Pop by the Numbers
William S. Burroughs, the godfather of slack, said that Truth lies in the number and the number is 23. He was referring, of course, to a system involving the magic of Chaos (five, or two plus three) and the arcana of ace conspiracy theorist Robert Anton Wilson. But he left the interpretation entirely to the seeker. Follow the trail, subvert the logic, question the answer, and all things lead into each other. Be it pop or politics, everything's linked by that proverbial tangled web society has woven around itself.
Fitting then that a pop band has chosen as its moniker the most powerful two digits to be found in this weird little universe.
To belabor the point, take a look at how Twenty-three, the band, chooses to introduce itself:
"According to the theologian Bishop Usher, God created the world on October 23, 4004 B.C. In numerology the digits two plus three make five, a magical number: the number of points of a pentagram or pentagon used to summon Satan. The Pentagon is situated in Washington: 'W' is the 23rd letter of the alphabet. Sexologists calculate the male sexual cycle is 23 days, add the magical 5 and you get 28 days, the female cycle. John Dillenger was assassinated on the 23rd. John F. Kennedy died on the 22nd of November, but the cycle of this conspiracy ended when Oswald was shot on the 24th. The missing number? Twenty-three! The number is central to life itself. Twenty-three is the number of pairs of chromosomes in the DNA, the beginnings of all life." Man, this is one heavy-headed group. With a punch line: "Twenty-three also happens to be how old we all are."
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Heady stuff indeed, and hardly the kinda rant one would expect from up-and-coming pop stars. But there have been other acts working the same angle, though not necessarily here. Psychic TV, 23 Skidoo, and Front 242, among others, have all sworn allegiance to the cult of 23, grooving on the secrets of those who purportedly make the secrets, which in effect serves only to perpetuate the in-joke of it all. Everyone wants to be in on something, that's the natural order of things.
Equate "in" with "hip" and you might get a little cosmic bankability, the sum of all Pop. That's what, one would imagine, Twenty-three would like to be.
Born from the notion that we're all just consumer byproducts, Twenty-three makes sacrosanct the junk that consumes us. No, it's not a new idea, but done with a healthy, knowing smirk, it can still be a good idea. The best practitioners of this sort of thing, say, Smashing Pumpkins or Suede (to name but two groups to which Twenty-three's sound is heavily indebted), know that it's merely a question of balance. That the high and the low need harmony. And it's precisely this harmony that makes for what is called "smart pop."
Twenty-three comprise, if nothing else, a smart pop band, masters of the art of the steal, and none too ashamed to admit it. It's like an X Generation twist of the Santayana dictum that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Though in this case it's more akin to buffs determined to better the worst by exposing and then, in a sense, reliving it, albeit on their own terms.
There's nothing wrong with dreaming of being bigger than the Banana Splits, nor of being aware that Bauhaus was more than just a dark pop group. That's the real missing link. If only Darwin were here to hear it.
Twenty-three performs at 11:00 p.m., Sunday, at Rose's Bar & Music Lounge, 754 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, 532-0228. Admission is free.
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