Monday 19 August 2019

Damon Albarn - All Together Now, more than ever

Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

I'd like to think that most of us have no place in our hearts for homophobia, sexism, racism, and any form of prejudice based on a person's nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, gender identification or socioeconomic status.

I grew up listening to the music of The Smiths; my first interview as a teenager was with Morrissey for In Dublin magazine. I idolised him.

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I can't listen to the records of The Smiths now without hearing Morrissey's hate-speech brain-rot in the background, courtesy of his support for far-right political lunacy that is For Britain, and the like.

Artist and provocateur Damon Albarn (who once set Cool Britannia to music with Blur's Britpop magnum opus Parklife) said last week about Morrissey (who lives in America): "You shouldn't even have an opinion, if you don't live in the country, then you shouldn't be dabbling in its politics because to have the sensitivity to understand, you have to live amongst the emotional world of the people as well."

Damon said this in an interview with his multicultural supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen - featuring The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, The Verve's Simon Tong, and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen - who are one of the headliners at All Together Now in Waterford over the August bank holiday weekend.

Their current album Merrie Land (their first in 11 years) is a "concept album", as Madison Bloom in Pitchfork put it, "about what it means to be British".

Importantly, this is a very different view to the Tommy Robinson brand of racism Morrissey spouts.

In 2018, Damon found himself looking through some old clippings. He was especially intrigued to discover a front page of The Sun tabloid dating from the Britpop era.

"I had written on a bit of it in biro when I was doing Parklife: 'Anglo-Saxistentalism'. I thought: 'That's weird - that's what I'm talking about now'.

"In the most crass form, we say we want our country back. But you need to know what your country is before you want it back. And part of that is understanding who we are. We're Vikings. We're Anglo-Saxons. We're French, Belgian, Nigerian, Caribbean, Ghanaian, Somalian, Pakistani. To say, 'We're just this' seems ridiculous to me. That's all," he told The Guardian last year.

"That's my biggest problem with Brexit: don't limit yourself, guys. I don't think we can afford to have that attitude. We need to be very outward-looking."

On Merrie Land's title track, it does not take too much imagination to conjure up Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg and others as Damo sings: "We cheer on the clowns as they roll into town/ But their faces look tired and sad to me."

Recording Merrie, Damon said recently, "confirmed my suspicions that there was an emotional wound which was not healable; a festering wound in our society. It also became obvious that the very notion of Brexit had little to do with addressing that problem. In fact, it was almost trying to distract people from those social issues, in a way, by giving them such a binary choice.

"By voting to leave, they felt they were somehow part of a majority who believed that the system had betrayed them and that they needed a change. It focused it on the Europeans, rather than their own system. That's a terrible mistake. It's our own society that's f**ked up.

"It confirmed that democracy is a dangerous thing when the wrong question is posed."

The Good, the Bad & the Queen are one of the headline acts at the All Together Now festival on the August bank holiday weekend at Curraghmore Estate in Waterford

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