This one’s a challenge. Mark Fisher has an essay in the New Statesman titled Militant Tendencies Feed Music. It felt weird to come across it and yet also, no surprise that it didn’t appear in Spin Magazine either. I have long given up hope that today’s rock musicians will deliver a solid and passionate lyrical response to world politics. And I don’t mean a rich windbag like Bono, or a half-baked lyricist like Coldplay’s Chris Martin – I’m talking about young, independent rock musicians. There is such a huge opportunity to speak out, yet nary a whisper. It’s as if rock musicians are now so conservative and self-centered, so fractured and self-pitying, that nothing matters beyond the end of their nose. It’s up to underground hip hop to carry the mantle of social awareness these days. It’s time for young, indie alt-rockers to step it up.
The New Statesman also has a list of what it considers the Top 20 Political Songs. The 20 songs were voted for by New Statesman readers and members of the Political Studies Association. There’s a podcast of all 20 songs plus commentary here. It’s an interesting list, yet upon looking at it you’ll note that all the songs are from artists who were at their artistic peak decades ago. Rage Against the Machine are the youngest on the list and they were at their best in 1990′s.
I recommend reading Fisher’s essay. Here’s a couple of paragraphs as a teaser:
“The idea that music can change the world now seems hopelessly naive. Thirty years of neoliberalism have convinced us that there is no alternative; that nothing will ever change. Political stasis has put music in its place: music might “raise awareness” or induce us to contribute to a good cause, but it remains entertainment. Yet what of music that refuses this status? What of the old avant-garde idea that, to be politically radical, music has to be formally experimental?”
“One of the most urgent tasks for any political music was to expose the pacifying mechanisms that were already secreted in popular culture – nowhere more obviously than in the cheap dreams of love songs, which groups such as Gang of Four and the Slits deconstructed in tracks such as “Anthrax” and “Love und Romance”. In a world in which people increasingly felt as if they lived inside advertisements – where, as Gang of Four put it, at home they felt like tourists – there was nothing more ideological than culture’s claim to be entertainment. That was the word that provided the ironic title for Gang of Four’s debut LP, and was also used in one of the Jam’s most bitterly sarcastic songs, “That’s Entertainment”.”