Picks and Pans Review: Battle Hymns for Children Singing
updated 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST
There have always been undercurrents of social protest in British pop music—listen to the work of Pink Floyd, for example. But there is a real flood of unrest among many of today's Brit artists, from Elvis Costello to these two bands. Depeche Mode is a techno-pop quartet (three synthesizer players and one vocalist) that started out in Basildon, Essex. Melodically, their music walks a thin line between monotony and cleverness, staying on track as often as it strays. Their lyrics are full of bitterness. More Than a Party is all but a threat of revolution ("Keep telling us we're to have fun/ Then take all the ice cream so we've got none" is sending a deeper message). Two Minute Warning is a song about nuclear war. Everything Counts bemoans the prevalence of greed ("See just how/ The lies and deceit gained a little more power/ Confidence—taken in/ By a suntan and a grin"). The Landscape Is Changing pleads to the older generations: "I don't care if you're going nowhere/ Just take good care of the world." The group's success in Europe and to some extent in the U.S. (this is their third album here) indicates that they're touching some responsive spots. Haysi Fantayzee, has similarly been a hit with English youth. It's a three-person group: singers Kate Garner and Jeremiah Healy backed by composer-instrumentalist Paul Caplin. The group obviously preens over its counterculture attitude; its official RCA Records bio recalls the story that Garner met Healy when she found him "in a pile of snoozing scruffs." Their album voices a lot of the surly discontent of American acid rock bands of the '60s, but much of it is couched in vaguely Caribbean post-reggae musical idioms. Sabres of Paradise is about suicide—the "sabres" are razor blades. More Money is about "a fool consumer." John Wayne Is Big Leggy is about racism and sexism. It comes as a great relief to have a couple of tunes devoted only to lust and sex—Sister Friction and Shoofly Love. There's not really much fun in these two groups' music, however infectious the rhythms. They do, though, seem to represent an unrest that demands to be recognized.