POLITICAL MUSIC POST-MILLENNIUM
Le Tigre, Artists United Against Apartheid, Kendrick Lamar
Party for your right to fight – the Fascists win because you let them
By Aaron Goldberg
As a 'Global Conservative Revolution' rocks the world, aided an abetted by the Rupert Murdoch Media Toilet, Global 'property investment' Markets and of course the Good Old Military Industrial Complex and their 'progressive' buddie, the Internet/Tech Moguls, it is sad and unfortunate that the world of rock has allowed this cancer to pervade to the point where you have one of the most mediocre and ridiculous reality TV stars/businessmen in the history of the planet has the keys to rule the land that gave humanity rock and roll, soul, blues, country, hip hop, electrified folk, funk, techno and even Ted fucken Nugent. And if you go back through the seeds of the hourglass, you would see that all those genres and mutations of modern music were all created and developed through circumstances, environments, and political and social systems that were in many ways, unfair and unjust. People could not just sit in their little corners of wherever and let stuff pass, they needed to express themselves or more importantly COMMUNICATE what was bugging them. One of the most effective mean was via popular song or sounds (electrified guitars and pianos and synths etc) that disrupted the monotony of daily life with inspiration and uplift.
Fast forward to the here and now. It seems that rock 'n' roll, heck any sort of popular music isn't as effective for inspiring, uplifting and essentially KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS as it once was. We are all distracted, in fact the distraction is in front of you right now, not this shitty article but something more pervasive: the Internet. The Global Web that brings us together, has us mentally embraced inside a bubble, an echo chamber, a toilet block of nonsense, an enabler of the cancerous forces of greed, wanton environmental destruction, waste and plain idiocy that seems to be getting the upper hand daily, without impunity. So in the dire, desperate, idiotic times that we currently live, where is the protest music? Where are the motherfuckers to kick out the jams? Where are those partying for our right to fight, most importantly, where is the counterculture? Why are the cunts still running the world? WHERE ARE THE GREAT BANDS CALLING TRUTH TO POWER, OFFENDING THE CONSERVATIVE FORCES, YOUR PARENTS, THE COPS, THE CHURCH/PATRIARCH? THE FASCISTS? WHERE?
I am a child of the '80's, a period in time where the Regan-Thatcher Neo-Liberal Death-cult became the ruling 'philosophy,' a philosophy that has expanded and bloated to their point where the USA has that thing called 'Trump.' Interestingly, the '80's was a time music started to be consumed and listened to differently via MTV and music video, it was also a time when rockstars, mainly English (or Irish) realised they could use the 'globality' of MTV or networked TV to use the media as a means for protest. Whilst I hated all the schmaltz of Bono, USA for Africa, etc, which incidentally achieved a cynical full-all, there were other 'protest' style rockers that seemed more effective, such as 'Artists Against Apartheid', or here in Australia, the band Midnight Oil who did more to educated evolving young minds about Australia's' contribution to nuclear weapons and our hideous racist past and requirement of a Treaty with our First Nations (still hasn't been sign, onya Shtraya). The 'Artists against Apartheid' was an interesting one- it featured many original soul and hip-hop artists and the crème of the Western worlds 'alternative' artists, including Peter Garret from Midnight Oil. The whole 'party' was organised by Little Stevie Van Zandt, rhythm guitarist for Bruce Springsteen, and at the time, the most commercially successful and powerful rocker in the USA. Van Zandt leveraged his new-found fame and wealth and influence to create this protest project, and it really clarified this issue of Apartheid and institutional-racism in its day.
Fast forward to now. There is a new style of Apartheid being enforced by America's #1 Ally aka Israel. I like to call it 'the Apartheid that will not reveal its name' ('Hashem' anyone?). It's a sensitive topic, and there are cynical arguments all around, because unlike the 'other' Apartheid that was enforced as a by-product of Colonialism, this one is religious, or it's about land, or the oppressed need a land. OK, sure. What happens when the Oppressed become the oppressors? But I am digressing here, and that is the whole point about the 'Apartheid that will not reveal its name'- obfuscate the real issues and most people will not give a shit. The BDS, or Boycott Divest Sanction movement that protests against the oppressive politics of the State of Israel, in in many ways, it's the 'Artists Against Apartheid' of today. Little (he's quite 'big' these days) Stevie was recently asked to contribute to the cause as an artist and quite abruptly refused. It makes you wonder how little (I mean BIG) Stevie 'chooses' his causes, or are there other 'influencers' out there that might affect his career, which was skyrocketing in the '80's. Similarly Radiohead – no irony their entire musical existence was predicated on the works of Roger Water/Pink Floyd and Brian Eno - played Israel despite their 'Godfathers' politely asking them to seriously reconsider. And finally Australia's biggest rockstar, Nick Cave, who late last year basically told Roger Waters to 'fuck off' when asked not to play Israel. 'Saint' Nick in his most boisterous and what would prove to be most idiotic (drug fucked or to be 'fair', suffering PTSD) manner went forth in Old Testament swagger and 'kicked against the pricks,' only to be made into a political pariah by mainstream Israel breakfast television. In context of the BDS movement, it seems many western artists are reticent to upset the delicate music-executive apple-cart in the USA, since it wasn't like there were many South African interests in the music industry in the '80's, were there?
One of the sad things I find about protest music today is that it seems like the underground, the place where pretty much all the 'ideas' come from in popular music and thinking and politics, is silent. Where in the '80's you had post-punk, American hard-core and hardcore-hiphop, today it seems the protest comes from the very top. That's isn't necessarily a bad thing, but do the masses listen to what the massive rockstars say? Did USA for Africa fix anything? Seeing Roger Waters live in concert recently, remembering he is one of the most successful performing artists of all-time, was a curious thing. It was quite inspiring to watch and listen to him and his crack prog-rock band perform all the Pink Floyd classics in perfection, but his dazzling multi-media show was one of the most confronting and mind-expanding rock experiences you can have in such a scale, and I felt jaded at the end of the show - do half the audience here even give a shit beyond cheering when he does The Wall? Seeing Kendrick Lamar was a different kettle of fish. Kendrick's audience aren't the same people who made Trump/Brexit/Abbott/Netenyahu like say the 'other 50 percent' of Roger Waters's fans, but his message is no less potent, albeit in a different context. Kendrick isn't as politically direct as Public Enemy, but his expression of the post-Gangster/Trump fuckup that is America now, makes a stadium audience sing along to "Be Humble” way more subversive than a stadium audience singing along to the Foo Fighters' "My Hero.”
But scrounging around in the pages of Pitchfork, it's difficult to find some indie/underground band scoring an 8.6 and having a potent political agenda. In a recent interview on the trendy 'Chapo Trap House' podcast with Parquet Courts, one of the big hits on the American-hipster underground these days, they were bemoaning the fact that being a band in New York these days makes it impossible to be political, because quite frankly, the rents are too high! The 'trickle down' economics invented in the '80's doesn't seem to be working for the underground- it didn't work back then, and it definitely doesn't work now, hence why the DIY (do it yourself) ethos is so potent. Ironically, for some absurd reason, it seems to be the alt-right and co. that have made the DIY ethic their own, and have used the Internet, seemingly better than any, to get ahead! There is a solution, it might be slow, but it will work. It was explained in the now-forgotten (because of the Internet? Little Stevie's 'whataburger' addiction?) 'protest' tune "Get off the Internet” by Le Tigre:
"Get off the Internet. I'll meet you in the street. Get off the Internet. Destroy the right-wing"
Who listened? Who heard?
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