[Don’t panic, this isn’t another Wrecking Ball review. Diz covered that one pretty comprehensively. Still, I think the album is a pretty important case study in modern music. And if you don’t like that, deal with it]

I’ve been enjoying Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball. Enjoying it a lot, actually, and it’s been creating quite a buzz. After all, why shouldn’t it? It effectively captures the mood of 2012 America: a tale of dejected men and women, broken families, and the indignation of those whose hard work is rendered null and void at the hands of a reckless few. It’s an angry, dare I say visceral album

After all, compared with previous eras, we haven’t had particularly many songs written about some of the most momentous events over the last few decades. When one looks back to a similarly tumultuous era; the late 60s and early 70s, it seems as if our current predicament is at least similar in magnitude. While there aren’t any direct parallels to the sexual revolution or the Vietnam War, the global economic depression and corresponding widespread mass public protests doth protest that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Yet you wouldn’t know from contemporary music; we haven’t been seeing modern songwriters really reflect on these issues, despite their relative universality: it’s hard to argue that Occupy Wall St was not significantly influenced by the Arab Spring. The only song I can think that even begins to reference the issues of the modern day comes, rather surprisingly, from one of the most seemingly commercial bands of all: Nickelback.

Sure, it’s hardly the most inspired or original effort, but at least somebody is talking about contemporary issues and offering a sense of solidarity. Which seems odd; when looking at the late 60s, it’s difficult to come across a band that hasn’t recorded an anti-Vietnam or anti-war song: The Beatles, Buffalo Springfield, Black Sabbath, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Pink Floyd, King Crimson; I could go on, but the notion that politicians and rich men were not on your side seemed readily apparent in the 60s. After all, this was the post-austerity generation, the children of the new world, who were determined to take the future into their own hands; I’m sure you don’t need me to reiterate any more cliches to understand my point.

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door.
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Blood rack barbed wire
Polititians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets’ starving children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man.

King Crimson – 21st Century Schizoid Man

So what happened here, what happened to us? As a society, our musical conscious has effectively been split from social and political concerns. This isn’t just to say that there isn’t protest music being played on the radio, but it hasn’t been played anywhere. There have been a few blips, notably from Radiohead, with both their prescient OK Computer and the more topical Hail to the Thief, which is oft-attributed to the tainted election of George W. Bush.

Are you such a dreamer
To put the world to rights
I’ll stay home forever
Where two and two always makes a five

It’s the devil’s way now
There is no way out
You can scream and you can shout
It is too late now
Because you’re not there
Payin’ attention
Payin’ attention
Payin’ attention
Payin’ attention
yeah I feel it, I needed attention

I try to sing along
But the music’s all wrong
Cos I’m not
Cos I’m not
I’ll swallow up flies?
Back and hide
But I’m not
Oh hail to the thief
Oh hail to the thief
But I’m not
But I’m not

The lyrics to 2+2=5 do little to dispute this theory

Yet where on earth is everyone else? I’m not as naive to expect a new Bob Dylan nor do I want one – 60s folk belongs in the sixties, and music should be a progressive art. But has nobody looked at the world around us? I can forgive the dominance of MTV-trash in the 1980s for casting a veil over the world’s problems because at least there was a significant underground scene in which people were writing about how shitty and fake the real world is. I can even forgive the bubble-gum pop of the 1990s at least a little bit because for a while it did seem like we were entering a brave new world; no matter how naive it may seem in retrospect, one can not underestimate the impact the fall of the Soviet Union had upon popular consciousness.

But 2012? Really? It’s been 33 years since London Calling and 35 since Never Mind The Bollocks and there hasn’t been an album in all that time that has even echoed the same sense of public discord and dissent. Since Obama’s election alone, supposedly the signal of public reawakening and a sense of finally solving the world’s problems, we’ve had a global economic depression, an ongoing political and economic crisis in the EU, a global reawakening of mass protests against power and authority whether it be despotic or economic, the collapse of climate change agreements oh and not to mention the US President now has the authority and the ability to kill you wherever you are in the world. Did I mention that nobody who caused the 2008 financial crisis has actually gone to jail either? Or that 50,000 Mexicans have died as the result of the American drug war? I could really, really go on.

At least Lupe Fiasco tries to make some sense of this world.

So what has modern music been doing in the meantime, asides from writing a bunch of sappy September 11 tributes? What have you or I been doing? We’ve been reading Rihanna’s tweets about how she ate a bagel, talking about Lana Del Ray’s appearance on SNL and dancing to the same shitty mix of what’s jokingly called R&B that every club uses. Just because you’re at the Ivy doesn’t make it classy. It’s no coincidence that the band that apparently “saved rock”, The Arctic Monkeys, largely tells hedonistic stories about going to clubs and the downsides of good times. As good as the Monkeys are, it reflects the modern status quo: who honestly cares about the real world’s problems when we can get smashed and tag ourselves in photos taken by some fucking club promoter.

There’s only one band in the world that actually deserves credit for telling these stories. The world is not a fairy tale, there is no Price Charming, you should never trust Wall St and politicians will always lie to you, if you let them. Wake up.

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