Home made paper sleeve printed by Islington Community Press? Check. Record stapled inside sleeve? Check. Full and transparent list of costs associated with record? Check. A statement eulogising the independent ethos? Check. Links for information on cooperatives and “Yankee Crimes”? Check. An address for the El Salvador Solidarity campaign? Check. A slagging off of national radio and a list of pirate radio stations where you might get to hear this record? Check. A list of dialectical statements? Check. Grainy photos of the band and cartoons illustrating the political points? Check.
If ever there was a record in my collection which sums up the DIY ethic of the early eighties, this is it. But what a record! Everything about this record is political from the name of the band to the method of the record’s production to the content of the song.The band’s name was taken from the book of the same name by Edmund Wilson which traced socialism from the French Revolution to the arrival of Lenin at the Finland Station in St Petersberg. The title of the song refers to the idea that if one country falls to communism then surrounding countries are susceptible and will follow in a domino effect. The central idea behind this song is that America is using this theory to justify their attempts to destabilise the government in El Salvador.
From the very first words of the song (“Russian troops on the Polish border”) we realise we are unlikely to be troubled by anybody’s baby leaving them. By the second verse, Julian MacQueen is having such difficulty fitting the words into the structure of the song we wonder whether Richey Manic has had a hand in the lyrics. By the third verse (“The junta and the westernised elite / Is bound together with US forces), we’re left wondering how this was ever replicated on stage. There is both optimism (“I see final victory / Imperialism will be defeated”) and anger (“US interest/ Shoot people like cattle/ Counter insurgency / Euphemism for torture”). The song ends with the then current situation in El Salvador. The US had denied any involvement in trying to destabilise the newly installed Socialist government but the song rightly concludes (and history proved them right) “American arms in El Salvador.”
Now all this earnestness in the lyrics may lead you to believe that the song itself is going to be ponderous. Nothing could be further from the truth. The song rattles along at a furious paste with fantastic backing vocals which recall women yodelling in the Appalachians (honestly better than it sounds). Julian MacQueen’s vocal is right out front and gloriously articulated. The tune itself is one which will linger in the memory, much like the atrocities committed by US forces from Vietnam to El Salvador to Afghanistan.
All pop is political but some pop is more political than others. Any fan of early Manics should love this. The crime is that hardly anyone was listening then and they’re certainly not listening now.
Here’s a link so you can hear it for yourselves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIBJ6CkMgeQ