Manchester Night And Day
Feb 28th 2011
photo by John Robb
Turbulent times need a turbulent soundtrack.
There are signs everywhere that the pop edifice is creaking and the freaks are freaking. In the week that the news filtered through that Irish anarchist punk band had entered the Irish singles chart at number six with a fierce political anthem one place higher than take That’s new single I went to see the Agitator.
Even the name gives it away. This is not a set of songs about ”Ëcalled you on the phone when I was alone, moon in June’ sung by some auto tuned- celebrity- chimp with one eye on the prize. Nope this is fierce, political music that’s making a stand and avoiding all the clichÃÂ©s lyrically and musically.
Stripped down and primal, this is two drums playing a combination of old school hip hop mashed up with Burundi beats and that Adam and the Ants /Bow Wow Wow drum barrage (although when I spoke to the main man, Derek Meins, afterwards he was barely aware of the Ants- the power of youth!). The drums sound killer- the beats and the rhythms are complex and well thought out and they are built for dancing, although a Monday night Manchester was not ready for that kind of action.
The Agitator himself stands between the two drum kits of Robert Dylan ThomasÃÂ andÃÂ T-Train
and lets rip with his powerful blues sex voice voice that hints at the Tom Waits like growl without the years of nicotine abuse. His Berwick brogue between the songs charms the audience and is conviction is never off putting.
The first you notice, though, is no guitars, this is pure rhythm and it really works, Meins himself declares,
“Guitars are for decadent, capitalist sissies!”Â and is making his impact by pure rhythm and great vocals.
There is a great imagination at play here and a real understanding of the power of music. The Agitator have a thrilling edge and a no boundaries appeal that will be a big hit at the festival circuit this summer.
Dressed in their shirts with ”ËNo!’ painted across them and with a warm yet challenging attitude the Agitator are utterly original in a field of plinky plonky indie.
And Mein is not kidding with his belief in the power of music in these helter skelter times.
“I wanted a new kind of music, nothing more than banging, stamping, clapping and voices. Something anyone could do anywhere, on a march, at a protest, on the barricades…”Â Putting his money where his mouth is- The Agitator played for the students at theÃÂ UCL occupationÃÂ in December and went down a storm.
The politics are certainly important, someone has to sing something back at the Tory cuts and the ”Ëwe’re all In It together’ champagne sipping, ski resort loving, Eton boys who are laughing at us with every sip of their filthy expensive booze but even without all this the Agitator rule.
Their music is so damn infectious, imaginative and brilliant that you would have to be made of stone not to love what they do.
Could this be one of the many musical voices for the 2010 the year of action? In North Africa they have ”ËRais Lebed’ by El General as their rallying call. Could the Agitator be part the start of the UK musicians who are still awake out there fighting back for a mini musical riot of our own?