Well Measured Vice
The Correspondents’ new single Well Measured Vice is about the importance of embracing sexuality: ‘what is life without well measured vice?’ its chorus asks. When I talked to him, the lead singer Ian Bruce, said that he was spurred on to write the song after having a conversation with a stripper, who was in danger of getting her licence stripped (no pun) from her by the government, as part of an effort to clean up London in time for the Olympics. In which case the song’s chorus isn’t just about embracing sexuality in general human ‘life’, it’s also a challenge to an incipient strain of prudishness in the cultural life of modern Britain. Bruce’s point is worthwhile, and timely made. You just have to look at the recent comments about the hypersexualisation of British culture from Claire Perry and Diane Abbot, (discussed by Ian Dunt elsewhere in this magazine), to realise that there are voices emerging on the horizon that are seeking to undo what the last fifty years have done for sexual freedom, simply because they’re frightened of a bit of porn in the internet. But its not easy to fight the corner for sexual liberty, given that libertarian arguments often share the banality of those put forward by the traditional values brigade. After all, its difficult to avoid sounding loose and woolly when your arguing that people should just chill out and let everyone do their thing, man.
Bruce’s response is, however, refreshingly robust. The song’s lyrics are discursive and intelligent, and the imagery in the video is well developed. This is not to mention the extraordinary craftsmanship that went into making the video, all 2,304 frames of which were hand drawn by Ian Bruce. But impressive as this might be, raw skill on its own is not enough to produce a great work. Fortunately though, Bruce has the smarts to back it up, and the video is as carefully thought out as it is drawn. The advocation of sexual freedom in the song is as well measured as it’s title suggests.
It’s also funny. Well Measured Vice has enough wit about it so that its engagement with culturally important issues never seems dry. In fact the liveliness of its lyrical style, not to mention the pace of the music, is well suited to the way in which it champions freedom from restraint and repression. In this way the song’s arguments have spirit and life to them, and they feel both entertaining and important, deeply smart but also fun. This is something that goes to the heart of why The Correspondents are, I think, such a significant band. I’m not sure of anyone else who manages to be at once so intelligent and so exciting.
Part of the success of Well Measured Vice is down to the importance of its identification of a burgeoning sexual repressiveness in modern British culture, and to the formal intelligence with which it handles its material. Whoever said that tackling politics in a work is to the detriment of its aesthetic finesse?
 In her recent Telegraph column about the way pornography is supposed to be over sexualising our youth, Allison Pearson used the sentence ‘its not often that I unleash my inner Mary Whitehouse’. Why does she think ‘unleash’ is a suitable word here? How can you ‘unleash’ something that’s so boring?