Dissonant Notes

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Various Artists – Messthetics #107 & #108 (album review)



In recent times there have been two internet trends that I have found to be rather disturbing. The first is the fact that you cannot read a story about someone going to prison without dozens of rape fantasies being blurted out in the comments section. With depressing regularity, thousands upon thousands of people apparently take great delight in the abject humiliation of another human being. The second is the tendency of many to try and shut down criticism of a musician or film star they admire by demanding to know, “Who the fuck are you?” To break it down, here’s what’s being said: “This person is rich and famous, something that you are not. They have more money than you can even dream of while you are a pathetic failure who is neither rich nor famous. They will continue to make money regardless and you will continue to be a nobody.” Having a voice, an opinion, is something that is earned on the marketplace, not something you should feel entitled to.

When did we turn into such obsequious pipsqueaks who rush to defend monetary success for its own sake? In such dire times culturally and economically, why is every magazine and online publication rushing to applaud Jay-Z and Kanye West as they rub their considerable wealth and power in our collective faces? Was it always thus? In truth, these elements have always been at play in society. The powerless will often take pleasure in thinking there are those even more powerless than themselves, or they will pledge allegiance to more powerful individuals in the hope that this will somehow bring them closer to that opulent lifestyle they desire. Sometimes, though, the powerless are given a voice and it does not pick on those just as powerless – sometimes it takes aim at those in power. For all its faults punk allowed many to do just that. It provided vocal solidarity and support to those who felt marginalised and angry and in doing so it unleashed a wealth of independent singles and recordings. Some of these all but forgotten releases have been collected on the ongoing series Messthetics, named after an early Scritti Politti track which seemed to sum up a certain DIY spirit of the times.


This review concerns numbers 107 and 108 in the series which deal with London and the South Coast respectively. Initially skeptical, I was surprised to discover that both CDs are an absolute joy from beginning to end. The songs themselves are clattering, angry, funny and touching bursts of uncontainable energy. Who the fuck do these people think they are? Don’t they know they’re nobody nothings? Apparently they don’t. Apparently they think they can write, play and record songs for the sheer exhilarating rush of creating and adding their voice to the throng.


These people never did ‘make it’ in any proper sense of the word, with Poison Girls being the most famous act present. Who are Stolen Power and why have they not received MBEs yet? Whatever became of Renaldo & The Loaf? Do Methodishca Tune realise that they can do Scritti Politti better than Scritti Politti? Could Indifferent Dance Centre be the best band name of all time?


This is pure gold. Men and women feeling empowered, feeling like their voices were important. The performances sound vital and alive. Does it matter that sometimes the drums sound like wet cardboard being hit by a dead haddock? Not a bit. There is heart here. There is pride. There is commitment. I want to know who these people are. I want to tell them that no matter what, they made a difference, they made a mark. To the world at large they may be nothing, and those living in London right now may pass them by on a daily basis, but at this moment these people are my heroes. Willful and indignant in the face of mass indifference, their contributions have been rescued from the memory hole, dusted down, and presented to you on these wonderful compilations. Seek them out like your life depended on it.


(This review originally appeared on Collapse Board)

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