Ivana Sajko, Croatia
XTC: Complicated game
Author and dramaturge Ivana Sajko sees "Complicated Game" as a song about the senselessness of decisions, which at the same time makes an appeal to us all.
By Ivana Sajko
The song Complicated Game appeared on the album “Drums and Wires” (1979) by the English band XTC, who aimed to synthesize the influences of early punk, dub, pop and new wave. Originally the last track on the album, Complicated game was a powerful wrap-up, giving the fatalistic intonation to all the other songs. Listening to the album in my hich school years, I never had a patience to wait for that last track, but I would rather start with it right away.
The song was written and played by Andrew Partridge. He attempted to create a “great futility song“ that depicts the state of complete uselessness of individual choices. Lyrics open with whispering trivial hesitation "should I put my finger to the left?" or "should I put my finger to the right?” The answer is that it really doesn't matter, because "someone else will come along and move it". The unimportant hesitation gradually grows into the big scruple of democratic decision-making: “A little boy asked me should he put his vote upon the left? A little boy asked me should he put his vote upon the right?”, to end up in the noisy finish which refers to the God itself. Here, Partridge's echoing voice screams the ultimate argument for staying idle and motionless: "God asked me should he ought put his world on the right, no, I said it doesn't really matter where you put your world", again, for the same reason, for the same complicated game that gives us illusion that our choices matters. “We think we have input”, Partridge said in his interview, but actually “we are just fooling ourselves”.
I discovered Complicated game while still a teenager. The song depicted my frustration of not being able to decide for my self, but also the anger of being deprived of joyful and careless youth I expected to have when the war broke up in ex-Yugoslavia. During the years my music taste changed, but I recently heard that song again and I was surprised how easily I could still recognize that "great futility" it intended to express. It was the futility of action in the society that restricted it self to political choices and political (im)possibilities narrowing the horizon of our future (and of our salvation). It describes the crisis of democratic procedures, crisis of today, crisis of Europe, the situation in which became clear that putting the vote left or right is just insufficient. The challenges of today ask for more. Complicated game speaks about the society that urgently must find new ways for individual engagement in the world, because even God's deeds are not strong enough to decide in which direction our world is going to. Singing about the meaningless of choices, the old XTC song actually invites us to finally make a choice, make a move, to take an action that really matters.