Saturday, May 05, 2007

Savage Republic are apparently back, though I’m a bit slow cottoning on, and, interestingly, putting things out on Neurot, the label run by Neurosis. I was always a bit lukewarm on them back in the day I have to admit but listening to them now and, conversely, listening to a lot of stuff I used to like at the time on the recently released Wax Trax box set I can’t help but think my eighteen year old judgement was seriously skewed. Most of the Wax Trax stuff sounds more than faintly embarrassing and horribly dated almost twenty years down the line, especially the stuff that was supposed to be ass-kicking, whereas the more muted, less “rocky” acts such as Lead into Gold (whose EP was called “Chicks and Speed: Futurism!”) who I wasn’t all that into at the time suddenly sound like the good stuff the label put out. Many swear by Coil’s “Love’s Secret Domain” but personally I think it’s crap, not a patch on “Scatology” or “Horse Rotorvator”. I can’t help but find something slightly embarrassing, something basically silly about Coil and related outfits (Current 93, Death in June, NWW etc) irrespective of how much I enjoy some of their output. OOH, you spooky wizards, please! You’re shredding my sense of reality with your dark, pagan fulminations!

But I digress……

Fact is that Savage Republic always seemed to be semi-ruined by the unremittingly hoarse and shouty vocals and the “live” production sound. In principle they were a great idea, a kind of fourth-world post-punk trance rock endeavour, disillusioned white-boy’s world music, shorn of tourist sentiment (their LP covers routinely featured decaying ports in banana republics etc), an intriguing attempt at a possible music, with one foot in the tenements that spawned No Wave’s metal banging and dissonant guitar assault and the other in the favellas and townships of the third world, an attempt to marry up all kinds of “ethnic” practices, combining the musics of the globally dispossessed and maintaining a conversation between them. It seemed not only that they might have taken “Bush Of Ghosts” seriously, but might have found a way of translating its ethic into a standard band set up. The music itself, however, just fell short of fulfilling its promise and it seemed that no matter how far they travelled for inspiration they routinely brought back a curate’s egg. I’d largely forgotten about them until I happened across the most recent Ep “Siam”. The first track is a rather typical, thin, quasi-live sounding, shuffling shoutalong, but after that it picks up, offering some rather lovely glittering and glistening eastern inflected polyrhythmic rock that culminates in “Siam”, the longest and best track. By the end of it all I’m basically left wanting more, (must hunt down that neglected back catalogue) which is a rare enough thing these days. It’s interesting that Neurot are putting their new stuff out (partially in tribute I suppose) and it suggests that there are still those underlying affinities between world and metal and that there are possibilities for rock/world that needn’t be either Gogol Bordello’s (much as they charm me) Uncle Sam(ovar)-ishness, trading on their crazy “exotic” traditions to bring in the punters or the Jools Holland “this-is-serious-music” jamathon. .

The question of course, must be, why does this matter, other than that it aesthetically enriches stale rock and gives jaded hipsters-in-denial like yourself something to coo over tediously on your blog? And the answer would be, at a guess, because it would be an alternative, globalized music culture that expressed and insisted on the particular local traditions in the face of the global ascendancy of Hip Hop and Indy (it’s no surprise that Jay Z and Coldplay are mates, is it?) that breaks with the endless pattern of hollow truimphalism and whimsical melancholy that these two forms have instituted as the only two possible forms of artistic expression and into a mode where curiosity, innovation, involvement and difference dominate, which is open and dialogic, that looks out instead of back and helps to reposition music politically as well, helps to reorient culture, especially youth culture into a recognition of a shared condition (i.e. that of being fucked over by the global elite), shared sets of concerns and practices that largely undercuts the sanctioning of the Media Priests: something genuinely international something that, for example, Live 8 for all its spectacular global reach simply cannot achieve. If the western avant garde has reached a dead end and if were to escape either Gilles Peterson style soft-eclecticism (the world as sonic supermarket, the DJ as your Personal Shopper ) and if we're also to avoid simply looking to other cultures for novel "misreadings"/nominal reshapings of our own culture (Japanese rock, baile funk, desi beats etc) then a more complex interrelation a more open-ended two-way dialogue needs to be developed, one that is equally happy to learn and listen in humility as it is to judge, assess and dissmiss.
“One world?”No thanks. Multiple Worlds in constant dialogue and endless flux!


desire said...


this was written on my bday. i can now legally drink in the us of a!

just thought you should know. also i'm not dead.

thomf said...

Hey Carl-
There is a lot more where that came from. The new CD will be available on Neurot on Halloween. Check out the new mix of Siam on our myspace site (
love and kisses
thom f.
(the hoarse sing along guy)