Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Children's Prison, a short 'public service announcement' (under 30 seconds) by Boards of Canada that is so good it almost makes me forget the crushing disappointment of their last full length.
On first viewing, like most things BOC, it's deceptively simple: retro sesame street/electric company graphics, sampled little kids voice, rainbows, clouds and numbers. It's on the second or third viewing that things start to add up. The voice sample "I guess I'm growing up" begins to sound less like an expression of bewildered indifference and more and more like the final statement of a condemned man. As the graphics of childhood (2+2=22) give way to an onslaught of negative, restrictive parental admonishments (no, not, guilty), then again to a brief burst of futile 'child solidarity' phrases (don't let them catch you! Come back!) it becomes clear that the 'children's prison' (adulthood) is as inescapable as it is inevitable.
In the end, I think this video conveys the same one-two punch as the best of their earlier work. An initially amusing and infectious outer crust that conceals within it an almost unbearable sense of loss and memory.

From an older interview with the duo:

What's the fascination with children's voices? Is it to do with a nostalgia for childhood?

Mike: "It's something that has a peculiar effect in music, it ought not to be there, especially in atonal, synthetic music. It's completely out of place, and yet its in that context that you can really feel the sadness of a child's voice. Being a kid is such a transitory, fleeting part of your lifespan. If you have siblings, then if you think about it, you'll have known them as adults for a lot longer than you ever knew them as children. It's like a little kid lost, gone."