The past month has been one of the most confusing and upsetting times I’ve ever known.
The UK’s decision to exit the EU has triggered racially motivated attacks, a dip in our economy, and a pervading sense of numbness, further exacerbated by Theresa May’s appointment as the default prime minister after weeks of media stirring and a game of ministerial ‘hot potato’. It’s left me feeling more out of touch with my country than ever before. In America, the killings, shootings and assaults of people of colour by police officers continue, and as people protest, they are arrested and abused. There has been a shooting in Munich, killing nine people and leaving 27 injured. There has been an IS bombing in Kabul, killing 80 and wounding 230. The Republican National convention was held, touting violence and racism as solutions to America’s deeply entrenched problems. Rio De Janeiro’s police and firefighters have protested the incoming Olympics tourism with signs reading, “Welcome to Hell”. Today, two people have been killed in another nightclub shooting in Florida.
It’s dark out there at the moment. Every glint of happiness, it seems (actual British sunshine! Festival season! Pokémon GO! Taylor Swift being outed as a liar by Kim Kardashian!) is, from this sombre viewpoint, snuffed out by yet another roll of 2016’s pitiless dice.
If you haven’t guessed already, I’m feeling pretty bleak. Here, at least, is some music which screams back into the hellmouth that is the news at present.
Pure Disgust - S/T
Though they’ve been rolling since 2013, Pure Disgust’s first self-titled full length slammed a fist down on the table this month. This is hardcore punk straight out of hardcore punk’s hometown, Washington DC, and it’s desperate and vicious, as if played down the barrel of a gun. Completely incensed by their governmental system, the band take police brutality, underfunded schools and the wealth-driven ‘machine’ that controls society to task with heavy hardcore instrumentation that matches the weighty lyricism. Slander Me takes the current plague of police brutality by the throat: “Driven by racism / Driven by misogyny / Victimised from birth / Don’t look down on me / When will brown bodies get the respect we deserve?” This is punk centred on the most vulnerable people, as it should be. They’re going on tour with G.L.O.S.S. soon, and I bet it’ll be ground-breaking.
Jamila Woods - HEAVN
Jamila Woods delivers her songs with a horrible clarity. Not to say that it sounds horrible – her RnB influenced pop sounds great – but the brutal truth about police brutality is laid down without theatrics, and supported only by a trilling, acrobatic voice. The rubbery beat of VRY BLK, a collaboration with Chance the Rapper affiliate Noname, puts her point across best: “I’m very black, black, black,” she sings over a handclap beat. “Can’t send me back, back, back / You take my brother, brother, brother / I fight back, back, back, back.” Super sharp protest music to lodge in your brain and let flower.
Camp Cope - S/T
Camp Cope have released an absolute screamer here. Taking notes from Modern Baseball, the Melbourne trio track deeply personal stories into loose, angry-sounding guitars, tapping straight into your heart. The playfully-titled Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams, however, pans out and envelops street harassment (“hearing catcalls from police cars, and they say ‘what are you going to do about it dressed the way you are?’”), gun laws (“the only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun”) and fear (“you’ll carry keys between your knuckles when you walk home alone that night”) in one overwhelming ball of resigned rage. Affecting survival stories that are infinitely relatable.
PWR BTTM - Projection
Queer punk duo PWR BTTM shared the first song from what I hope is a forthcoming album last week. Projection tells a tale of exhaustion and fatigue – dead grass, endless skies, and emptiness greets them from just outside the window. “Outside it’s raining men, I’m stuck inside staring at the ceiling/I might as well just go to sleep,” sings Liv, one half of PWR BTTM, while other half Ben agrees: “When the kids go out to play, I like to stay inside. Even though it looks like fun, I’d probably burn and die – ‘cause my skin isn’t made for the weather.” Protecting yourself from atmospheres that will hurt you – like, for example, the news or your social media feeds when there’s a constantly updated ticker of hate – is often imperative for your mental health. More explicitly, the song advocates self-sheltering of queer people from a still-violent world.
Black Impulse - Songs of Civil Unrest
Black Impulse is an NTS Radio show hosted by Heather and Kevin, two American friends living in London. This edition of their usually joyful output is steeped in sadness, but also in hope – by choosing a selection of protest songs aiming at police from the likes of Killdozer, Gil Scott-Heron, and Kamasi Washington (all fierce political voices in their own right), Black Impulse’s onslaught of powerful political music reminds that even in the face of great horrors, there is possibly some semblance of hope to be found, or at least great music to retreat into when you have to.