For too long the assertion that art and politics exist on two completely spheres has ruled the airwaves, the dance floors and the virtual groves of academia.
Simultaneously, whether discussing the poetry of Shelley, the novels of Dickens, the philosophy of Satre or the music of The Jesus and Mary Chain, it has also consistently and continuously annoyed the fuck out of me.
So what a relief is this book, in which R*E*P*E*A*T's very own Amy Britton puts around two hundred of the most important and influential British albums of the past three decades into their political context.
Why it's not commonly accepted that albums by Joy Division and The Cure are infused with the misery and despair of the early Thatcher years, or that The Horrors' 'Primary Colours' reflects a desire to escape a tawdry and corrupt public world, or that 'The Bends' manages to articulate the mid 1990s zeitgeist of alienation and frustration, I will never know. I guess it's just easier for journalists and academics and taste mongers to claim that inspiration and talent are God given or genetic, somehow a-historical and unexplainable. All we mortal consumers can do in the light of such genius is bow down in admiration.
Amy debunks this guff, with knowledge, passion and enthusiasm. And no little originality. For while the examples quoted above are perhaps obvious and easy, who'd have thought to link Bow Wow Wow with a rebellion against poverty, or early Goth to the deaths of Irish hunger strikers, or 'Creep' with rising unemployment and the revulsion felt at Jamie Bulger's murder?
The links drawn are sometimes inspirational, occasionally unexpected and always thought provoking. I especially enjoyed the parallel Amy makes between the uncertainty and tension within Public Image Limited's 'Album' and the uncertainty and tension within the cabinet of the time over the Westland affair, and the raucous case for sexual equality she makes explicit in Elastica's debut long player.
Amy's insightful interpretations of some classic albums in an unexpected way has sent me scurrying back to listen to several of them again in a new light (thank you Deezer); this must have been a subsidiary aim of this book, which works as a more wide ranging, less detailed companion to Dorain Lynskey's '33 Revolutions Per Minute'.
Sometimes I feel that Amy's claims may go too far, trying to link particular lyrics to specific acts of parliament or speeches by politicians for instance, when I'd have thought it easier and maybe more significant to link songs and albums to the extra parliamentary political and social mood. This aside, and ignoring some terrible proof reading which really irks the teacher in me and makes some sections almost unreadable, this book is a welcome addition to the library of any fan of alternative music from the past 3 decades, and is more or less essential for those who want to look beyond making idols of guitars and haircuts.
All this and several intelligent and articulate entries for Manic Street Preacher. Nice one Amy!
Buy Revolution Rock here http://www.authorhouse.co.uk/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000524023