Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Snogging with capitalism

While visiting my brother on my way home from work is one of the nicest ways to end the day, it inevitably means that I drink too much wine, and get home too late, to meet my daily blogging obligations as well as I should - which is especially shameful this time because today I have been listening to a sensationally great album from a sensationally great Australian band, which, as far as I can tell, has been getting nothing like the attention it deserves.

The album is The Last Days of Rome and the band is Melbourne lefty-leaning, anti-capitalist, anti-copyright, Snog. My own political leanings mean that I have a tendency to gravitate towards anything that is overtly of the left, and so it's hardly surprising that Snog drew me into its clutches pretty quickly. Its songs berate the shallowness of capitalism and consumerism, the emptiness of modern city life, and the deception under which we all live. It's all stuff that could easily be dismissed as just more disgruntled diatribe against the system, were it not for the startling originality of the music, which convinces you of the seriousness, and the honesty, of Snog's message.

And it does so in the most unusual way - by seducing you with its pop-infused vigour, or its appearance of laid-back ease, or the grandeur and originality of its instrumentation. The music is a kind of grungy rock, but with elements of prog rock thrown in too - an unlikely combination, but one that means that this music has a rawness and a classiness about it all at once.

The centrepiece of the band is David Thrussell, who had a hand in writing all of the songs on the album and whose rough, gravel-grained voice gives things a real working class authenticity, even when the songs themselves are complex and sophisticated, mixing all kinds of genres, from industrial rock to synth pop, creating sounds that are lush and full of life, while still rooted in the dirt and grime of the disaffected masses.

The Last Days of Rome captures a whole host of moods and ideas, from the epic overtones of "One Grain of Sand", through the gentle cynicism of "Vaguely Melancholic", to the intimate, alienating loneliness of "City" or the almost spooky harpsichord that punctuates "Whateverman". Every song gives you another take, another angle, on the ways in which a modern world destroys and devalues humanity - but always to music that is irresistably infectious in the way it combines the liveliness of its beats with the underlying dark hue of its colours.

Snog is a band that has, I gather, constantly reinvented itself - always finding new and different ways to communicate its message about the destructive powers of capitalism - but The Last Days of Rome, with its initial and deceptive appearance of accessibility, in some ways mirrors perfectly what it so eloquently accuses capitalism of doing: luring you in with false promises of an easy ride. It is an album that is much more confronting than what it at first pretends to be.

This album is an encouraging omen, in so many ways, of the future of rock music in Australia.

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