The George Berger Column: Product / Recuperation / Sedition – Only Connect…
PRODUCT / RECUPERATION / SEDITION – ONLY CONNECT…
The news that Steve Ignorant from Crass is to perform for two nights at the Shepherds Bush Empire, rekindling The Feeding Of The 5000 has been greeted with an astonishing amount of debate as to whether or not this is right / wrong / healthy / unhealthy etc. Seldom has the simple act of playing two concerts sparked such a debate about whether fun is more important than the old Situationist concept of recuperation. Frankly, it’s been a wanker magnet.
Against this background, I have, recently, been sent a couple of new products which could also get entangled in this swirling existentential confusion of the virtues of subversion and the status quo: the new McDermott’s Two Hours album and a book by punk77.co.uk head honcho, Paul Marko, recalling the complete history of London punk club The Roxy.
Apart from an air of seditious mischief masquerading as fun, what unites and unties these two products is the sense of connection you get with both. All art of every persuasion is essentially an attempt to express some kind of connection with the experience of living, and the best art speaks to you about such in ways that make your hair stand on end.
Punk Rock took that quite literally, of course and Marko’s book is a 500-page vox-pop from all the foot soldiers and band members that were caught in the eye of the (Weimar) storm and its troops. From a 30-years-later point of view, in a culture that has eradicated storms almost completely, it’s fascinating to examine the ebbs and flows of a time when freedom waived the rules. The punk explosion connected with disaffected youth everywhere, and has been the subject of a plethora of books (mine included), reissues and websites to unpick its every angle. Some regurgitate as useless recycled product whilst others offer something genuinely new. This book is the latter: some things matter.
McDermott’s Two Hours also tell stories of disaffection and connect with pretty much the same mindset. At their beginning in the late eighties in (“London by the sea”) Brighton, they mixed a spiky wild concoction of punk rock and Celtic folk that inspired the tail-end of the counter-culture to party like it’s, well, the late eighties. Lyricist and singer Nick Burbridge tells moving stories that connect you to his characters, because they’re archetypes we (as in ‘we’) all know — people who dance to the beat of a different drum; sometimes inspiringly, sometimes tragically. Almost twenty years later, their new album is lighter on the staccato attack of punk, and heavier on the folk rock. But what the more mature sound loses from the urgency of its youth, it regains through the gravitas of deeper introspection. When Burbridge sings “Move on again Molloy…”, you can just see the Irish traveller sitting on the doorstep of his caravan and reflecting on his life. The connection of reflection. The outside view.
So, a book where we can look back on anger and an album that invites the outsider inside in a culture that desperately needs deviant influences like these to be acted upon. When Steve Ignorant takes to the stage in a few weeks, it will surely be a better thing for him to do than going down the pub, won’t it?
In a vacuum where we sorely need a new Sex Pistols or Crass to shake things up — much more than we did back then incidentally — any attempt at connection is to be applauded, far outweighing the fun-hating armchair sancti-moaners who offer no fun (my babe…) themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
George Berger is a freelance writer, with Punk Rock DNA. He has written for Sounds, Melody Maker and Amnesty International among others. He has published two books: Dance Before the Storm: the Official Story of The Levellers (Virgin Books 1999) and The Story of Crass. George is the founder of Flowers in the Dustbin. He lives where the mood takes him and funds allow. More here.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, October 22nd, 2007.