncing around on abstract whims that all generally allude to a society in confusion/disarray. This was written a while ago now and things have obviously got worse in terms of content overload. Hopefully Lines Recated creates a similar sense of confusion and feeling, embodying its central themes of misinformation and crisis. The book ends in a shopping centre the consumers discombobulated by the products being moved around. Another parallel to the panic buying of last March. 

Kurt Vonnegut: Player Piano

If you are going to knock out a dystopian record sometimes you have to crack out the big guns. Not many can laugh into the abyss and find humor in the profoundly sad state of things better than Kurt Vonnegut. I actually love this book, it is a little less meta than his later stuff and has a good irony/sentimentality balance. 

It documents a more singularised dystopian vision than the one we find ourselves in currently. Focusing primarily on automation, machines replacing all physical labor and creating a kind of vacuous meritocracy. Without a function people cease to feel they have any place in society and revolt. Myself, I am pretty work shy and can’t entirely subscribe to this, in the sense that doing fuck all sounds pretty nice. But I do relate to some of the aspects of technological advancement making us more miserable and less connected. 

Again there is joy to be had in the stupidity and hysteria of crowds. The use of humor and the way stupid aspects of human behaviour are put under the microscope is great fun. 

Lines Redacted is out now via Memphis Industries on vinyl, CD and digital download. Order via Bandcamp.

Introduction by Paul Maps
Cover photograph by James Brown

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