Radical Dance Faction -Ammunition (Pumpkin Records)
Radical Dance Faction (or RDF) have been around in a number of guises since the mid eighties. As part of the whole free festival and anarcho scene, main man Chris Bowsher has led them through myriad line-up changes and record labels. Ammunition is his first release since 1995’s Ragamuffin Statement, for Louder Than War, Joe Whyte reviews.
Taking their lead from dub reggae, ska and the heavier end of dance music, they’ve laced their music with lyrical politicing. Ammunition carries on the tradition. Bowsher is a man who clearly has something to say. This, however, I’m afraid to say, is where it all falls down for me and probably for most listeners.
Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe I’m a cynic. But, y’know, having lived through punk, the Thatcher years, The Falklands, the current incumbents in Downing Street and all the rest, I know who the bad guys are. I don’t need it pointed out to me these days and at every turn. We’ve all read the books, watch TV, use the internet.
This is the problem with protest music; it rarely reaches the ears of the bad guys. It’s very much preaching to the converted. And unfortunately, lyrically, the album comes across as slightly jaded and hectoring in tone.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the sentiments at all; Bowsher is a man on a mission and his targets are clear. In fact, he should be applauded for the single-minded approach to his commitments.
On the other hand, musically Ammunition is rather good; deep, bass-bin-bothering grooves and rattling rhythms with subsonic samples liberally and intelligently woven through. Opening song For The Poor Man has sweet Hammond organ swoops atop a militant bassline and echoing snare cracks. Bowsher speaks rather than sings although his vocal foils on the album swap lines with him in a neat style.
This, unfortunately, is where Ammunition falls down for me again. Bowshers spoken-word London tones remind me of something and there’s only one way to say this. He sounds like Albert Steptoe.
I can’t listen to it without the thought of him shouting “Aaaaarold!” amidst the well-put together dub-ing. This is such a shame as I guess the guts of the music is Bowshers and it’s thoughtful, clever and really well done.
Rebel Soldier has someone else singing on it at the start (there’s no press release to give hints to the line-up) and y’know, the music is lifted immediately. There’s some searing guitar amidst the tripped-out groove and there’s even time for a touch of Get Up, Stand Up in the reprise.
I bet that RDF are a real monster live and I’m sorry I missed them at Rebellion this year. I guess if Chris Bowsher left the vocals alone and concentrated on the music this would have been an 8 out of 10 review.
All words by Joe Whyte. More writing by Joe on Louder Than War can be found at author’s archive.