Revolution cancelled due to inconvenient weather

I read the other day that British songwriter/musician Ed Sheeran has 16 songs in the top 20 and 2 albums in the top 5. Now, while I’m not a fan of Ed’s music, I have absolutely nothing against him as a person. In fact, he seems like a thoroughly decent, down to earth and talented bloke. However, this is exactly where my issue/rant begins. While nice guy Ed’s clogging up the charts with his boring songs about how some girl wouldn’t return his calls, heinous buffoons like Katy Hopkins, Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson are busy spreading their Hatethink across mainstream media, Marine Le Pen is within spitting distance of the French premiership and Donald Trump’s grabbed the steering wheel of the handcart, gleefully setting the controls for Hell. Shouldn’t our most talented and popular musicians to be fighting back against all of this shit? Casting aspersions on it? Or at least commenting on it? I may be waiting some time for this because Ed Sheeran, a bloke who once dedicated a song to David Cameron, doesn’t look like he going to be kick-starting the revolution any time soon.

Lots of mates tell me that, as such a nice guy who seems so unaffected by his fame and success, Ed’s a great role model for kids. To which I wonder when the bar for being a role model dropped so low. As Bill Hicks famously said, “When did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children? I want my children to listen to people who fucking rocked. I don’t care if they died in puddles of their own vomit. I WANT SOMEONE WHO PLAYS FROM HIS FUCKING HEART…I want my rock stars dead! I want them to play with one hand and put a gun in their other hand and say I hope you enjoyed the show…boom! PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEART!”

Bill was exaggerating for effect but he was deadly serious. At the risk of sounding like a super-cliché grumpy old codger, where’s the passion, the ambition, the anger at the injustice blazing all around us? It’s like an entire generation of musicians looked around at the flaming chaos that’s engulfed our planet and went – yeah, but I’m feeling a bit down because my girlfriend’s left me.

I’m not saying there’s no place for love songs. Everyone from Amy Winehouse and Adele to The Libertines, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd (to name a tiny handful) have turned the craziness and confusion of human relationships into transcendent art. But the level of popular music right now seems to be something anodyne enough for a talkback radio DJ to waffle over and bland enough to lend some cheap emotion to a mobile phone ad.

As a teenager, I was simultaneously thrilled and inspired by everyone from The Smiths and Spacemen 3 to The Stone Roses and Public Enemy. Energised by the Manic Street Preachers’ anti-love song rant Motown Junk, I looked on the back cover of the record and found a quote from William Burroughs:

“Rock and roll adolescents storm into the streets of all nations. They rush into the Louvre and throw acid in the Mona Lisa’s face. They open zoos, insane asylums, prisons, burst water mains with air hammers, chop the floor out of passenger plane lavatories, shoot out lighthouses, turn sewers into the water supply, administer injections with bicycle pumps, they shit on the floor of the United Nations and wipe their ass with treaties, pacts, alliances.”

Today, every time I turn on the radio, all I get is Ed Sheeran or Chris Martin or George Ezra or Nigel Cameron-Osborne (OK, I made that last one up) or some other nice-but-wet bloke pumping out music to mow the lawn to. I see brief glimpses of defiance in great artists including Sleaford Mods, Kendrick Lamar and Cabbage, but overall – WTF?! Where’s the anger, provocation, intelligence, passion? As those even-older-than-me Essex codgers Depeche Mode are asking/complaining poignantly on their brilliant latest song, where’s the revolution?

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