Revolutions: Mixing Pop and Politics
Billy Bragg once sang “Mixing pop and politics, he asks me what the use is. I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses.” Perhaps as a lyricist the challenge is greater but Steve Cobby has been commissioned by Ensemble 52 in association with Hull Trusck Theatre to do the score for the play Revolutions and offers instrumental only pieces.
The play is weighted with ambition, encompassing as it does the collapse of communism in 1989 and the rise of rave. But it also tries to link to the present day and the state of capitalism and austerity. I’ve not seen the play but you can hear the soundtrack.
Cobby starts almost in an overture vein with thrumming guitars, which I suppose links to communisms collapse. But what’s great about the album are the more electronic tracks which include reworkings of Cobby tracks that didn’t make it onto his 90s Solid Doctor albums.
Revolution #2 comes with great Rhodes piano stabs (well pianoish stabs, I’m not so good on which is which) and a flavour of hedonistic 303/808 times. Revolution #3 has that one love optimism that we seem to have forgotten today. If there’s a highlight it’s the spaced out Revolution #4. If downtempo electronica is your thing, do invest in a copy (limited to 200), this works in its own right, separate from the play.
Blurb: “1989 was a remarkable year. Despite plenty of warning signs, nobody really foresaw the collapse of communism and authoritarian regimes across central and eastern Europe. Academics and historians expected the usual cycle to continue in perpetuity, ignoring the ability of people to gather as a critical mass to bring about change. It’s almost unfathomable to think that the events that led to the reunification of Germany took place in the same period of history as the execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elen, Solidarity being elected in Poland and the Tiananmen Square massacre. And that, while people were taking to the streets across the globe to defend their right to live better lives, rave was tying the media and police in knots. They didn’t know how to react. The authorities here soon realised that they better clamp down on parties in fields and warehouses lest they have some serious civil disobedience on their hands. People out of their control? That would never do in the free west. There’s a certain irony when you compare that to what was going on elsewhere. All we wanted to do was party and have fun and that was frowned on.
“We touch on all of this in Revolutions. And we also look at the present day. When you look at contemporary politics, the backdrop of ideological austerity cuts and vast swathes of people in this country living in poverty and with nothing to lose, it makes you wonder whether we’re on the verge of reaching a tipping point. Anti-austeriy and anti-capitalist protests are the tip of the iceberg. Banks and politicians do not seem accountable to anyone. But there’s a sense that people might just say enough’s enough at some point. Of course, most people expect the status quo to be maintained, for everything just to carry on in the same way as it always has. But that’s exactly what people expected in Europe in 1989.
“Having said all that, the piece will be incredibly entertaining. An immersive experience to remember. There’ll be a heady soundtrack – Cobby’s dropping some incredible tunes – and we’ll try and create an underground warehouse feel to thrust people back to 1989. We’re not advocating revolution but hopefully we’ll make people stand up and think. It’ll be a good night, I know that much, and on a personal level it’s great to be able to work at Hull Truck again.” – Dave Windass