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I just learnt about a big group that is signed to SONY – Everything, Everything. Their latest album A Fever Dream is out and the BBC kindly does a feature on them. The odd thing is that every single song that they write is ‘political’.

There is even a ‘subversive’ narrative built into the publicity: “it’s worth noting that Everything Everything have always dressed up their angst in a cathartic explosion of melodic pop.  That’s how they sneak songs like Cough Cough (about greed for oil), My Kz Ur Bf(airstrikes) and Night Of The Long Knives, [which refers to Hitler’s bloody purge of the Nazi party in 1934,] onto daytime radio.”

They seem to reflect an politicisation of their young audiences who will sing along with many of their songs in concerts.

I’m reading ‘Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent: Capitalism, Democracy and the Organisation of Consent’. edited by Rebecca Fisher. This  book argues that such phenomena commodify critical political thinking whilst at the same time aggrandising ‘market’ principles and commodity values. But I think it must be a little edgy. There must be a chance that the fans of ‘Everything, Everything’ might just think their way outside of the lyrical box provided by these pop songsters and demand and end to the facade that capitalism throws up as culture. I think that the group are taking grassroots radical demands and making them more moderate and mainstream.

“The hegemonic system tends to co-opt dissenting groups through commodification of subcultures and the active expansion of neoliberal projects that limits politics to ‘what works’ within an increasingly international and privatised economic framework.” p.131 Carroll and Greeno.

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“Darcus Beese OBE, President, Island Records and son of prominent British Black Pantheractivists, Darcus Howe and Barbara Beese, explains why music was critical to this movement and shares a selection of tracks which reflect this.”

This is what we used to call recuperation; notice the TATE branding! Its pretty full on though and in the context of a show that many people admire as including the most political work of the time. The w word oppression is used… I guess the Tate wouldn’t see themselves as ‘oppressors’ and it will be interesting to see if reviews bring class into the analysis.

 

In depth contributions to local musics to be welcomed! Autumn of Love great book!

POMPEY POP

For much of the 1960s, students at the College of Technology (Polytechnic from 1969) and Art College pretty much ‘did their own thing’, separate from us kids from the city, but from late 1967 there was a variety of ‘experimental’ projects, that some of us enjoyed (and that I’ve written about in the new book) the most visible of which was the Dance of Words in May 1968.

I guess it’s Sod’s Law – but also very interesting – that just a week after the launch of Autumn of Love, Mick was contacted by Jeremy Ensor one of the two students who ran the Dance of Words and the Arts Workshop, to correct a couple of things I’ve written in the past and to offer more information.

I’ve also been in touch with Stefan who was involved in the Arts Workshop and I plan to publish updated accounts with…

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Brandon Spivey just recommended this book so it must be good – on growing up as a working class boy.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30048098-lonely-boy

also whilst we’re on books this book on sound systems and politics looks good.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31573515-sound-system

And here’s an event that will be, should be, filled with younger muso-journalists.

on Thursday, 20 July 2017 from 19:00 to 21:00 BCA Brixton

Aspirations for “unity from the roots movement in order to respond to the politics of social exclusion led by government institutions.”

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-politics-of-music-steel-pulse-and-handsworth-revolution-tickets-34852192847

 

In this piece by Mark Savage we hear, again, that “Pop is getting a long overdue dose of politics.” but this is really a piece about Jodie Abacus who is a good soul singer who is, let us say,  Commercial Hot POPerty. The article is little more than a puff piece. The song in question his latest single:

“Called Keep Your Head Down, it tells the story of a family fleeing a war zone, only to be met with fear and suspicion in the country they had thought would provide safe harbour.”

Which is worthy, I’m not saying it isn’t, but just two points:

1. Music by working class people, including those operating under ‘labels’ like pop and rock, has always been heaving with political intent and content from the ground UP – BUT its just a matter of what we are a-LOUD to H-ear. What is Broad-CAST into ouR homes without any effort on our part. That was the point of the Agit Disco project, just to show what a ‘shed load’ of political musics are out there. If you go looking. If you become a SELECTOR.

2. If you tread a commercial path the impact of your political lyrics becomes swathed in high value smooth production values which trades off the emotive impact of a raw criiiiAYYYY from the streets with more widespread AIR-play.

This goes for MIA whose has very right on political songs in syrupy pop settings. The mixing is super skilled B U T

https://youtu.be/r-Nw7HbaeWY

and LaDeeGaGa is another one (incredible performance!):

https://youtu.be/txXwg712zw4

and wee StorMZy (a man from my part of town) Will he hold out with this kind of raw power? I hope he can. The forces out to moLLy coDDle us are powerful.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38908251

Almost forgot to blog my own Agit Disco dispersal event at Farnham. It was the closing event for the Working Press archiving exhibition ‘Building a Better World’ in the magnificent library social space. The Agit Disco project had arisen organically from the music chapter in 1993 The Conspiracy of Good Taste (Free Download new illustrated edition here)

http://www.thebookroom.net/agit-disco-building-a-better-world-exhibition/

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Using the tiniest record deck in the world that was wired up to a more hefty portable college sound system. It managed to cause a rumpus in the library with the Head Librarian loving the arrival of music (studies) whilst one of her staff was bristling about volume and distraction to the upper reading rooms. They had a little set to and the head of Library had to give the other a stern order to put up and shut up!

The Working Press archive book on the round table above is available for free download from here ‘RISE’

It was a small event but a good crowd with selections from Susan Merrick and Emmanuelle Waeckerle.

“In the month leading up to the U.S. presidential election, Dave Eggers, the author, philanthropist, and founder of the satire site McSweeney’s, enlisted a number of musicians across genres and disciplines for what would become the “30 Days, 30 Songs” project, a vocal gesture against a Trump presidency.” Rob Arcand  http://reallifemag.com/sonic-youth/   via  http://conversations.e-flux.com/t/noise-sound-as-protest-music/5453

I totally missed this until now.

aaah

“unite to coordinate action?”  Its difficult to distinguish capitalist rhetoric from old anti-capitalist words that, as soon as they have wide currency are immediately monetised (and that include Bitcoin versions.) by having their meanings reassigned for new purposes.

“…neoliberal protest music — “30 Days, 30 Songs,” like Third Eye Blind, Green Day, John Mayer before it — has come to seem better suited for sharing and agreement among the like-minded than the sort of direct action upon which protest music was once established. The liberal “folk-political” song, steeped in nostalgia for the mass radicalization of the 1960s, invokes an era defined by collective action while serving mostly as a substitute for action itself.” Rob Arcand

http://www.30days30songs.com

What are we to make to this?

Rebecca MCarthy (see Third Eye Blind link above) “Protest songs are out in force: look at Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” Beyonce’s “Formation,” J.Cole’s “Be Free,” Kanye West’s “We Don’t Care,” Lauryn Hill’s “Black Rage,” even Childbirth’s “I Only Fucked You as a Joke.”

 

This seems like a good way of packaging Agit Disco songs that does not challenge the everyday exclusion of political material that Agit Disco was attempting to highlight. What it does do is an international selection of banned songs close to the heart of the British Index on Censorship.

Having had that gripe it sounds like a good project and very well designed and presented. It seems like they took the considerable trouble to go and meet the original musicians to photograph them and find out about the songs and it this research that makes the project impressive.

On their website they say: “WHAT MAKES A SONG BANNED? Through history, thousands of musicians have faced censorship, persecution and violent suppression. Often, their stories remain untold. Who were they? Who are they? And what can we learn from their stories?

In this project, photographer Jørgen Nordby and musician Pål Moddi Knutsen set out to trace the footsteps of songs that have, at one stage, been banned, censored or silenced. In countries as far apart as Mexico and Vietnam, we met musicians who have little in common except their tireless struggle for the right to sing.”

So you can buy the album and listen to the songs as well as read the story of the originals on the websiteunsongs_cover. Moddi seems like an accomplished musician and is soon to be presenting the songs played by himself in London.

 

 

Working-Class Perspectives

Reactions were mixed to the announcement that songwriter Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Some literary aficionados were outraged that a popular musician had won the prize (rather than a novelist or poet), while others were delighted that the literary potential of song writing had finally been acknowledged at such a high level. Some criticisms pointed to Dylan’s position within the popular music canon, pointing out that he is yet another western, white man whose elevation to Nobel Laureate status reinforced white, western patriarchal hegemony.

While I was never a fan of Dylan, not for any particular reason, he has had a huge influence and impact. His music has often been political, and in the 1960s spoke to young people hoping for change and a more equitable and just society. Now that a songwriter has been recognised for his literary talents, has the space opened up…

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Skepta is now top of the tree and his Konnichiwa album has protest songs (so says the BBC). But how long can you sing songs about being held by cops; when you are a slick hitmaker? The glamour, the people, the money, the need for minders that surround you… the busy schedule that steals your day away …. he may have got there by a DIY route and kept control late in the day. Will he be able to keep it real when its all red carpets and feigning models. I mean Puffy Daddy has run his own businesses for many years; there comes a point when DIY ceases to mean much. It was cute that just before his album started the Time Out rolled up this house and found it used as a storage place for his business. but even then he wasn’t sticking stamps on himself like wot real DIY publishing means.

How long is he gonna rap “The feds wanna shift man / Wanna put me in a van / Wanna strip a man / I ain’t a Chippendale / Wanna strip a male / Put me in a prison cell / Got me biting on my finger nails.” with any conviction?

The analysis will have to get more political, more theoretical, more abstracted from his personal situation. And probably threatening to his own pro feet ability…

Can integrity survive success? Can a radical message survive institutionalisation or being framed on corporate media?

But for now Ok this Tottenham boy wants people to ‘shed preconceptions’ that’s not bad thing. I’m reading Mike Hales book on ‘Thinkwork’ from 1980 and he had this idea of ‘pre conceptualism’ and it set me thinking about whether cultural works can reach out into that pre-idea stage of thinking. There’s a hope music or art might be able to get past the normalisation of our thinking as it enters onto cultural or intellectual platforms… But to do that it would have use very undercapitalised platform, autonomous underground venues, collectively run shows, illegal shebeens maybe, but not a gallery. How is it done? How is it done?

 

for more thoughts in this vein see my now FREE ebook…