Nadine McBay’s playlist for your post-election blues …
Black Sabbath – War Pigs
As early as last July, newly-installed PM Theresa May said she would press the nuclear button. Responding to a question from then SNP MP George Kerevan as to whether she was “prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill hundreds of thousands of men, women and children”, she said “yes”. That this was macho posturing intended to highlight the rift between Corbyn and his Blairite MPs was all the more repulsive, as was the continued haranguing of Corbyn during the campaign, surely one of the most shamefully grubby and inept in British election history. The original title of the song was Walpurgis, a reference to the witches’ sabbath, but changed to War Pigs as Sabbath’s record label Vertigo thought the former “too Satanic”. War was fine though. Watching four or five pink and porcine guys giving Corbyn grief on telly recently over his unwillingness to commit mass murder, small wonder this song scurried into my head again. In certain quarters, there seems an almost sexual, and certainly obscene, hunger for killing. As Caroline Lucas asked of Amber Rudd on the debate Big Theresa was too feart to appear on: “why is Britain the second biggest arms dealer in the world?”
Rage Against The Machine – Take The Power Back
Who to take on RATM’s mantle? When I’ve wanted to listen to angry, empowering music in recent years, I’ve gone back to the likes of Minutemen, Black Flag (spesh Damaged) and that first RATM album. RATM weren’t just righteous and dangerous, they were tight-as-hell. And if there’s anyone that can match them for badass intensity, I desperately want to know about them. There are angry young people making music, and often it’s about gay and transgender rights, which is fair enough. But where there is talk of traditional politics, it’s often oblique, as if being angry about those making the rules in our name is passé or uncool. Perhaps the kids who would have become the RATMs of today are under the kosh of educational and work pressures. If it’s out there, where can I find it? Is it any good? Wednesday, music press day, was an event: though great music journos remain, I feel rudderless without the expert direction of the likes of Neil Kurkarni, Everett True and others. I’m Luddite enough to feel reading off a screen is too much like work. Certainly it’s strange it took Sleaford Mods, fellas in their 40s, to channel the bitterness and disenchantment of austerity UK into pop.
Joy Division – Digital
What was this song was originally about? Paranoia? Epilepsy? That early line about “the fear of whom I call” – a malicious spirit? For me, it’s the song that’s switched on automatically as I feel the approach of a spell of low mood and fatigue, and also when I hear yet more news of plans to curb often hardwon freedoms such as the Investigatory Powers Act and the increasing encroachment of the state on women’s bodily autonomy. I take no comfort in the prospect of Trump being impeached; VP Mike Pence’s and Speaker Paul Ryan’s unwholesome, pathological obsession with vaginas and wombs is cribbed straight from The Handmaid’s Tale. And this track feels suitably claustrophobic and dark, like being trapped in an attic, the bare wood beams a lurid, night-vision green. It was the last song Joy Division ever played live, at a gig at Birmingham University in 1980.
The Fall – Birmingham School Of Business School
Talking of which, that university’s business school is the subject of this track from 1992’s Code:Selfish. It’s about an ex-Fall’s manager’s creative accounting but lines like “Let me tell you about scientific management/And the theft of its concealment” are of course applicable to the modern economy. I especially like Smith’s “whawhawhaw-ing” – a contemptuous approximation of stock market gibberish and management gobbledygook.
Conflict – Tough Shit Mickey
The first of three earnest protest songs, Tough Shit Mickey is a track about the meat industry by South London anarcho punks Conflict. A heck of a lot of Conflict’s songs are about animal rights – and this track features on 1999 compilation This Is The ALF, a reference to the leaderless international group whose violent tactics have led critics to describe them as terrorists. If fox hunting returns to this island, I wonder if perhaps pro-animal anarcho punk groups will too. Conflict are still going, by the way.
Evergreen Terrace – Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bono and the gang’s original is bloated by the years, but at least this version by Floridian hardcore punks Evergreen Terrace punctures the pomposity with a bit of grit-throated screaming. A confidence and supply deal with the DUP, the Brexit-born prospect of a hard border, sectarian tensions inflamed in Scotland, it’s back to the 1970s indeed. If any good will come of this, it’s the highlighting of the dire status of women’s reproductive rights on both sides of the Irish border; something ignored for too long.
The Bronx – Shitty Future
Make no mistake; if Brexit indeed does mean Brexit, as both the Tories and Labour’s Keir Starmer say it does, lasting, serious damage with be done to these islands. This election, as well as being a misjudged attempt to definitively crush Labour, was, of course, a companion piece to last year’s EU referendum, David Cameron’s grubby vanity project. At least Labour offered a vision of the future that wasn’t relentlessly shitty. Still, that blue passport won’t mean much when you can’t afford the bus into town…
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – East Hastings
…and that bus is overturned on its side anyway, flames licking at the windows. Or else being used by several families for shelter while a dog turns on a spit over a brazier. Canadian subversives GY!BE have been soundtracking the apocalypse for around twenty years now, and East Hastings, famously used in 28 Days Later as Cillian Murphy wanders a deserted central London in hospital scrubs, is the bleak sound of Brexshit Britain’s friendless winters. Cheery though. Still, there’s comfort in thinking that while idiots can garner support for Brexit, perhaps they’re so incompetent they’re unable to carry it out.
Kvasir – First Throws
About time for some lighter relief in the dapper shape of Kvasir, a ski-mask-wearing mystery man making some of the most sumptuous electro pop around. But hold on: it’s that trader who left BBC presenters speechless in 2011 by saying he “goes to bed at night dreaming of another recession”. Oops.
John Maus – Keep Pushing On
From the enigmatic Maus’s peerless We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves album, there does appear to be lyrics other than the title of this swirling ode to resilience, but they are the ones that matter most.
British Sea Power – The Voice of Ivy Lee
I so wanted a British Sea Power track to close this playlist I decided on two, because, as well as being perhaps the most anti-Brexit band there is (that nostalgic, Britnat name is a bluff; they even did an anti-Ukip ad), their current album, like a lot of their work, is rich, genuinely intelligent pop. Sounding not unlike the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie, this song is named for Ivy Lee, the father of modern public relations. Singer Jan Wilkinson said a specific target was Trump aide Steve Bannon, also a previous board member of Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining company involved in the pro-Brexit campaign.
Luke Haines – Russian Futurists Block Out The Sun
Referring to the group of poets and artists who emerged in the early 20th century with their manifesto A Slap In The Face of Public Taste, and specifically their 1913 opera Victory Over The Sun, nevertheless this track came to mind during the campaign, coming as it did in the wake of Trump’s sacking of FBI director James Comey over his investigation into possible Russian involvement in last year’s presidential election. In a recent feature in The Atlantic Peter Pomerantsev interviewed fellow journalist Arkady Ostrovsky who contended that Russian involvement was part of a historical plan to undermine the west. See Pomerantsev’s excellent Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible for insight into Putin’s Russia, where cynicism, mutability and corruption have long fostered a “post-fact” culture. Nevertheless, Britain appears to be such a backwater already that Russia doesn’t seem to have bothered in having much to do with this election.
British Sea Power – Praise For Whoever
Despite its lurching, ominous mood, the track from which BSP took the title of their current album Let The Dancers Inherit The Party, itself inspired by a poem by the late Ian Hamilton Finlay, worth including here in full:
When I have talked for an hour I feel lousy –
Not so when I have danced for an hour:
The dancers inherit the party
While the talkers wear themselves out and
sit in corners alone, and glower.
Sonic Youth – Peace Attack
From their 2004 album Sonic Nurse, mellow protest song Peace Attack gives then-POTUS Dubya the finger and it sounds like a kiss. We could all make like Selena Gomez and try killing em with kindness, but imagine trying to wrestle Trump into a cuddle. Best not. But aye; cynicism aside, love is the answer, brothers and sisters. Stop sniggering at the back: what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding, as someone once asked. Yip, love, voting, and a determination to stymie those who would divide us, whether terrorists or partners to their toxic embrace, the hard right. There are those who’d rather you believed you had no power; they’re wrong.