As you may have seen, the indie-cum-mainstream rock outfit the Decemberists recently partnered with Michael Schur to make a video for the band’s “Calamity Song” based on the Eschaton throwdown scene from Infinite Jest, in which the Enfield Tennis Academy’s younger students enact—with tennis rackets & 5 megaton tennis balls—the thermonuclear self-destruction of the modern world before it all collapses into a “degenerative chaos” of punching, tackling, barfing…and a head smashed through a computer monitor.
This strange marriage of DFW and pop rock got me thinking: What other songs might make good soundtracks for this scene?
Metallica, “...And Justice for All”
Yes, over nine minutes of throbbing metal bliss. James Hetfield raging, “Justice is lost, Justice is raped, Justice is gone…Winning is all,” as the dismembering melee turns the falling snow crimson.
Johnny Cash, “Hurt”
Cash's haunting cover of Reznor's NIN tune. Slow, beaten, and broken, and sung from the perspective of Steeply sitting in the “mint-green advertorial Ford sedan” near the Eschaton game. Very spooky and depressing.
LCD Soundsystem, “Watch the Tapes”
Wouldn't it be cool to have an “Entertainment”-themed video for the Eschaton scene? Perhaps—and taking some artistic license with Wallace’s scene—shot from the perspective of Mario (as the videographer) wearing his special lock-pole-vest to help him stay upright? The chorus itself screamsIJ: “Read all the pamphlets and watch the tapes! I get all confused when you mix up the dates!” Besides, James Murphy once blogged about Wallace just after his suicide.
Neutral Milk Hotel, “Ghost”
I confess there isn’t an obvious theme here, but there is a phantasmagorical synchronicity between Jeff Mangum’s song and Wallace’s text. Mangum’s chorus, “To watch the morning paper blow into a hole where no one can escape,” is a suspended synapse that questions our temporal finitude just as Wallace's text challenges our febrile allusions of happiness. Mangum and Wallace are kindred vagabonds in the desert of the real.
And in the surging climax of “Ghost,” Wallace and Mangum converge in a tempest. Fuzzed-out guitars! Cosmic bass! Trumpet! Theremin! Storming drums! Massive distortion! Quoting from DFW’s Eschaton scene, it’s the sound of “elegant complexity” devolving into “a degenerative chaos so complex in its disorder that it’s hard to tell whether it seems choreographed or simply chaotically disordered.” A cataclysmic eruption of inchoate exuberance. It’s Otis P. Lord's sonic head smashed through your fucking monitor.