SOFT RIOT

So… England’s had a giant axe fall on it’s neck. Tory cuts. A blame on the reckless doings of the previous party, Labour, but in a way a veiled guise to put all the fiscal responsibility on your everyday citizen while the world of business can, well, still generally run about rampant. Across the water the blood pressure of the French has shot through the aorta and colleges are being burned to a crisp and ATMs and smart cars being vandalized. Across an even larger body of water back where I’m from the government is silently clamping an iron fisted hand around the bodies of science, leftism or any voice of criticism by gag order, pro-rogueing parliament or the tasteless creation of Fox-styled news channels geared at the Canadian “meathead” market…

And in contrast music in a more mainstream context may be more escapist and vapid than ever; some dance-y concoctions about dancing, partying and having a “good time”. I love good times and I love a good party as well but I can feel at the other end of the spectrum in terms of appreciation for that sort of thing (and I kind of find a lot of that music quite lackluster anyway…). I’m hearing the refrain of songs with repetitive phrases such as “Tonight’s gonna be a good night, tonight’s gonna be a good night I can feel it…” / “Let’s go out tonight” and some other waxing on about DJs, dance floors and being sexy somewhere at some point in time.

This observation came to mind with the pairing of A and B: tough times not for our benefit but we just go on cruising as usual with our consumer pursuits. An old song I remember from back in the day by the band Embrace (not the forgettable UK “alt-rock” band of recent years) came to mind called End Of A Year with the opening lyrics: “I don’t like parties / They avoid the truth / People lying in search of a good time / We smile / Avoid unpleasant situations / Put it off / Maybe it will go away…” — These lyrics are sung of course by 80s/90s DC punk stalwart Ian MacKaye, a role model of sorts for a number of people in my general age bracket for keeping our heads on in some sobering reality. Images of Ian with his shaved head and very understated black t-shirts acting as the older guy in the pack; an older brother; a concerned schoolmaster gently shaking a finger with criticism then to his trademark shouted emotive vocals. Embrace (but more so Rites of Spring) were two of my favourite bands from that mid-80s “punk” era. As a 32-year old man I still get choked up at the right moments of weakness when I listen to any of the old Rites of Spring back catalog. Some true fire there. The Embrace album is worth checking out as well. I always felt Michael Hampton never really got credit for some of the great guitar work he laid out on that record.

We could analyze ourselves and re-evaluate where we stand in the world and with each other. Or, as I heard last weekend at a pub in East London where the music was loud, one could sprain their neck muscles thrashing around to Andrew WK: a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand and your sweaty American Apparel t-shirt in the other. Never really had much of an interest in him as an artist but there’s a large quotient of art school kids that do. Signing out…

EMBRACE “End Of A Year” 1985

EMBRACE “End Of A Year” Live at 9.30 Club 1986

ANDREW WK “Party Hard” 2001