Sunday, 28 June 2015

Red is the colour of the new Republic

I remember once having a conversation with my good friend Monmarduman about music. Which is why I found it funny to see him posting all about some crappy heavy metal festival he went to recently in France. I quite like Slash as it goes, he was the best bit of Guns & Roses, particularly the hat, and inspired a bloated second Manics album that in turn spawned the reaction to it that is The Holy Bible (the best Manics complete work - but more of them another time).

But apart from jazz, the one and only form of music I could never abide was heavy metal. It's a long story, with a few nuances to it. But there are two main reasons. The music is shite and the lyrics pathetic. Only joking. It's just not my cup of tea.

But this conversation, well it did have a bit of a point to it. In Myers-Briggs terms, my comrade (he'd love being called that) is a "Thinking" type, whilst I am a "Feeling" type. It's not what you think. But in so far as it affects our musical preferences I think it makes the meaning of songs far more important to me, than him.

Which brings me on to The Men They Couldn't Hang. Mainly from Southampton, not exactly a hotbed of political activism, but musicians from a long English folk tradition, combined with a few seventies/eighties punk influences thrown in for good measure. They had a few minor hits and bobbed about on the fringes of the charts, but to all intents and purposes, they are a not a mainstream act.

But always great live. I had the pleasure of seeing them again last year, after a long absence, and of chatting to Phil "Swill" Odgers in the foyer of the small venue afterwards. A lovely man, even when slightly pissed. Swill I mean.

Back in the eighties I had seen them play a blistering set at my University, and the blend of politics, guitars and folk was something really different, and made quite an impression on me. Their best album in my view was "Waiting for Bonaparte" and contained my favourite track of theirs, "The Colours", a story of the 1797 Naval Mutiny off Spithead and the Nore.

Obviously there are latter-day parallels. But even the most hard-hearted latter-day cynical Management Consultant would have to admit it takes a certain knowledge, intelligence and thoughtfulness to write a song like that. Even if you think the music is shite and the lyrics are pathetic.

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