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Playlist: Politics

It's election year, and here's a musical manifesto

By Andy PottsPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - March 2024
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Jen Dixon – The Sound

Political is personal. The rumbling scandal around the Teesside freeport might seem arcane, but the whiff of dodgy deals seeps into people’s lives. And, when those people are gifted songwriters, it sparks the creative process. Jen Dixon’s work has tended to be a response to her own relationships and feelings, but the more she read about the freeport in the likes of Private Eye, the more she was inspired to write.

“The Sound is all about that stuff and how, hopefully, it will all come crashing down on the baddies one day,” she explained in an interview on Baker Lilivick’s show on CVFM. That crash may be coming sooner than anticipated: a recent poll – albeit with questions about its methodology – suggests just 19% of voters will support incumbent mayor Ben Houchen when he faces re-election in May.

It's a heavier topic than usual for Dixon, and thus it demands different treatment. The Sound has an indie-rock accent the represents a new direction from Dixon’s earlier work. And above it all, a siren vocal warns that “this is the sound of the falling down”. So you can enjoy it as protest song, or simply as a rock anthem. And you can catch Jen live at Stockton Calling on March 30.

Benefits x James Adrian Brown – Council Rust (remix)

Remember the start of the new Tory era? Coalition government, London Olympics. Back then we had to make do with the likes of Plan B for our angry raps against the system.

It got worse. Austerity, Brexit and a decade of staggering governmental incompetence that meant the old voices weren’t enough anymore. Mutterings of discontent rise to a scream, which is where Benefits come in. An “issues based collective” fronted by Stockton’s Kingsley Hall, they promise that their songs are loud. And don’t disappoint. A trawl through the back-catalogue eviscerates the brain-dead tubthumping of the easily-led, laments the new England of flag-shagging faux-patriotism. And does it to a relentless soundtrack of cacophony; a remix of Teesside’s heavy industrial past welded to an unhappy gig economy future.

Of course, that rarely adds up to easy listening. Thus, a remix from alt-electronica guru James Adrian Brown represents something of a gateway drug for the uninitiated. There’s an unexpected ambient vibe that offsets the anger of the lyrics and – hopefully – opens up the message to a bigger audience. Treat it as a starting point on a descent into the “weather-beaten lack of trust” that informs Benefits’ poetic rage.

Pointy Features – Old Coal Town

From rage to reflection, the third track on the list could hardly be more different. Less overtly political, Old Coal Town nonetheless feels timely as the northeast reflects on the 40th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike. Other voices are eager to rehash the arguments of 1984/85; Pointy Features instead produces an elegy to an industry lost.

Old Coal Town is melancholy mellow. It’s the sound of ebbing optimism and dying dreams. In musical form, it’s a distillation of why I had to leave the northeast as a young man. And an echo of the ties that brought me back again.

The sound is deliberately retro – chillhop is the genre; Pink Floyd, 70s Blues rock and a hint of Radiohead comprise the soundworld. It’s an unlikely brew to conjure up in County Durham, but it works. And there is some fantastic musicianship on display from a band that recently released its first album, Hill End.

Thanks for reading. This playlist is part of a series talking up my current musical obsessions. Sometimes - like this week - there's a theme. Other times, not so much. Either way, I hope you find some inspiration from these clips. And do use the comments to let me know how you liked them and share your own recommendations!

Please support independent artists. If you find something here that you enjoy, try to share the love by buying some of their music or attending their gigs.

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About the Creator

Andy Potts

Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.

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Comments (4)

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  • Charlene Ann Mildred Barroga27 days ago

    This playlist explores the political environment via music, providing a distinctive viewpoint on current affairs and social unrest.

  • Anna 28 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • JBaz29 days ago

    Old Coal Town. never heard it before and so glad I did now. Congratulations

  • This is excellent Andy, lots of new music for me, and wonderfully curated. This could be a Top Story

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