Panic On the Streets of London: 5 songs for the U.K.
By all indications, this probably isn't a fun time to be living in England. The British Empire continues to crumble, the Big Society is a joke, the commoners remain in the vise grip of Royal Wedding Fever, and, well, bands of rioting youth are laying waste to the major cities, smashing and burning their way through urban areas in a lawless wave of violence that makes the millennial WTO protests in Seattle look like a cakewalk.
Centuries-old landmarks lie in ruins. Innocent people are suddenly, cruelly homeless. Looting. Face-offs with riot police, who should probably start thinking about carrying side arms. Record labels and CD buyers alike are totally fucked.
When a spokesman for the London police goes on the telly and states laconically that, tomorrow, the Old Bill plans to get the situation - initially related to a suspected police shooting of a youth, now increasingly being categorized as an outgrowth of unemployment and low-income living conditions - under control, it's probably of no comfort to anyone with a pulse.
What are these kids listening to as they sweep through the country, fucking shit up? Rage Against The Machine? System of a Down? Rise Against? Odd Future? Gimme Noise made some guesses.
You knew this one would make the list, didn't you? This immortal call to nihilism perfectly crystallizes the peevish, self-centered insanity inherent in wanting to destroy everything; it's silly, scary, and worst of all, kind of convincing; it's like Heath Ledger in The Dark Night Returns. There's a reasonable lunacy there that seduces, because if one feel oppressed, marginalized, and/or despised by peers, family, and society alike, what's there to stop one from taking the title of Soundgarden's "Blow Up The Outside World" literally?
(Okay, sure, there's the Internet - but if you're not doing well economically, you may not have access, and if you do, you're just as likely to make friends who want to exchange record as you are to make friends who need your help because they want to blow up the local petrol station next weekend.)
2. Stiff Little Fingers, "Suspect Device"
This ironic hymn to dissident empowerment - the Man doesn't trust you because you have the power to bring the Man down, even if you don't know it yet, et al. - drew its intensity from the way Jake Burns spat every clause like an epithet, as though as disgusted with the proletariat as he was with the bourgeoisie. One wonders, though, if Dobermans, Pit Bulls, or German Shepherds last long in the Burns household.
3. Robert Inhuman, "I Don't Miss My Job (Demo)"
When he isn't piecing together static-y avalanches of sample-strewn noise, Inhuman throws himself into introspectively bug-eyed outsider rants like this one; Google his name, there's tons more where this came from. Generally speaking, the U.K. rioters would likely find a kindred spirit in Inhuman - if they could set down their bricks and Molotov cocktails to listen.
4. Suicidal Tendencies, "Institutionalized"
With this song, Suicidal Tendencies were speaking to a particular breed of paternalistic torture and adolescent paranoia, but rooted in the notion of the institution - the school, the hospital, the prison, on and on into the depth of public policy arcania - is the idea that the series of hoops we're forced to jump through in passing through these portals is intended to shape us into submissive, docile creatures who serve the interests of the State, fooled into thinking that in doing so we're striving toward some personal notions of happiness and satisfaction. Cf. Frederick Wiseman, Michel Foucault, and many other theorists for more. Move along, nothing to see here; this is just a music blog.
5. The Smiths, "Panic"
If you are an American, and you're watching this unfold on the televised nightly news, you know that I know that you're asking yourselves the same horrible, unanswerable questions that I am: why hasn't this happened here yet, and how far removed are we from the tipping point?
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.