Music exists not just to entertain. It is to educate and to express as well.
Entertainment. Education. Expression.
Hardly an original quote but still, that was my pontificating yet earnest 16 year-old self; only back then I used “titillate” instead of “entertain”. Blandness notwithstanding, that statement’s truth is not altered. This music holds that truth AND it is anything but bland.
I’m not a pacifist, I’m smashing fists / At every single racist p#@*k I meet– from “Pretty Songs” by Bob Vylan
I’m not having it, there’s no Kum Ba Yah / To be found ’round here, no groovy beat
No liberal lefty c!^t / Is gonna tell me punching Nazis ain’t the way
If you wanna hold hands and sing / Go do it over there while the big boys play, okay
Bob Vylan (not Dylan, not Villain) uses music primarily and ferociously as an expression – a visceral, stunning outpouring of rage and despair. The education and entertainment (not titillation) follow from that. There is no skirting-around-the-edges here. What you hear on this two-man band’s music is an uncompromising calling out of social iniquity and injustice. The music unabashedly, violently, disdainfully discards political correctness. If it leaves you squirming and uncomfortable, then there is a strong possibility that it’s because it addresses your own subconscious frustration and fury at much that is wrong around you, something that your conditioned genteel sensibility would be aghast at revealing or even acknowledging. It’s hardly surprising then that the establishment refused to release their music deeming it too extreme. So the duo took to doing it themselves. Their recent setting up of a record label, Ghost Theatre, is one result of that.
We didn’t appear out of thin air
We live here
Social change never came out of complacence; it is invariably catalysed by a counter-culture shock, or a series of them. The whole violence v/s non-violence debate is not binary; not a simple bad/good boxing. What is bad is denial of justice, perpetration of wrong, systemic subjugation of targeted groups. Prolonged pursuit of these has always eventually found a reaction; a natural violent reaction. Unlike a pressure cooker, there’s no control knob then; it just blows up. We don’t ever learn.
In throwing a fist at a smug privileged and entrenched lot and in driving for some of that change, Bob Vylan’s music is one of the most important of our times. I haven’t heard anything like this, delivered the way it is. Musically it refreshes and redefines the by-now jaded punk sound blending deep, grimy rap with a dark, heavy guitar-driven instrumentation. I’ve never particularly cared for the classic and woefully limited punk rock sound but I’ve always loved what punk stands for, questioning the status quo. I’ll take Bob Vylan over Sex Pistols any day on both scores.
People the world over are more similar to each other than we think.
When I first heard this duo’s music, I thought they must surely be dynamite on stage. And from what I have read and the gig footage I have seen, I wasn’t off the mark. Had I still been a live gig promoter, I would have definitely wanted and tried to get these guys over to India whenever things got better and live gigs resumed. A lot of folk here would have taken to Bob Vylan’s fierce commentary on British society as an antidote to post-colonial hangover. That would be so ironic, considering the themes of alienation, inequality, injustice that Bobby and Bobbie champion are relevant and important to most, if not all, nations including my own and the music therefore is a scathing indictment of the world at large.
I never had any intention of writing about and breaking down specific songs of Bob Vylan opting instead to providing a context for readers to explore a truly important artist’s music.
Fair warning: Please note that the lyrics are explicit and are meant for an adult audience.
You can buy/stream it on Bandcamp.
You can also stream it on: