12 Plays of Christmas – Kate Tempest

For those of you who’ve been following this blog closely over the last few weeks you’ll have noticed that many of the albums that I’ve chosen from last year share a common pattern. There’s a dash of politics, a certain darkness to the music and lyrics that lend themselves more to poetry and storytelling than is regularly  found in pop music. This record is the obvious culmination of my current tastes.

Let Them Eat Chaos is the darker more grown-up sibling of A Grand Don’t Come for Free by The Streets. It shares many of it’s musical themes but is lyrically more ambitious – as you might expect from a spoken word poet. Usually, I like to present my highlights of an album, to give you a taste of its medicine, but this is not how you should listen to Let Them Eat Chaos. Each track is tightly bound with the others. This is a family of songs that come together to tell a thrilling and important story and deserves to be listened to in that way. To not do so is the equivalent of just turning up just for the second act of a play or only reading alternate pages of a novel. No doubt there would be good bits but you lose its overall sense and the experience is devalued:

We begin in glorious nothing, spinning in a vacuum before plummeting towards a beautifully ugly planet, our velocity ever-increasing until we crash into the surface only to rise unbroken and unflustered in the pinnacle of modern, liberal, western capitalism that is London. Time freezes and we step out to look at the world. It’s 4:18 am.

The story spins out into 7 separate lives: Gemma, pondering the constant cycle of temporary that is her life with bitter self-recrimination; Esther, a late night carer just getting home sharing her worries and fears; Alisha, who hears the ghost of her dead partner lost in a war in a far away land; Pete, stumbling home after another reckless and wrecked night, who is saving for a future that never comes because there’s too much distraction, too many drugs and parties in the present; Bradley, who’s career is going great, who has all the trapping of modern live, but who only feels lost and empty and purposeless but doesn’t know why;  Zoe, as she waits to be evicted from her flat, who looks at the place where she grew up and doesn’t recognise it any more, who is displaced by gentrification; and Pius, the girl with the broken heart trying to heal it with a sticking plaster of casual sex and cheap thrills.

If there is one story which sums up this sadness, confusion and anger, it is Europe is Lost a fomenting, boiling, raging torrent of consciousness. A scream you never hear but already know, because it lives inside you:

I am quiet, feeling the onset of riot
Riots are tiny though, systems are huge
Traffic keeps moving, proving there’s nothing to do
‘Cause it’s big business, baby, and its smile is hideous
Top down violence, a structural viciousness
Your kids are dosed up on medical sedatives
But don’t worry bout that, man, worry ’bout terrorists
The water level’s rising! The water level’s rising!
The animals, the elephants, the polar bears are dying!

Stop crying, start buying, but what about the oil spill?
Shh, no one likes a party pooping spoil sport
Massacres, massacres, massacres/new shoes
Ghettoised children murdered in broad daylight
By those employed to protect them
Live porn streamed to your pre-teen’s bedrooms
Glass ceiling, no headroom
Half a generation live beneath the breadline
Oh, but it’s happy hour on the high street
Friday night at last lads, my treat!
All went fine till that kid got glassed in the last bar
Place went nuts, you can ask our Lou
It was madness, road ran red, pure claret
And about them immigrants? I can’t stand them
Mostly, I mind my own business
They’re only coming over here to get rich, it’s a sickness
England! England! Patriotism!
And you wonder why kids want to die for religion?

It goes, work all your life for a pittance
Maybe you’ll make it to manager, pray for a raise
Cross the beige days off on your beach babe calendar
The anarchists are desperate for something to smash
Scandalous pictures of fashionable rappers
In glamorous magazines, who’s dating who?
Politico cash in an envelope
Caught sniffing lines off a prostitutes prosthetic tits
Now it’s back to the house of lords with slapped wrists
They abduct kids and fuck the heads of dead pigs

But him in a hoodie with a couple of spliffs
Jail him, he’s the criminal

What joins these 7 together is their sadness, their isolation, and that none of them know where they are going. What joins them together is a violent storm, an apocalypse, that calls them all from their houses, and finally just as it is too late, brings them together.

At heart, Let Them Eat Chaos is an album about our selfishness, about how we distance ourselves from others, watching the world disappear on a TV screen, convincing ourselves that ‘we’re engaged when we’re pacified‘. That individualism is a myth. That any other person’s pain is also our pain, however or wherever it happens and that until we face this we guarantee our own extinction. It is angry because anger is the only logical response to the predicament we face. It is also hopeful because it believes we have the power within us to remedy this, to save our brothers and sisters, to save our children, though we may have to eat chaos to realise that.

You can but Let Them Eat Chaos here.

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