Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hail to the thief

OK, so it's fairly low down on the list of priorities at the present moment, as the dust settles on all the bluster, belligerence and isolationist rhetoric of the inauguration speech, but it's worth considering what impact Donald Trump's presidency - however long it lasts - might have on music.

In the short term, I'd venture to suggest it's already had an overwhelmingly positive effect, by galvanising artists in opposition to everything Trump stands for. While the new president encountered significant difficulties in finding musicians willing to perform at his inauguration, they were queuing up to play anti-inauguration events. We have his electoral success to thank for the spate of such events, which featured (among others) a reformed Audioslave, The National, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo's Georgia Hubley.

Ditto Our First 100 Days, a new compilation following on from the pre-election 30 Days, 30 Songs project that involved the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Mission Of Burma and Franz Ferdinand, and featuring one new song every day for (you guessed it) the first 100 days of Trump's presidency, with all proceeds going to causes to which he's opposed. The first offering is a brand new track from Angel Olsen, 'Fly On Your Wall', which carries on where last LP MY WOMAN left off and breaks from tension into gorgeous release - in other words, in fine style.

But what about the long term? Might there be a consequent punk revival, just as Stewart Lee, in conversation with Robert Peston, agreed there might be in the field of alternative comedy? Last month, Jonathan Bernstein spoke to several different musicians in the course of considering whether Trump sitting in the White House might bring about the kind of politically conscious music and DIY spirit that was spawned by the Reagan administration back in the 1980s (primarily in the form of hardcore).

The answer was inconclusive; on the one hand, having a very visible bogeyman to kick against might help (I recall Marilyn Manson saying much the same about Reagan), but on the other, circumstances are different now than they were 30 years ago and, as some of those Bernstein interviewed noted, it shouldn't really take the election of someone like Trump to provoke bands into responding in song to instances of wrongdoing and injustice that predate the president's arrival on the political scene. In any case, Consequence Of Sound's Mandy Freebairn has argued persuasively that African American music has in fact flourished and grown more overtly politicised during Barack Obama's time in office.

I think one thing's for certain, though: there'll be a reaction of one kind or another.

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