if a song could be freedom 014 – A Brave New World by Jamie Chaoten
October 22, 2015
if a song could be freedom mixtape 013 A Brave New World is a Post Punk, Industrial music, and youth movements in Europe, East and West, during the late 1970s and early 80s, curated by Jamie Chaoten. Jamie has been a supporter of Interference Archive since the beginning, and was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He is an experimental filmmaker, teacher, and musician. Playing in the anarchist dark wave band Rosa Apátrida, he currently lives in Europe.
Brave New World-The Cultural Decay
Ein Jahr (Es Geht Voran)-Fehlfarben
Tanz Debil-Einstürzende Neubauten
Alle Gegen Alle-DAF
Riot Squad-Vice Versa
Give Up-The Wake
Shack Up-A Certain Ratio
To Hell With Poverty-Gang of Four
A Brave New World
Post Punk, Industrial music, and youth movements in Europe, East and West, during the late 1970s and early 80s.
The late 1970’s and early 80’s in Europe were a time of movement and conflict, change and regression, a twilight period between the euphoria and strife of the late 1960s and the reaction and neoliberalism of the late 1980s and 1990s. In Switzerland, West Germany and the Netherlands a youth counterculture which had been sprouting for years blossomed into an array of movements focused around struggles against nuclear power, a resurgent fascism, and capitalism, while fighting for social centers, squats and other autonomous forms of existence. Embodied by punks, squatters, krakers (Holland), and autonomen (Switzerland and West Germany) these movements waxed and waned throughout the decade.
In West Germany a militant counterculture, coming of age during the German Autumn of 1977, took over abandoned buildings throughout major West German cities, especially in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district and Hamburg’s St. Pauli district around the Hafenstraße.
Punk, and especially its more ‘new wave’ forms, became known as NDW or the German New Wave (Neue Deutsche Welle). Many of its earliest proponents had connections to (and in the case of Abwärts, were part of) the squatters scenes in Hamburg and Berlin. Fehlfarben’s song Ein Jahr (Es Geht Voran) [One Year (It’s moving onward)] became an anthem for the squatters at the height of their movement, while Abwärts members split up to participate in other projects including the anarchic industrial/noise band Einstürzende Neubauten.
Towards the mid to late 1980s, the celebratory optimism of these youth movements and even of the NDW bands, turned towards cynicism. With the eviction of squats and the nightmare of a resurgent German fascism (complete with street battles between left-wing and fascist youth), as well as the ‘selling out’ of many NDW groups, bands with a more aggressive, industrial sound, such as D.A.F.’s with their classic Alle Gegen Alle, had a deeper, darker resonance:
“Everybody Fights Everybody
Our gear is so black. Our boots so beautiful.
The red blitz on the left. The black star on the
right. We shout so loud. We dance so wild
The new evil dance. Everybody fights everybody.”
Our homes, next to factories…
The Eastern Bloc was not immune to youth subcultures either. In Poland and Yugoslavia punks appeared on the scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Polish bands like Brygada Kryzys and Siekiera played a dark, electronic, punk sound, echoing the decadence and decay surrounding them during the final years of the communist regime. Siekiera’s Nowa Aleksandria is a personal reflection on the industrial malaise of late communist Poland:
“I stand, and look out the window, for a brief moment
People go through the gate, still sleepy
On the street a small fire sits abandoned
Our homes at night
Our homes, next to factories”
Yugoslavia was home to Borghesia, a provocative post-punk and, later, industrial band who flaunted many of the taboos, moral and otherwise, of their restrictive society. Fellow Slovenians Laibach, as well as many early European industrial acts, owe much to Borghesia’s music and aesthetics.
To Hell with Poverty…
Crossing back west, we end up in England where the 1980’s kicked off in a storm of strikes, punk rock, mass unemployment, racist political movements, and urban disorder. Mainstream punk, already listless by the early 1980s, nevertheless created a huge opening for the multitude of countercultures and political movements of the time. Bands like the anarcho-punk Crass, and the “Neo-Marxist funk” band Gang of Four are examples of bands that continued on, moving off of the beaten path of ’77 punk.
Vice Versa (Sheffield), The Wake (Glasgow, Scotland), A Certain Ratio (Manchester) and Gang of Four (Leeds) all hailed from northern industrial cities in various states of decay and de-industrialization. Their songs, as well as the dark sounds of much of the early, Manchester based, Factory Records bands, reflect the despair and frustration felt by working class youth in the council estate, Thatcherite, era.
The lyrics to Vice Versa’s Riot Squad sardonically fetishize media images of an increasingly militarized riot police, being deployed across Britain with an alarming frequency to quell urban unrest and smash workers struggles:
“Freeze frame/ Riot Squad/ Bulletproof/ Metal Clad …”
A Certain Ratio’s Shack Up focuses on working youth’s frustration with conservative social mores:
“ We can love together, work together, sleep together
so why can’t we live together?
…Marriage is a big commitment, yeah, shack up, shack up “
…while Gang of Four’s defiant classic, To Hell with Poverty, smugly sums up the anger, attitude, and escapism of the time:
“To hell with poverty/ We’ll get drunk on cheap wine..”