Vote Labour on June 8th.
“My vote makes no difference” and “modern British music is bland and uninspiring” – two lazy arguments we intend to dispel with one article as we look at some fine albums that represent the voice of current discontent in the UK.
Not since the World Wars has there been so much to worry about for the average Brit. What with Brexit, austerity, terrorism, a health service being dismantled, climate change and an apparent return to elitist education on our plates, it’s hard to believe anyone could be apathetic about UK politics, or want to miss the chance to put their X in a box at this crossroads in their country’s future.
Even more incredible is that we continue to elect the same old clowns even when it’s clearly not working, while ridiculing and ostracising anything different. Einstein’s often quoted definition of insanity seems never truer than when analysing the UK’s voting habits.
Theresa May’s Conservative government is arguably more disliked and divisive than Thatcher’s of the 1980s, yet we’ll almost certainly still vote for them.
Or will we?
There is a sizeable, growing growl coming from outside of the mainstream that suggests a seriously pissed-off undercurrent. YouGov is predicting a hung parliament, very much upsetting the applecart of a government that thought they would find this election about much of a challenge as the Scottish Premier League is to Celtic. Tools for tactical voting are doing the rounds on social media, with many seeing the anti-Tory vote as more important than one for any particular party.
In music, too, while those who never look beyond the mainstream might bemoan stage school indie bands and a UK top 40 decimated by Ed Sheeran, anyone who follows a number of young British artists on social media is sure to have noticed a fair share of political views amid the YouTube videos and gig listings they share. Needless to say, not too many of these views are supportive of the increasingly ‘weak and wobbly’ Theresa May and her cold, arrogant and incompetent party.
I’ve picked out 10 albums that I think best suit this progressive, left-leaning viewpoint and desire for genuine charge – something different, something fair, something that represents ordinary people.
My hope is that if the unthinkable really happened and the Tories were to be dislodged, these albums could become the soundtrack to what would be the biggest, stiffest two fingers the British right has had shoved up its backside in a lifetime. It could be a generation-defining moment as big as punk rock, if we only get off our backsides for one day and make it happen by USING OUR VOTE.
And if you don’t agree with me, that’s up to you, but you’re not going to find a good list of pro-Tory albums anywhere, so give them a listen anyway eh?
1. Sleaford Mods – English Tapas
It’s almost hard to imagine Sleaford Mods existing without a Conservative government in power. The acerbic pair have become the anti-austerity voice in British music, so perhaps the one downside of an alternative government is that Jason Williamson would have to find something else to rant about.
Some critics argued the Mods’ sound didn’t develop on their recent English Tapas album, but when their country’s regressing at this rate, why do they need to? It was a record that certainly saw them take a turn for the even bleaker and more accusatory, with ‘BHS’ jabbing the finger firmly at Philip Green and ‘Dull’ furiously summing up the generation divide between the misguided elderly and apathetic millennials in under three minutes.
2. IDLES – Brutalism
Bristol five-piece IDLES have combined wit, confrontation, venom and some impressive musicianship to bring us one of the most powerful British punk albums in decades.
Brutalism is packed with soundbites that put Tory claptrap like “strong and stable” and “no magic money tree” to shame. Lines like “the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich” and “always poor, never bored” are hammered into your skull in what is one of those albums you notice something new about with every listen. ‘Divide & Conquer’, dedicated in less than favourable terms to Jeremy ‘Still in a Job Because I’m Doing a Great Job of Running the NHS into the Ground’ Hunt during their recent tour, succeeds in being visceral and direct while keeping lyrics to a minimum.
3. Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
If you live in Brockley go and vote for very good human and very good friend of mine @SophieMcGeevor standing for labour councillor
— kate tempest (@katetempest) October 13, 2016
Londoner Kate Tempest’s daring and highly original second album describes the world as several narrators see it at 4:18am on one particular morning, and politics remains a prominent theme throughout.
‘Europe is Lost’, though more than an anti-Brexit statement, has obvious topical connotations, while album closer ‘Tunnel Vision’ sees the wordsmith spit her way through just about every injustice going in these times of heightened terror, mass consumerism and painfully slow recovery from recession.
4. Bad Breeding – Divide
On hearing Bad Breeding’s self-titled debut last year, few would’ve said “you know what, it’s not raw enough.” Nonetheless, for their 2017 follow-up, the Hertfordshire punks have chosen to up the volume, abrasion and dissonance to the point where melody just about clings on in there like a single flickering cinder in a huge mound of ashes.
Parts of Divide physically hurt your ears, and the subject matter is rarely comfortable listening either. The Brexit-alluding Leaving is the album highlight from a band often as critical of the left as the right.
5. Depeche Mode – Spirit
Who says it’s just the kids that have had enough? Depeche Mode’s impressive new record shows there’s plenty of ire among baby-boomers too.
Frontman Dave Gahan was so unhappy at being bizarrely linked to the alt-right movement by Richard Spencer, he called him a cunt – an insult that should be used sparingly but is entirely fitting for an attention-loving white supremacist parasite. While not overtly political, tracks like ‘Going Backwards’ and ‘The Worst Crime’ make the electronic-rock legends’ fourteenth album seem a timely commentary in the wake of Brexit and Trump.
Where’s the revolution indeed!
6. Post War Glamour Girls – Swan Songs
Criminally underappreciated Leeds post-punkers Post War Glamour Girls tend to favour dark humour and wordplay to fist-waving attacks, but a political undertone is hard to overlook throughout the band’s third album.
In a track-by-track analysis of Swan Songs he kindly did for us, vocalist James Smith alluded to his dislike of the Tories a number of times, with his observations on final track ‘Devine Decline’ particularly fascinating.
7. Enter Shikari – The Mindsweep
When they first appeared on the scene with songs about Laser Quest and music videos that just looked like student house parties, few would’ve predicted what a serious nuisance Enter Shikari would make of themselves.
There’s often an element of sci-fi and alternative universe to the post-hardcore upstarts’ output, but their hatred of the Conservative Party is no secret. Climate change and corrupt banking – two problems the Tories are hardly known for their readiness in addressing – form key themes of this highly acclaimed 2014 album.
8. Slaves – Take Control
— Slaves (@Slaves) May 21, 2017
Explosive duo Slaves are another band that rarely make actual political statements in their music, instead arguing that they would rather address individuals and encourage them to take action themselves.
Released last year and produced by Mike D of the Beastie Boys, their second album carries the chaotic edge of their live shows, putting further weight behind its many calls-to-action. And last autumn, as the debacle of the Leave campaign unravelled, the lack of any plan became obvious and the shit hit the fan between Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, seeing the boys perform ‘Lies’ on Later…with Jools Holland seemed all too apt.
9. She Drew The Gun – Memories of Another Future
Most Merseyside music tends to be a tuneful mix of bouncy, bluesy riffs and psychedelia, but Wirral’s She Drew The Gun take a decidedly darker and more urban route.
Live SDTG performances often see outbursts of spoken word, and indeed the arresting ‘Poem’ is so-called because it was originally written to be performed without music. Tackling social injustices like homelessness – and a walk through Liverpool city centre will show you what a growing problem this has become following the Tories’ funding cuts for housing support and vulnerable people services – it’s a song that makes you stop what you’re doing and listen.
10. The Tuts – Update Your Brain
Having just finished their politically charged People Power tour, pop-punk trio The Tuts have been making themselves heard on and off the stage for a while now, and their debut album last year didn’t disappoint.
Feminist politics abounds on tracks like ‘Tut Tut Tut’, while ‘Give Us Something Worth Voting For’ calls for an alternative to conservatism – with Jeremy Corbyn seemingly answering the girls’ calls.
Can he ‘knock down Tory towers’? It’s a tall order, but not an unthinkable one, and all these bands can claim to have channelled their disillusionment effectively into music that speaks, resonates and influences.