Weblog since 2004 on books, films, art and travel.
Subscribe to the RSS feed.


Long under the radar, this 'side project' with members including Colin Newman (Wire) and Robin Rimbaud (Scanner, here on guitar) has already churned out four albums since their debut EP. Githead makes hypnotic guitar pop with a post-rock twist - art pop as one of their album titles branded it - combining deep droning grooves, spun-out jams and lyrics by turns dreamy and caustic. Fellow veterans Yo La Tengo might be an unlikely reference.

A few highlights: from 'To Have And To Hold' and 'This Is A Cause (These Are Effects)' via 'Option Paralysis' (whose pre-crisis lyrics ask: "Our new crisis / Is it conscience or control?") and 'Drive By' (with its exasperated refrain: "You are overloaded in your inbox today, you understand nothing in your inbox today") to 'Take Off', from their standout album 'Landing' (2009).

And that's all before 2014's pleasantly rough-edged 'Waiting For a Sign'.

be passers-by

The massive gate to the Mughal ghost-palace of Fatehpur Sikri, the Buland Darwaza, contains a curious Christian inscription - or rather, an Islamic inscription quoting Jesus:

Jesus, son of Mary (on whom be peace) said: "The world is a bridge, pass over it but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day may hope for eternity; but the world endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen."

This saying is part of a surprisingly large body of Jesus wisdom in Islamic literature; Jesus who is after all an important Muslem prophet who features prominently in the Quran. In 'The Muslem Jesus', Tarif Khalidi collected some 300 sayings and stories ascribed to Jesus. The oldest sayings in the collection, which Khalidi dubs the Muslem Gospel, date back to the second century AH. From this Islamic perspective Jesus emerges as a rather composite character who diverges from the Biblical Christ and is variously portrayed as a wandering ascetic, a wonder doctor and a devout proto-Muslem.

Buland Darwaza, Fatehpur Sikri, India

The bridge simile occurs twice in 'The Muslem Jesus', most famously by Al-Ghazali (logion 220), but prior to that in a saying from Ibn Qutayba (logion 99), though Khalidi adds that it "is ascribed to al-Hasan Al-Basri by al-Mubarrad (d.285/898), a contemporary of Ibn Qutayba."

Christ said: "The world is a bridge. Cross this bridge but do not build upon it."

From here, the saying, or motif has been connected to the Gospel of Thomas, logion 42, the shortest and among the most mysterious in this non-canonical gospel, which leaves the bridge unmentioned but merely states:

Jesus said: "Be passers-by."

The Gospel ascribed to the Apostle Thomas (who in an unrelated legend was said to have travelled as far as India and introduced Christianity there) was discovered as part of the Coptic Nag Hammadi collection. Its Gnostic and often puzzling sayings ("These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke") have been the source of endless comment, as they reveal a Jesus very different from the Biblical one, more akin in fact to the Muslem ascetic.

In today's Wikipedia parlance, "some scholars believe" that the Gospel of Thomas betrays Buddhist influences - though the same has been said about Manichean, Zoroastrian, Neoplatonic and many other strands in the religious tapestry of the Middle East circa first century.

Intriguingly, however, it would suggest that this particular image of transience and detachment came full circle in sixteen centuries, from unknown Eastern origins, recorded by an early Christian, spread back east by Muslems and preserved in stone by an emperor famed for his religious tolerance.