Soundtracking the Resistance - This Is Where We Begin

Our Weekly Music and Politics Column Begins

Apr 07, 2017 By Stephen Mayne Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Bookmark and Share


Welcome one and all to Soundtracking the Resistance, our brand new shiny politics column. It's  a bumpier world out there these days, and each week we'll be here to keep you clued in, and to demonstrate how music can guide you through.

First though, let's do the context thing. When Bob Dylan wrote "The Times They Are a-Changin" over half a century ago, the 45th President of the United States of America had not yet even started university. Jump forward to 2017 and those times sure have changed. Often for the better though it might be hard to remember that in present circumstances.

If the past year has felt like a fever dream, it's not one showing any sign of ending, nor is it confined within the borders of America. The western liberal world feels like it's fallen under siege. Over in Europe the United Kingdom is well on the way to waltzing out of the European Union, while rightwing nationalists are on the march everywhere.

Problems abound wherever one looks. The Arab Spring swiftly distorted promise into nightmare, a number of Latin American countries are backsliding on crime and personal security, progress across African countries remains prone to lurches deeply harmful for citizens, and shifting power dynamics in Asia are re-shaping the globe.

None of this turbulence captures the attention quite like Donald J. Trump. Partly it's because he's just taken charge of the most powerful country in the world; partly it's because he's so unremittingly awful. President Trump, at least for those that still see value in the word "progressive," is a modern King Midas. Everything he touches might turn to his own peculiar form of gold, but it doesn't exactly feed anyone, or solve a myriad of other problems. Besides, if his outrageously tacky lodging resembling an alchemist's showroom is anything to go by, a world consumed with gold is hardly desirable.

As the Trump administration engages in an arms race with itself, desperately attempting to top previous bursts of appalling behavior, it's easy to imagine all is lost. Whether trying to close down borders, target entire religions, build symbolically potent and practically useless walls, dismantle healthcare, destroy the environment, reduce women's rights, hand giant tax cuts to the already ridiculously rich, generally belittle anyone who has the nerve to stand against him, or any of the thousand other depressing acts Trump insists on pursuing, it's hard not to be shaken by the storm cloud hovering over a divided nation.

But all is not lost, and if the times are a-changin, it doesn't have to be for the worse. Trump's election saw immediate protests, some far larger than his own inauguration crowd; unless you go by the President's own count, which no one who likes facts to be factual ever should.

So why are we interested? Unsurprisingly, music plays a central role; as a rallying cry for the dispossessed and sounds of comfort for those in need of a warm embrace. Some of the artists turning their fire on the new administration have used music as a political weapon all their lives, others are embracing it for the first time. Some are stuck in between, unsure how to respond to a world warping beyond recognition.

Soundtracking the Resistance will be covering it all, zeroing in to find the point where music and politics meet. Each week we might be taking stock of political developments, profiling new artists, albums, and songs, or delving deeper into specific issues. Our reach will be wide because music seeps into everything. America and the response to Trump and his cronies will take center stage, but events around the world will not be ignored either. And we hope to do it all with at least half a smile in place, because if you don't laugh you cry.

So there we go. We'll be here every week, and it's going to be an interesting journey. We hope you'll join us.

Song of the Week - D:Ream: "Things Can Only Get Better"

We'll also have a highlighted track in each column: sometimes new, sometimes old, sometimes in direct response to events, and sometimes for the hell of it. We start with an unambiguously upbeat number from '90s Northern Irish pop rockers D:Ream. This will be familiar to those of a certain age in the U.K. where the track became the go-to anthem for Tony Blair and his once triumphant Labour Party. Sure it didn't work out great for him in the end (spoiler alert - the Iraq war), but where would we be without a healthy dose of optimism. Play it loud and know there can be better times. Plus as a side note, the former keyboardist is Professor Brian Cox, now a distinguished physicist and go-to scientific personality on British TV. So while a blatant disregard for factual accuracy is becoming the norm, those choosing rationality and good sense can prosper.

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