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Tag Archives: political

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.



“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 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

and LaDeeGaGa is another one (incredible performance!):

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.

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…

I found this article in Red Pepper fascinating (and related to both Agit Disco and Conspiracy of Good Taste  ):

Raised voices: the UK campaigning choirs movement


Street choirs spring from various strands of progressive politics and protest singing. Many have their roots way back in the socialist and labour movements. The names of Birmingham Clarion Singers and Nottingham Clarion Choir, for instance, are tributes to the movement associated with the Clarion socialist newspaper founded in late 19th-century Manchester. Birmingham Clarion Singers was established in 1940″

Yes but this was a part of the Rational Recreations movement which strove to get working class people involved in ‘respectable’ rather than revolutionary activity. These choirs seem a bit more radical and political.

 “Today, the street choirs network numbers more than 50 choirs across Britain.”

Could they turn the tide with song?  Could singing in the street return to human activity after being banished by the good taste movement led by Sharp and others plus commoditisation plus mass media?

Is a new kind of songwriting going to emerge?

There is an initiative to make an oral history of the movement see more here:

The Dixie Chicks haven’t learned their lesson yet it seems and are as political as they ever were. Nice to see them back with a world tour and sold out in the USA too.

Continuing the theme of the big stars that issue political edicts I agree with!

I just watch the burning of a police car in Paris and angry scenes. Amongst it all there was an orchestra of sort playing, I had the sound down…(was it on RT?). Does anyone have a source on this? There seems to be a news blackout?!?

Jamala has just won the Eurovision with a protest song about the Tatars in Crimea ‘1944’ its about ethnic cleansing and Stalin but with obvious relevance to the situation in Crimea since the Russian takeover.

It seems like the mainstream music world has been won over to agitdisco and is trying to take the reins and make the running. How is it that certain ‘political’ statements are OK whereas most are not?

A jokey cake graphic suggests that the votes are 90% ‘political’ in the sense that people vote for countries they ‘like’ or feel allied to.

“The country scored 534 points with its song 1944, about the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Josef Stalin.” BBC

Phillipe Sands QC has cowritten a book called ‘East West Street’ about the beginnings of international justice in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi ‘war criminals’. This is when ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’ became part of international law. Sands tells the story from a very personal perspective. The part of it that caught my eye was that two people on opposite sides of the bench at Nuremberg were fascinated by the same piece of music. Herschel Lauterpacht had studied in Lviv in Ukraine. Hitler’s personal lawyer Hans Frank had given a hate speech there that led to the murder of some 100,000 individuals including friends and teachers of Lauterpacht, and the grandfather of Phillipe Sands. Franks was prosecuted at Nuremberg by Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin. Frank was executed on the 16th October 1946.

The extraordinary thing is that Sands discovered that both Lauterpacht and Frank were comforted during the Nuremberg trial by J.S. Bach’s ‘St Mathew Passion’.

How extraordinary is this? At times of such profound emotion anyone with a bourgeois background or widespread love of orchestral music might be likely to get spiritual comfort from St Matthews Passion ‘one of the masterpieces’ of sacred classical music. And Hans Frank was one of the only defendants, along with Albert Speer, to show any remorse.

The scale and cold bloodedness of the Holocaust has held me in awe and dread since I first discovered  in as a young child. It is now hard not to think of it as a result of class oppression; of the extremes of numbing that were possible. The sublimation of emotion into high art that is listened to or observed without expression of emotion (or even bodily movement) seems to be part of this conditioning.

This is more than a simple playlist; it’s a podcast programme with its own artistic value. Beautifully put together. Transpontine says: “Mix based on DJ set at  Housmans Radical Booksellers benefit at  Surya a while ago with  Stefan Szczelkun Paul Jam  Stewart Home Martin Dixon.  A mix I did a little while ago of music from the 1984/85 miners strike, with ChumbawambaNocturnal Emissions , Test Dept, Style Council and more…”