Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Slow Faction - Under Heavy Manners

Now more than ever, we really need bands that aspire to change the world. So why do I generally find the social justice warrior bands of the moment so off-putting? I think I got the answer from the fine writer Ged Babey - who addressed that very topic in his wonderful review of Slow Faction's new mini-album Under Heavy Manners. These sorts of bands, Babey writes, "can come over as a bit dull, worthy and predictable and lapse into cliche very easily." That's a truly bang-on assessment. I, like Babey, am so taken with London's Slow Faction precisely because they are none of those things. They approach their songwriting with intelligence, insight, and a genuine spark of musical excitement. When it comes to politically aware and socially minded punk rock, it's still The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers that set the bar for me. These were bands with very important things to say - but they were great punk rock bands first and foremost. Slow Faction has taken up their fight in the present-day, and I can't think of many current punk bands I like better. Just listen to the band's 2016 track "Woody Guthrie", and immediately you will understand the need for music to remain a vital instrument of social change.

Under Heavy Manners is exactly what I desire in political punk music: classic '77 style sounds, with lyrics relevant to the current state of the world. Of course the message is meant to be heeded, but there's nothing secondary about those massive choruses, hard-driving guitars, and well-crafted tunes. Lyrically the band takes a good, hard look at what has gone wrong with the world and the unfortunate direction in which we're headed as a human race. These songs turn their gaze upon the masses who are so caught up in consumerist comforts and obsessions with empty culture that they turn blind eyes to the waging of war for profit and the erosion of their own civil liberties. It's hard to deny that such a depiction hits the nail on the head - on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. But Slow Faction's aim is not to point fingers - it's to confront the truth and find solutions. Harrowing as they might be, songs like "59 Minutes Past 11" and "The Definition of Madness" are essentially wake-up calls. We may be doomed, or we may not be doomed. But if nothing changes, it's surely going to be the former.

At just six tracks, Under Heavy Manners is a lean and urgent affair worthy of a spot on your CD shelf next to many of the albums that inspired it. The title track- the closest thing I've heard to 1979/80 era Stiff Little Fingers in years - kicks off the album like a ball of fire. "59 Minutes Past 11" is a bona fide sound of the streets anthem a la Sham 69 or the Angelic Upstarts. The hot-burning reggae of "There's A War Going On" will do nothing to dissuade further Clash and SLF comparisons (I don't think the band will complain). "In Your God's Name", a song I fondly recall from its demo version, sounds anthemic and positively rousing in its finished form.

Can one band, on its own, change the world? Of course not. But bands can inspire people. And people, collectively, are capable of making a great difference. Under Heavy Manners is full of songs that are just bound to get you fired up. Let it be the inspiration of many who choose to resist the clampdown.




Anonymous said...

sounds great, but I've had enough of SJWs shoving their agenda (right or wrong) down my throat. Pass.

Lord Rutledge said...

Fair point. For me, though, I grew up with The Clash, Alarm, Midnight Oil, etc. and have a great love for music with a message when it's done well.

mick fletcher said...

great ep. no way was it going to live up to This Machine Kills Fascists.... but somehow it did