Tuesday, May 10, 2011

1980s world music, Kode9, protest singers

A round up of some more longish music pieces for The National's Review section.

First, here's a piece I thoroughly enjoyed writing about a great compilation from a really problematic 'genre': world music - and the dramatic changes in attitudes since these classics were first released in the 1980s. There's so much to say about ghettoisation, orientalism, post-colonialism, fusion, and, er, the constant stream of absolute BANGERS on this double CD. So if you're only going to read one of these three articles, read this one.

Then, an interview with Dorian Lynskey about his brilliantly researched, highly entertaining history of western protest songs, '33 Revolutions Per Minute'. So many interesting dimensions to this discussion, not least the difference between 'earnest', overtly political protest music - which every was ragging on at our UeL Art of Protest seminar - and implicitly rebel music, where the 'protest' aspect is divined from the context. I've pulled out this quote, just because I find the chronological sweep really interesting, especially Lynskey's comparison of mainstream pop attitudes in the 1980s and 2000s. #capitalistrealism, anyone?
For all the continuous power of political pop, from Strange Fruit onwards, it is only in the final bit of the chronology that Lynskey observes a withering and disempowerment of the phenomenon. Green Day's American Idiot heralded "the protest song revival that never was". When protest pop existed in the 2000s, it never caught alight. Lynskey observes sadly in the book's epilogue: "I started this book intending to write a history of a still-vital form of music. I finished it wondering if I had instead composed a eulogy."
Finally here's a piece about Kode9 and The Space Ape's new record, drawing in some bits from Steve Goodman's book 'Sonic Warfare', about horrifying sound bombs and nerve-shredding audio itches:
While the sound-work on the likes of Black Smoke is fascinating, the album's peaks come when the queasy, poisoned synths Goodman uses on Love Is the Drug, Green Sun and the brilliant title track are married with a clinical, mobilising dance-floor-orientated beat. At these moments, tensions between nausea and ebullient physicality are evoked and then transcended. The gut response to this trio of tracks is "something definitely isn't right here - so why do I find myself really wanting to dance?"


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