As I may have mentioned before I have always been a big fan of music that has a manifesto, an agenda, for me it's important that music isn't just something that reflects an agenda, but helps drive an agenda, for or against something. When the liars and charlatans aided and abetted by their colleagues in the media stole the Brexit agenda from a huge chunk of those that had voted in favour of the idea, but didn't realise that had signed them up to the devil designing the detail, as well as those that voted outright against the false promises, it seemed that musicians along with many others had accepted their lot with despondency, but as is often the case, away from the light of the media, things are stirring and it's important to get them into the public eye/ear and Morton Valence's "Europa" is a thread of that.
Before I get into the review proper review, a word from Morton Valence as to how "Europa" came about and whilst I'll apologise if some of it may offend, I'll also remind you of music's long links with protest and a rejection of establishment
Myself and my long-term singing partner, musical collaborator and all round amazing artist Anne Gilpin - now veterans of 6 studio albums - were lucky enough to live in a time where for an independent, relatively unknown band, driving to Hamburg for a show felt no different than driving to Manchester, just a bit more of a trek, that's all.
And like many homegrown bands, our experiences on the road in continental Europe were generally very positive. Here in the UK we were used to an incredibly smug music scene that is much more of a cut-throat-mean-as-fuck-business-like entity, obsessed with the media and all kinds of bullshit that has absolutely nothing to do with music. There's usually very little free beer, and if the night ends and you've avoided a brawl with the local bouncers and made enough money to fill the van up with petrol, it'd be regarded as a resounding success.
Our experience on the continent was different. People weren't coming to see us 'cos they thought they might catch a glimpse of the "next big thing" - which we clearly have never been, or had any desire to be - it was almost always out of a genuine interest for the music.
We had all sorts of adventures on the road in Europe, and also started listening to different kinds of music, European stuff in particular, which up until that time, like many people from the English-speaking world - apart from Kraftwerk and The Smurfs - we'd pretty much dismissed as being either peroxide eurotrash or bow-legged Frenchmen running around blowing raspberries at each other.
Then we started listening to Can, Françoise Hardy, Notwist, Moroder, and Gainsbourg's dizzying epic 'Histoire de Melody Nelson', and after a brief stint touring with the mind-boggling talented St. Thomas, we realised we'd been wrong.
A lot of this stuff had been around a long time, but it was new to us, most of which we understood nothing of lyrically, which most certainly didn't exempt our appreciation, you simply have to submit to the raw emotion, and for an aspiring songwriter I'd say it kind of lets your imagination run wild in a much less prescriptive way than say passively listening to say the poetic visions of Bob Dylan for inspiration.
Fast forward back to 2016…
… I remember having a telephone conversation with Anne on the morning of June 24th, it wasn't like, 'oh the economy!' or 'oh immigration' or whatever everyone had been banging on about relentlessly for the previous few months, it was simpler than that, more about the ugly type of politics that seemed be on the march, touting imponderable schoolboy conspiracy theories and tapping into people's basic prejudices a bit like the fascists of the 1930s minus the high-camp military garb - throw lying through your teeth in order to achieve your ends into the pot… et voila, one extra large bowl of Ready Brexit, and of course later in the year we got a red-raw orange Trump steak for lunch.
I dread to fucking think what's coming for tea?
Had Brexit and the US election results gone the other way, not least as marginally as they did, would Farage and Trump have just conceded defeat and moved on? Not fucking likely! - they both have a track record of crying foul like spoilt kids whenever they think they're not going to get their way - and in fact, they'd both explicitly stated in public, loud and clear, and on the record that they wouldn't have.
So why the fuck should we?
But what could we do?
Anyway, that night I flicked on my TV and the headlines were of Poles being openly attacked in the street - one of whom was murdered.
What the fuck was going on?
Where was the Left? Where was Jeremy Corbyn?
Well there's a simple answer to that one as far as I can see, because here on the left our heads have gone so far up our own arses, mithering on and towing the same old dogmatic orthodoxies like a bunch of Jehovah's Witnesses that belong in some mid-Seventies time capsule the real world has passed us by, and thus we've allowed ourselves to sleepwalk into the most right-wing government in history, the so-called 'Alt-right' have stolen our thunder and is it a coincidence that the most significant thing that's happened here in the UK since Brexit is the complete meltdown of the NHS?
So there you have it why "Europa" came about. It's an album of shared languages, one that reminds us that we celebrate our differences and look after the whole and whilst I don't understand every word sung on the album, I understand every sentiment.
It ends with the hugely powerful "Sailor's Return", which has overtones of Ange Hardy's & Lukas Drinkwater's "By The Tide" and if that doesn't move you and bring out your compassion then it really is too late for you, please move aside and give those who still have a heart a chance.
|Rev Hammer: Skald||Jay Ducker: Country Sober|
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