C.R.A.I.G. - "BRIEF HISTORY OF BEAUXITE" LP
LULUS: Words by C. Huryk
The mining industry's moral devolvement is hardly news, but C.R.A.I.G’s A History of Bauxite well-cut highlight reels compel nonetheless. One could call it an epic poem, like some Illiad. Descending into the unvarnished story of our protagonist’s rap career and work in the baux captured through the lens of the Perth mining zeitgeist. A sprawl, overlapping Australia’s unfettered exploits of extraction monomania and its ease of turning the land into a vast open pit for the international market to plunder at will. The poor form would be to mark this as an Auspol neoliberal critique or watered-down underdog resentment, ignoring C.R.A.I.G’s depth of character and the litany of personalities he encounters.
Compositions contrast a menacing soundscape in Bauxite Bully, you feel like a roadrunner, case of Woodstock dehydrated, marching wearily towards an oasis canteen in Pilbara only for it to move every time you get within a metre of it. Fortified by the inherent intimacy of recordings, Stress Leave monologues his bauxite-induced Faustian bargain against lounge music fit for the Hilton. Voicemails from Craig’s uncle, hypertension-induced eyes bulging, seething resentment reaching boiling point at having to chop him out a job. Hollow Earth Theory, sounds like the esoteric psychoses of my acquaintances. A History of Bauxite is laden with epigrammatic wit, too many bars to highlight, “screaming the mining boom, built on the lie that this country is. Mate, I know about the ugliest lies of Terra Nullius, but still I gotta get in the ground; That's where the money is” hit me like a track dozer.
I thought about Lee Dorsey’s ‘Working in a Coal Mine’, percussion using the clink of a pickaxe against the coal; Midnight Oil’s ‘Blue Sky Mine’, “nothing's as precious as a hole in the ground”, about the poor bastards at the Wittenoom who contracted various asbestos diseases. During a friend’s boilermaker apprenticeship in the 2000s, his class viewed an old VHS called “Aluminium: the Cordon Bleu of Tig Welding”, an opening scene set in the bauxite mines of the NT. The weathered man narrating explains “Here Aboriginals work and operate machinery alongside normal people,” a callback to the Noble Savage character still raging in the zeitgeist even then. My uncle got a new lease on life in the 1980s, trading butcher’s apprentice wages to bauxie-stained big bucks in Darling Scarp WA. There was a funeral with a casket covered in $100 bills for some decrepit BHP magnate who probably looked better in their satirical cartoon depictions in the Perth tabloids than he did in his final years (Chekhov’s Faustian bargain here strikes).
The Lucky Country’s economy is built on dumb luck, in some part through under-taxed non-renewable resources it can thank the native land it stole it from. If John Williamson were born in WA he probably would’ve traded his home among the gumtrees and sung “Give me a claim among the bauxite seams, with drills and machines. A crane or two, an earthmover crew, a conveyor out the back, refinery out the front and some baux to spare.” But sometimes one has to throw stones inside a glass house, in hopes that they all crumble into a glimmering heap of myriad regrets à la the trashy evidence of poor decision left in recycling skips after a B&S Ball. I’m writing this on Notes on my iPhone; cobalt for its intricate chips, probably mined by a child in Congo and handset manufactured by another in a Zhengzhou Apple factory. Gravity keeps the world spinning on its axis but its globalisation makes the world go round, and that’s why the whole world’s for sale including God's Red Earth.
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