Jeffrey Lewis’ new release WWPRD celebrates Pussy Riot and calls on all artists to take a moral stand.
Pussy Riot became a cause célèbre in 2012 when they were jailed for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in Russia. But the ‘celebres’ in questions were the punk hegemony, not the celebrities of the mass media. Coming out in public to support a band called Pussy Riot, who used guerrilla tactics to bring their feminist agenda to the attention of the authorities, and who use punk rock to vent their anger at Putin (now a friend of the West), would be too much for the fake, vapid celebrities of the day. So it’s left to people like Jeffrey Lewis to bring Pussy Riot’s plight to our attention, and also to celebrate their sacrifice.
Jeffrey Lewis and The Rain released WWPRD EP on 26th August. WWPRD stands for What Would Pussy Riot Do? With rap lyrics bouncing between Lewis and his band (reminiscent of his Crass covers album 10 Crass Songs) it’s a conscience call to all artists to reconsider their motives when taking that sponsorship deal or wearing those sneakers or sunglasses pushed upon them by Corporations. Lewis tells them to ask themselves WWPRD? And do they really think there’s no cost for taking those deals? It’s a call to artists who sell out to reconsider their motives and actions. Many people will think this is naive and idealistic, but fuck it, give me idealism over cynicism anytime. And Jeffrey Lewis walks the walk. Lewis is the classic DIY artist who has never had to compromise to a record label or promoter, because he does it all himself and does very well thank you, very much without anybody’s help. His records are distributed through Rough Trade. There is no artistic restraint on him. He organises his own tours. If he needs somewhere to kip down in a city then he appeals for people to put him up for the night over Facebook or Twitter. He publishes his own comic books. He shows it can be done without selling out.
Lewis probably considers himself a hippy, but I think of him as more punk than most so-called punk bands. His DIY ethic shows all artists the way they could go. And Pussy Riot should be all artists’ moral conscience.
It’s easy to forget how rock music, and in particular Punk Rock, can upset the authorities. Listening to the Sex Pistols music now it’s hard to believe that the authorities were actually afraid there was going to be some sort of anarchist revolution. Pussy Riot, regardless of what you think of their actual music, remind us the power music can have.
Buy this record. Turn it up loud. Remind yourself that music can be more than just a great tune or something to dance to. It can actually mean something and change the way you view the world.
As Lewis says on WWPRD: the world needs more punk rock heroes. Amen to that.
You can purchase the download or physical single here.
Jeffrey Lewis website is here.