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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

Wanking Over Alex Turner: The Lack Of Politics In Music

February 15, 2015
Ewan Atkinson makes a rallying cry for musicians to give a shit about politics again. Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ burst onto the airwaves in 2004. On hearing it for the first time, my ten-year-old self, and pretty much everyone else who heard the record, became aware, and angry, about the gross misconduct of the United…

Ewan Atkinson makes a rallying cry for musicians to give a shit about politics again.

Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ burst onto the airwaves in 2004. On hearing it for the first time, my ten-year-old self, and pretty much everyone else who heard the record, became aware, and angry, about the gross misconduct of the United States’ government in their foreign and domestic policies. This led to a resurgence of popularity in older punk bands such as Anti-Flag, Sex Pistols, and The Clash. Needless to say, this album changed my life.

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American Idiot put politics at the forefront of popular culture, but has it been there since? In 2005, especially in Britain, popular music cut ties with angsty American punk after the arrival of Arctic Monkeys. After their first single ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor’ made it to #1, their LP became the fastest selling debut album ever. Turner’s straight-talking lyrics vividly illustrated the life of the common man and they were cast as working class heroes. However, in July 2014, that view changed irreversibly after the revelation that Arctic Monkeys had syphoned off up to £1.1m in tax through the Channel Islands. This came at a time when thousands of teachers, fire fighters, and other public sector workers were striking to defend services funded by the state. In Turner’s own words: who would want to be a man of the people, when there’s people like you?

 Since Arctic Monkeys turned the popular music norm on its head, bands have disregarded politics, instead portraying a sense of nonchalance with current affairs. It is almost as if they are scared to risk making political music for fear of not being seen as ‘cool’ by hipsters from Shoreditch, or not being able to find big label interest in their sound. Political music has, interestingly, gone underground into alternative scenes such as the Guardian-reading indie scene and heavy metal. This ignorance of politics in the wider public sphere comes at a time of capitalist crisis, Conservative governments, austerity measures and rising poverty. It’s wrong that bands, which represent the ‘common people’, should ignore the problems that face their own fans. Where are the teens that go to gigs and come out wanting to fight the system? They’re all staying in listening to The Smiths and wanking over Alex Turner.

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Photograph via Flickr, Creative Commons

In 2011, riots took place all across the country. These were initially sparked by police brutality, but became a show of anger from the young working class at the economic and social inequality that was infecting the country. How did the rest of the generation respond? They denounced the rioters as mindless thugs and held tea parties to suck up to the establishment. Fuck that! Sham 69 sang ‘If the kids are united, they will never be divided.’ I’d say we are the divided generation. The lack of politics in music not only shows the gap in our generation, but it also shows the lack of sympathy with those who are struggling with every day life due to the social and economical divide in our country. This needs to be sorted. We need to be united. We need politics back in music!