There are many clichés about Great Britain in popular culture. One of them – also mentioned in one of the best scenes of Guy Ritchie’s The Snatch – is the grim, unstable, grey weather. Nothing more than the weather mirrors the contemporary British socio-political landscape. On June 23rd 2016 a tight majority of British citizens voted in favour of leaving the EU. But today, nearly three years after the vote, the island’s future is still uncertain. This situation is mirrored in a generation of artists and musicians who are trying to give a voice to all their uncertainty in a country that is contemporaneously globalised and deeply provincial. On one side the asphyxiating gentrification threatening many London venues; on the other a far from romantic, quintessentially British everyday life, made of Jelly Belly air fresheners dangling from the rear-view windows of ‘00s Vauxhalls stuck on the M5.
If a certain romanticised British way of life seduced the minds of many Europeans thanks at first to Britpop, and later ‘00s indie music, England is now a much grimmer country. No surprise then if the jolly indie-disco riffs have been replaced by the witty lyrics and doom-laden rhythms reminiscent of ‘80s Fall-esque post-punk or early ‘90s baggy.
Jimothy Lacoste with his uplifting neo-realist portraits of London’s over-priced subway system, Shame with their anti-establishment political punk, Fat White Family with their tales about discount supermarket chains, and Party Hardly with their invocation for jobs, all capture the real state of England – far from being “strong and stable”, the mantra of Theresa May’s government. When reality gets harsh, love and dancefloors become the escape space for The Orielles and Parquet Courts’ baggy disco – nostalgic for the heyday of warehouse raves’ freedom.
The indie-disco euphoria has long gone and is now only an excuse for midweek student nights with drink deals. Probably only a bunch of these new artists will make it outside the UK – as happened with the 1980s post-punk and Medway garage scenes – but for sure they are doing the best thing musicians can do: tell their times.