Let us consider Steven Wright’s new single ‘Exposure’, from the forthcoming album Repetition, through the above photograph. In the photo Steven Wright stands on a makeshift soapbox, looking forlorn, stripped and self-degraded with the limited movement of only being able to leap or remain stationary as his ankles stand drawn together by rope. His disastrousness and bare-all demeanour, depending how well it’s pulled off, looks like a great show. While every powerful performer is their own kind of vaudeville act, Wright’s stance is exactly how I’d imagine someone singing ‘Exposure’ would look. Wright appears as if he’s going to go for it all, or he’s going to walk away saying ‘fuck it all’. He looks like someone who both wants to perform and is tired of performing. Or more precisely he looks caught in the act of performing, which itself necessitates Wright’s own self-awareness in performance.
To be riddled with this kind of self-awareness is both a devastating self-consciousness and yet also strangely comforting in its truth. The frozen moment looks like a slip between an artist performing on stage and a man unwittingly caught out – it has both an ironic detachment and a complete sincerity. It’s akin to watching someone know the impossibility of being truly sincere, knowing that the stage is resolutely performance and yet instead of indulging in the irony of the moment, over-performing by sincerely acknowledging the theatre of everything.
Exposure is either a great bravery or a deep shame and for Wright exposure seems to linger on emotion, or lack thereof, as it begins with an “openness to any present feeling”, as Wright pushes through the spectrums of either over-feeling or under-feeling but never really, you know, feeling. Yet of course talking about the hardships of feeling and not-feeling is itself a feeling-inducing sentiment and, as Wright tells us, “in that volatility, vitality is found”. The dark dreamy piano and synth music works by affect and I see you’re like “yeah duh most music works by affect/emotion/tears” except ‘Exposure’ isn’t some simple one-way emotional appeal to make you feel melancholy or anxious but instead toys with structured melodies to retain a sense of hope alongside the gloom. Perhaps this sounds mighty cliche, we might even look upon the above image as cliche, but the strength of the vulnerability and honesty in Wright’s music and words demands that his work must be taken sincerely and seriously. ’Exposure’ reads like a person in control of their own song, but not their own life. It has depth, awareness and a sick humour – which is all I ever really ask of a song (or art).
Despite all my above pomposity there are various practicalities that images and sounds aren’t going to tell you. One of these things is that Steven Wright is from Hobart. That’s he’s been involved with Bi-Hour, Wasted Idol and Bad Cabin. That he’s release an LP of noise music under Polanyi. That Repetition is Wright’s second solo album and will be released by Virtual Cool on August 15 (a tentative date) and you can get ya preorders now. That Wright will be playing select shows through Europe in August.