Harry’s Soapbox – Your Revolution Is a Joke

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Yep, its Monday and it sucks! So how about some of Harry’s Soapbox to channel those negative emotions – you know you’d love to!

By Harry Paterson

I upset someone recently (yeah, I know; hold the front-page, right?) with something I wrote about Coldplay winning a Brit award. The offending piece went like this…

“Dear God. Good grief. For feck’s sake. Christ Almighty. Coldplay best British band?! Let us be clear; Coldplay is the band of choice for those who don’t actually like music. Whiney, bland, soulless, corporate mogadon. Scared music might actually make you feel something? Have no fear, Coldplay are here.

Their fans are middle-class Tarquins and Jocastas. They’ll shop at Habitat and the straggly-bearded, bespectacled men, emasculated and crushed as they are, will wear their babies in papooses across their chests, all the clearer to announce the absence of testosterone, passion and recklessness of spirit.

Tarquin and Jocasta will see Coldplay live just once, preferably at Glastonbury, where they’ll bring out the Laura Ashley picnic basket, replete with Fortnum and Mason’s finest.

The edgiest experience of their pampered, middle class, suburban lives, they’ll brag about their one-off, oh-so edgy, encounter with rock ‘n’ roll, daaaahling, to their accountant and media professional friends at Islington dinner parties for the rest of the year.

Once the high of the organic Peruvian wine has set in, they’ll whip off the world music compilation recorded by Amazonian natives and slip in a Coldplay album. They’re so down with the kids. They’re so street. They’re so sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Daaaahling.

Chris Martin, all wobbly and plaintive castrato, and his middle-class anaemic wife, are the poster couple for Tarquin and Jocasta. They’ll probably name their kids after them.

A band that stands for nothing, says nothing and does nothing that might actually make anyone feel anything are the soundtrack for our times. Musical valium; the perfect accompaniment to not thinking. Not caring. Not feeling. While the world slides into the abyss…

Every time someone plays a Coldplay song, the total defeat of humanity edges just that little bit closer. While ever music is the ultimate artistic expression of the human condition, while ever it remains the joyous, ecstatic celebration of what it means to be alive, to be in love, to be angry, to be sad, to be human, Coldplay will be despised by all whose hearts continue to beat.”

My contempt for this band was compounded when, after reading this, a friend informed me that Chris Martin, well known, of course, for his attachment to safe, respectable, trendy, middle-class ‘anti establishment’ causes like Fair Trade, was guilty of the following…

Allegedly, during an awards ceremony a few years ago, he’d planned on flashing the palm of his hand to the cameras upon which he’d inscribed an antiwar message. So far, so good until, again allegedly, someone told him the label wouldn’t like it and it would damage the band’s sales in America whereupon the offending message was removed.

I’ve no idea if the story is true or not but I confess to readily accepting it as entirely plausible. Let’s face it; it fits perfectly, doesn’t it? This, I’d remind you, comes from a Lib Dem supporter, a man who’s best song, as well as ripping off Joe Satriani, is a plaintive whine about a king being deposed by revolutionaries. Yeah, trust Chris Martin to take the side of the privileged monarch and bleat that he is forced to “…sweep the streets [he] used to own.” Rooting for the under-dog, eh? How very rock ‘n’ roll of you, Chris…

However, I’m digressing; the point is that my friend, on receipt of my predictable tirade said, “But H; music shouldn’t be about politics. Music has absolutely no place concerning itself with politics.” Excuse me? Really? Well, bollocks to that and bollocks to your artistic self-censorship as well.

The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Bruce Springsteen, U2 (when they were a great band and not the bloated pompous sell-outs they are today), Crass, New Model Army, Manic Street Preachers, Queensryche, Elvis Costello and The Jam, to name just a few, produced their very best music when they were political, when they were angry, full of fire and youthful zeal.  Even the bleak apolitical nihilism of extreme metal is to be welcomed. At least it’s genuine.

As far as I’m concerned an artist’s job is to express him or herself honestly and if the form of that expression is political then so be it. In fact, I’d go further; rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be anti-establishment, it’s supposed to be the music of outsiders and it’s supposed to want to change the world. It’s at its most thrilling, visceral and vital when it’s passionate.

So does this mean, then, we should condemn bands that aren’t political? Of course not. Don’t be stupid. But we certainly shouldn’t be condemning those who are, either. Quite the reverse; we should applaud and celebrate such artists. In a world such as the one in which we currently live, we need more angry political musicians, not fewer. We need more artists giving a damn and telling us why we should, too. I want my rock ‘n’ roll to be full of passion, anger and rebellion. I want it to wield the power to make me think. To make me want to change the world. To make me believe that I can.

The way things are at the moment, If and when the revolution comes, it’ll be sponsored by Country Life with Johnny Rotten whoring it to the masses. Insurance companies will take out billboard-space on the barricades with Iggy Pop grinning shamelessly at the proletarian vanguard and Coldplay will probably provide the soundtrack.

Fuck that.

 

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. Suprised that Neil Young wasn’t on your list Harry, Ohio and many other great songs of his are when he is at his most political. The point really is that if the artist is passionate about something then the music has passion – if he isn’t the music is generally just bland toss! Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball album to hear what passion produces, listen to Coldplay and Adele if you must but don’t ever try to tell me it is good music.

  2. Says it all? http://9gag.com/gag/4717693

    Peter – MR Ed says: I don’t like to edit comments made on our website but just so you are aware before you click the link above, its just an image depicting an opposing view to Harry’s. Its not spam. Obviously I’d prefer the debate to continue on this site rather than that of the image’s but that’s up to you. Cheers.

    • Fair enough, so here we go:
      Bands may well make us think about politics and the revolution, but what evidence is there that music changes or betters anything other than the band’s image?
      More people sit on their arses discussing the bands and their “message” rather than actually doing anything about the issues at hand.

      • I also think that just because someone knows how to cleverly twist words into a clever little song is no reason to believe that they are some kind of authority on the matter.

        • Is someone suggesting that they are, then? Certainly I wasn’t.

          To that, I’d only add “because someone knows how to cleverly twist words into a clever little song is no reason to believe” that they aren’t well-informed and perfectly entitled to express their opinion just like anyone else.

        • How do you decide that anyone is an authority on something as subjective as politics anyway? I don’t learn my opinions from songs (nor should anyone else), but sometimes I might listen to something that encapsulates a feeling or viewpoint that I have in a way that’s far more succinct and/or insightful than I’d ever thought of before. And if that’s done in a powerful and musically enjoyable way, then that’s just plain awesome.

          Another great column, Harry – I really enjoy the debate it provokes too!

      • “Bands may well make us think about politics and the revolution, but what evidence is there that music changes or betters anything other than the band’s image?”

        I’ve no idea. Is someone suggesting such a thing, then? Certainly, no one on this thread is saying anything to that effect.

        “More people sit on their arses discussing the bands and their “message” rather than actually doing anything about the issues at hand.”

        Oh.

  3. Yeah, there is a role to play in music being political, just as there is for all art. But I don’t need art to help make me empassioned about the world I live in or any injustice I see. It adds to it for sure and in retrospect its great to have a theme tune to associate with a piece of political history but for me, I just need my music to be entertaining, whether thats the melody, the energy or just a big catchy chorus.

  4. Politics and the associated (and often edgy) topics surrounding them make for interesting lyrical content.

    Where would Megadeth be without political debate?

    • Music has always been laced with poltical ideas many traditional folk tunes are written about politics, the oppression of the working classes etc. Whilst it’s true that its hard to say that any individual song or artist has changed the political landscape on their own, it’s clear that music can influence a generation to get behind an idea or cause. You only have to look at the Anti-Vietnam movement to see that the protest songs of the time were a massive influence on a generation who got behind the movement and ultimately played a huge part in turning public opinion and thereby forcing a political change.

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