I was reading The Guardian today ( yeah, quelle surprise, the ageing radicals who write The Streetlamp are Guardian readers) when I was struck by a powerful feeling of recognition at the sentiment expressed in a paragraph in Suzanne Moore's column;
"Still, I can never accept the divide between political culture and actual culture. Right here, right now, we are in the midst of all sorts of exciting protests. Where is that soundtrack? The last time the Tories were in power we had the Specials and the Pop Group..."
To be fair, she then goes on to suggest that hip hop and the new folk scene are going some way to providing modern protest music of a sort, but by that point I was still musing on her question; "Where is that soundtrack?"
You see, Gordon and I have been having a conversation around that very question for the last six months. Keen readers of this blog (our Mums) will hopefully recall my Liechtenstein blog from July, where I hopefully opined:
"...with the Tories back in power and the country braced for a period of severe austerity we could expect a blossoming of left-field, indie-music artists. My argument was that right-wing government, social inequality and poverty have always provided the conditions that foster the passions for art. That's why I believe we're on the cusp of a golden period in the near future the like of which we've not seen since the magical post-punk years which came in with the appalling and infamous Thatcher administration. Consider it the silver lining to this particular political storm cloud gathering overhead."
This, you may also remember, was shortly followed by Gordon's epic Crass retrospective in which he exhorted;
"And as the dark clouds of the Cameron/Clegg Utopia descend upon us with it's twin leaders looking like a pair of Uberstumpenfuhrers from the Hitler Youth, with un-reality TV brainwashing the huddled masses, with glamour models and football stars treated like royalty, with huge spending cuts in the NHS whilst money is poured into weapons and surveillance equipment, with Murdoch's media empire educating the populace of Britain which way to vote, with a ghostly terrorist enemy being used to keep the public in line....the time has never been more ripe for Crass. In a previous Blog I remarked that tragically The Beatles aren't coming to save us this time, and neither are Crass....BUT, to the kids armed with guitars and computer software, they may not become the new Beatles but they CAN become the new Crass. Already we've seen Botched Fairytale claim Crass as an infuence and their songs already grasp the nettle, and as Griff wrote in his previous Blog, female post-punk bands are on the rise....we need the new Crass NOW. Looking at you all, I know one thing...we CAN win! I want you to sense you're own strength....go back to your constituences and prepare for Pop Music!"
Interestingly, Mojo magazine has it's own Crass retrospective in the January 2011 edition (try to keep up, guys) but it only serves to reinforce the question; Where is the soundtrack?
Another Guardian columnist; John Harris, a former NME staffer, has asked the same thing in two of his columns last month (see here and here), summing up most eloquently with the following statement;
"...There are truths about our times that most politicians have no wish to tell, and songwriters should be feasting on: 18 millionaires in the cabinet; a war on the poor; the return of a born-to-rule elite, now clad in weekend casualwear and affecting glottal stops, but still reeking of grouse moors and arrogance. This is surreal, mind-boggling stuff. The last time anything comparable happened, my generation's response was couched in the vocabulary of the old left; now, I'd love to hear genuine 21st-century dissent. To end, then, an appeal to some unknown neurotic outsider, stranded in God-knows-where, and minded to pick up a guitar and howl their outrage: please, prove me wrong."
So, where are you? Where's the new Billy Bragg, Gang of Four or Au Pairs? It's no secret that I generally keep my ear to the ground and also spend hundreds of hours trawling the internet looking for something to appeal to my musical and radical tastes and, as far as I can see, it's just not happening yet. Is it still too early? Am I, and the Guardian journos, missing it because its confined to a black, urban subculture to which we have no access? If you know better, get in touch. The Streetlamp wants to hear from you; right here, right NOW.
In the meantime, the best, almost only, thing out there is undoubtedly Liar, Liar by Captain SKA (see below). This is released tomorrow, 12th December, on I-tunes and all other digital shops with proceeds going to: Crisis, Disability Alliance, FalseEconomy and Women's Health Matters.
Hope you enjoyed that. I'd urge all of you in the UK to purchase this tomorrow in order to get it to number one in the singles chart and hopefully keep it there until Christmas, as this will: 1) provide maximum embarrassment to the government and 2) keep the X Factor winner away from the number one slot, thus simultaneously giving a bloody nose to the odious Simon Cowell.
I'd like to finish by posting a couple of protest songs that were very dear to me in the early 80s. The first is the obvious and punky Kick Out The Tories by The Newtown Neurotics. I absolutely loved this record at the time, along with their debut LP, Beggars Can Be Choosers. Almost all of my friends owned a copy of this LP too and I recall that it was very badly pressed with every single one of our records subject to numerous jumps and sticking points. Still, we didn't seem to mind. Aaaah, the good old days of vinyl...
For a change of pace, I'd also like to offer up Shipbuilding by Robert Wyatt. This doesn't shout, scream or jump around but in it Wyatt's voice is imbued with such dignity, wisdom and sorrow that it makes its point just as well. Enjoy.