A WORKING CLASS HERO IS SOMETHING TO BE
There’s lots of arguments about music- one of them is where is the reaction to Tories? where is the new punk Andy Peart thinks he has found it…
It shouldn’t really have been a surprise but the shock wave of the recent finding that 60% of acts in the charts came from privately educated backgrounds continues to reverberate.
The fact that, aside from Nicky Wire, nobody actually gives a toss about the charts in the 21st century is lost in the assumption that music is dead and that the continual battering of reality shows plus the arrival of the internet has meant that music has effectively just become another commodity to be bought, used and sold. An apolitical background entertainment for the Facebook generation now taken over by the dark forces of bland .
But in reality that’s a long way from the truth and the only surprise is that even in this golden age of communication you still have to dig quite a way under the surface to find those rough cut diamonds. But then a little bit of effort always did pay off.
One scene which proves the point has been bubbling along nicely for a few years, keeping afloat in the vibrant underground and growing in strength by the month. It’s a scene which is as far away from the stereotypes of mainstream music that you can get. Main instigators and agitators are the King Blues, formed in 2004 around the axis of Itch Fox and Jamie Jazz and on their night possibly the most incendiary live band in the UK. Two albums old and a third, ”ËPunk and Poetry’, due in the next couple of months the King Blues walk it like they talk it in many ways. Last year frontman Itch followed a night on stage at a sold out Hammersmith Apollo supporting Enter Shikari by speaking at the Unite Against Fascism conference at the TUC the next day and their volatile cocktail of politics and punk, personal and polemic, reggae and ska has warmed many a heart over the past few years and not just from a musical perspective. Renowned for taking their acoustic message on marches with a homemade sound system in tow the King Blues don’t just shout it from a stage.
And the message is starting to get through.
One of the chants from students sprinting through London on route for Westminster during the recent student demos was ”ËWhose Streets, Our Streets’ a cry repeated in the King Blues best song ”ËThe Streets Are Ours’, and the recently leaked track from the new album, the no holds barred guttural raw that is ”ËWe Are Fucking Angry’, has an accompanying you tube video of the subsequent riots.
Sometimes bands are in the right place at the right time. There’s a good chance that 2011 will be that time for the King Blues.
Close behind the King Blues are East London reggae punks the Skints who have got to be the most consistently exciting live band of their genre. Essentially the Skints are a reggae band who play punk but as musicians they are something else entirely. Few bands click as naturally as the London four piece and their mash up sound system of reggae, dub, punk and dubstep is a joy to behold as they progress at an impressively fast rate of knots. They have the suss and the style to cover Dawn Penn’s 1960’s Rocksteady single ”ËYou Don’t Love Me’ and make it their own and on last year’s ”ËUp Against the Wall’ single, released on a 7”Â picture disc no less, interpreted their own version of roots proudly proclaiming “I may like reggae but I know where I’m from……born in East London’.
At their recent sold out London gigs some of their audience seemed barely into their teens. One who seemed just about old enough to order a drink told me he’d been able to vote for the first time last Summer and voted Liberal. After a pause he said he’d never make that mistake again. In the current climate it’s becoming very hard not to think about politics and difficult to live a life which isn’t being touched and shaped by it.
Over the Welsh border and into Cardiff, or Skadiff as they’ve renamed it, you can find Dirty Revolution, a five piece ska punk hybrid who sound like a cross between 2 Tone stalwarts the Selecter and Punk pioneers Penetration. Fronted by the effervescent Reb, Dirty Rev are bright, sharp and to the point. Recent gigs have seen them dedicate their ”ËWhere Are the Police?”Â to the student marchers and they fly a strong anti-racist banner with the superbly pitched ”Ë”ÂI Love Reggae’ their live show stopper every time. Guitarist Stu told me he discovered the Clash and the Specials listening to his parent’s records, emphasising the passing of the generations and keeping the flame alive.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In Manchester the hip hop/punk/reggae hybrid of scene veterans Sonic Boom Six still burns brightly and live they are a riot of colour, mixing cultures and genres to stunning effect. Plus there’s Mouthwash, JB Conspiracy, Jimmy the Squirrel, Resolution 242, Colour me Wednesday andÃÂ many more bands keeping the scene alive and vibrant. Resolution 242 have a song called ”ËBritains Nasty Politics’, Colour me Wednesday have one called ”ËPurge Your Inner Tory’.ÃÂ The times we live in can’t help but influence culture.
On a cold night in High Wycombe shortly before Christmas, at the same venue the Clash and the Pistols played all those years ago, I saw a new band called Bored of Justice. Seven kids firing out great ska/punk songs about things that matter with the three female singers standing in the audience because the stage wasn’t big enough for all of them. It was a sight to bring a smile to the faces of old punks everywhere who thought, and still do if truth be told, thatÃÂ music can change the world.
The debate about culture and class will ramble on for eternity. All I know is this. You don’t have to be working class to make great music. But it helps.
The King Blues and Sonic Boom Six are on tour together from 25 March to 8 April
The Skints are currently on tour in Europe and the UK supporting Reel Big Fish
Dirty Revolution are playing gigs around the UK