When the video opens with a burning effigy of the artist herself, you know you're in for a surreal, masochistic mind-fuck that would send even Freud running to his mummy.
The destructive nature of relationship-oriented insecurity; the redeeming power of self-love in times of emotional turmoil; or, well, masturbation. These are three interpretations of possible meanings behind ‘Fuck With Myself’ which have crossed my mind, yet the beauty of this song lies in its heavily obscured imagery; oblique lines that hint and never say – “I got two diamonds and a feather,” “You’re facing ages in your third strike.” You could just as well come up with three completely different, equally valid interpretations of her elusive lyrics, and is this a game she perhaps wants us to play?
If you were struggling to interpret it from just the audio then Philippa Price’s bold, symbol-laden music video will only serve to further muddy the already murky pond. With its strikingly bizarre, Refn-esque exploration of the darker side of the human subconscious it often risks coming off as ridiculous, much like the Danish auteur’s The Neon Demon. Both are audacious deconstructions of present notions of female beauty, succeeding tremendously well in their nobly aimed and necessarily disturbed manifestations.
Musically it’s minimal and restrained in the best of ways. In an age where mainstream pop has begun to appropriate ‘world’ instruments into its sound (the pan flute seems to be doing very well on Radio 1), BANKS goes one further, employing what sounds to me like a koto, a Japanese instrument originally played at court and considered, perhaps ironically here, to be very romantic.
At any rate, it sounds fab. Pregnant with longing, the hauntingly atmospheric electro-glitchyness recalls ‘Ghosts’ by 80’s art-rock outfit Japan (a particular favourite of mine). Her sprechgesang articulation of the titular phrase, “Cause I fuck with myself more than anybody else,” adds to the deliciously weird aesthetic which, when combined with the video’s demented cabaret of twisted limbs, plays as a sort of neo-Weimar era burlesque – minus any unsavoury political baggage.
Whatever you think of it, whether you love it or hate it, it’s refreshingly challenging. We live in an age where we can’t seem to stem the flow of watered-down, meaningless trite that limps out of our radios and crawls into our ears, insidiously altering – with its brain-deadening, often horrifically sexist messages – the way we perceive the world around us. BANKS’ ambitious single reminds us that we need to sit up and do something radical once in a while, in order that we might, in time, restore a sense of art and of humanity to popular culture.
‘Fuck With Myself’ is out now via Harvest Records