Given the (supposed) state of mainstream music these days you could be forgiven for wondering just where all the angry, political music went. Hell, forget the angry, just where is all the politics in music these days? It takes a bit of digging, but there are bands out there who are trying to shake people into action. The King Blues are one of the newer crop (and Hard-Fi could be added to that list; indeed Richard Archer appears in a vocal capacity on Good Politics), but Thee Faction have been knocking around for a while, pissing in the wind maybe, but never giving up. After all, someone has to fight the good fight and get people fired up, and Thee Faction make a good fist of it.
Sadly, music with political leanings does tend to be instantly marked out as being too worthy, lumpen, and sacrificing actual tunes in favour of polemic. It’s hard to tell whether the acoustic strum of What Susie Digs is tongue in cheek, but almost certainly Thee Faction are aware of how most left-leaning bands are painted and so they take the stereotype and have fun with it. Susie apparently hates alientation, property and doesn’t dig the pigs, but she does dig communism. It’s like a Half Man Half Biscuit parody of Billy Bragg, and shows the band to be focused and self-aware.
As luck would have it, Susie Digs aside, throughout the length of Good Politics, they manage to keep the balance between making a point and making a great tune in check perfectly. Thee Faction marry hard edged R&B, propulsive horns and heartfelt Marxist lyrics. It’s not as heavy as it sounds, the band’s focus is almost entirely on making people enjoy themselves at the same time as making them think. Think Alexei Sayle fronting Dr Feelgood, and Thee Faction are not too far away. Those old enough to remember the miners’ strike in the early ’80s and The Redskins will find much to love here (although those who remember those events and The Redskins will most probably already be familiar with Thee Faction, who after all were formed back in 1978).
Skirting around the fact that it is disappointing that, in these days of Jeremy Hunt and his ilk there still seems to be little resistance from the more youthful music scenes, it is at least reassuring that there are some bands still willing to try and address societal problems. As they say in the title track, “Ain’t no use complaining, get out there campaigning”. Music might not ever really change anything, no matter how much we’d like to think it does, but it can help to focus and rally the like minded. Hopefully this will be heard by enough people to be considered a step in the right direction.
Good Politics is not just the voice of the working class (the doo-wop influenced One Of Us, which could almost be a long lost The Zutons track) it also seeks to educate (Further Reading). The punk rush of Con-Dem-Nation is a particularly invigorating and remarkably catchy. If there’s a definitive fist-shaking anthem on the album, this is it. The refrain of “We didn’t start a class war, but we’re going to end one” is a wonderful call to arms that almost certainly will require a license and court approval to be sung or even written down before too long, given the way freedom of speech continues to be eroded in the UK (cuts to legal aid, anyone?). Deft Left covers political rants in a febrile mesh of bass lines, urgent horns and searing guitar grooves, whilst The Push reiterates Thee Faction’s desire to “push them out of our lives” whilst retaining a keen pop nous. It can only be hoped that Thee Faction’s return serves as a spark to ignite some kind of resistance. But, failing that, they’ve created a solid album that kicks ass musically and politically. It’s all that can be asked of them.