Saturday, June 19, 2010

'And as things fell apart, nobody payed much attention'

The BP oil slick disaster gets more and more depressing by the day. This really is going to get worse before it gets better, and who knows if it will get better? BP don't. It's truly end-of-days stuff.

I'm no longer the idealist, hardline environmentalist i was at the age of 16 or whatever, but one thing that i felt back then and that's still blindingly obvious now is that society's ridiculous consumption demands are completely unsustainable in the long-term - right now, it's looking like the long-term mightn't be so long at all.

Anyway, if it's not a bit suspect to use such a disaster as an angle for a music post, it did get me thinking about bands/artists who've dealt with environmental concerns in their music. And there's not that many, which makes it all the more notable when it does happen.

Talking Heads - 'Nothing But Flowers'

Devastatingly clever lyric from David Byrne, set in a post-peak-oil society and narrated by an increasingly desperate soul who can't adapt to the new, simplified lifestyle necessary to survive - "If this is paradise/I wish I had a lawnmower"...


Not only did R.E.M. write some pretty eloquent songs dealing with environmental issues, they also walked the walk, donating money to home-state Georgia's conservation funds, promoting Greenpeace on their tours and generally being prominent environmental activists. They even named one of their albums Green. 'Cuyahoga' dealt with the pollution of the titular Cleveland river, which was so badly polluted at one stage that it caught on fire. "Let's put our heads together / And start a new country up" sings Stipe, but it sounds like a doubtful scenario. 'Fall On Me', meanwhile, is commonly interpreted as being about acid rain, although Stipe denies this. Don't heed him.

Neil Young

'Mother Earth' is one of Young's more divisive songs- many of his fans despise it, i quite like it. Young insists on playing it regularly, and there's something quite subversive about a rock star singing a plea for environmental awareness mid-set. 'After The Goldrush' referred to "Mother Nature on the run in the 1970's" - it rings truer than ever today. His most recent album, meanwhile, was a 'concept' album about his Lincoln Continental, which had been retooled to run on alternative energy sources.


The frankly terrifying 'Idioteque' conveyed growing dread and impending doom - "Ice Age coming, Ice Age coming ... We're not scaremongering / This is really happening..". Lead singer Thom Yorke insists on playing venues well-served by public transport, and the band turned down Glastonbury for this very reason. “One of the conditions of the band carrying on touring is that we do everything we can to minimise our impact on the environment. That has included buying two lots of equipment and keeping one in Europe and one in America so we never have to fly our kit around the world again.” Bono, take some notes.


Latest album Plastic Beach refers, both in title and theme, to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a symbolic monument to human waste: The BP oil leak makes it sound tame.

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