You’re the most malleable and open as a person, I think, when you’re in your early teens. That’s the place where you’re wanting to expand beyond what’s familiar, when you’re the most curious about the world (and able to explore it and process the things you see) and when you’re able (sometimes because of you £10.60 a week paper round) seek more truths. And, I guess, it’s when art’s the most accessible and when it can affect you the most.
I’ve spoken here before about how studying First World Way poetry in English alongside The Great War in history made me want to be a writer. It’s one of the precious few things I’d thank my school for. And it must be one of the main, driving reasons I think working with young people’s so important (and why I love it so much). This is the time to give them things that could shape their lives – be it Owen’s poetry, Buddy Wakefield’s spoken word, Aimee Bender’s short stories, novels, films, and music.
In 1994 I was a very wet behind the ears lad who’d (thanks mum) already had a reasonable musical education. When I found people like The Clash, Nirvana, Therapy?, Terrorvision (so many more, but I’m knackered and nursing a cold so that’ll have to do for now) – everything changed because these were normal people making this fantastic, noisy, angry music that was good. And when I look at what The Clash did for me, in terms of a political and societal education – well, I don’t know who I’d be without that. Their message was good: it was left wing, it was inquisitive, it was about being angry at injustice – anti-facist, anti-racist – embracing all colours and cultures. And looking pretty fucking cool doing it. (With pompadours.)
And in 1994 I remember watching MTV’s Headbangers’ Ball’s coverage of the Monster of Rock festival at Donnington Park. The video will still be at my mum’s. The Wildhearts blew me away. It was like finding a sort of home. They were this brilliant mix of Motorhead and Metallica and The Beatles. Loud and angry but their songs were so brilliantly crafted. And Ginger’s always been a wonderful lyricist – funny, angry, and able to hit the nail squarely on the head (I still love the anti-abuse words of Give The Girl a Gun).
Since the turn of the year I’d been listing to them again, and then: boom! New album was a comin’. I bought it the night it was released and listened to it like we used to listen to new albums – when they were an event.
It’s brilliant. Every song is brilliant. It’s not a collection of things, the album, itself is something to listen to in its entirety (and I don’t think people do that as much as they used to). It’s heavy (production-wise, it might be their heaviest as a whole (forgetting individual songs like Chutzpah! and the like) but now, along with being pissed off with the right things (sexism, homophobia, the state of internet bullying, the pharmaceutical making billions as a priority over helping people, mental health – not giving time to w*****s (did I blog about that…?)) there’s a real wisdom to the words. I don’t want to sound patronising and say ‘social responsibility’ but I just did, so tough luck.
Renaissance Men (click to buy) is the best album I’ve heard in years. It sings and it soars and it’s as catchy as hell and honest – and you know that they mean it. And it feels like owning a new album used to feel: anticipate, wait, order, buy, play it to DEATH. Buy a band tee. Pray that they’re touring. (They were – well they are – and seeing them at The Stylus in Leeds was everything you’d want from a band – I don’t think there’s a band better at what they do, and I mean that honestly.)
Go, listen to them. Go, see them live. Google them. Find them on Youtube or Spotify or – better – buy their records (it does make a difference – we all need to eat). And, if not them, do me a favour and find someone new. Get a different perspective or find someone who reaffirms your own, or someone who might get you to question things. It’s a big world out there, with a ton of ideas: let them into your mind through your ears, or your eyes. You don’t know who you’ll end up being if you don’t.