I’m breaking hiatus once again. And once more, it’s for a band I believe in, albeit a fledgling band that deserves support. Like one of my previously loved bands, the sadly now defunct Stroszek, this one is taking musical genres in different directions by shifting the lyrical ground in fiercely intelligent and sociopolitical ways. The Young Hegelians (not to be confused with the New York band of the same name) are based in Middlesbrough. Led by songwriter, Carl Jackson, this band has that fantastic self-belief and commitment to lyrics that are so often out of fashion. Without getting too embroiled in radical philosophical theory, the band’s namesake was a group of Prussian leftist intellectuals, including David Strauss, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Max Stirner, who used some of Hegel’s premises to promote republicanism and atheism. One day I will delve further into the nuances and details of the Young Hegelian philosophies. Preferably after I’ve fully grasped Hegelian concepts.
As I’ve stated before, I’m definitely one to fall for a band with a properly angry, passionate manifesto, and The Young Hegelians deliver that as well:
1) Our generation has been lied too. Our youth was misspent on revision and studying for exams that got us onto degree courses and apprenticeships which are now not worth the paper they are written on. Education has lost its value now it’s for sale to everyone. They said that you would be someone and that you would earn a decent wage, but all you got was the noose of debt around your neck and the grim realization that the promise of social mobility is slipping through your fingers. 2) Abhor the High Street. Fashion will destroy you. Fashion is not your friend. —Consumerism is the opiate that keeps you numb and you have failed to see the reason why magazines and the changing scene make you change your wardrobe every season— 3) Rock and roll is nothing but a money making scheme. While our elders tell us tales of the sixties, free love and how the punk movement waged a class war, it’s fair to say that as soon as the fun was over they were all off buying property and monopolizing parts of the world that didn’t belong to them. Rock and roll and youth culture as a whole are no longer revolutionary concepts. They do not make you quirky, interesting or unique. They just make you a potential profitable asset. 4) The internet is our salvation. We are on a new playing field, on a new world, where information is the key. It is anarchy, without structure, without rules, without laws and we have the power to mould this world into our own. Like Guttenberg (sic) inventing the printing press, we can redefine our environment through information, and in doing that we can redefine ourselves.
While I’d expect political bands to sit comfortably within the musical realms of punk, post-punk, and folk, I wasn’t expecting the sound of The Young Hegelians. Of course they cite the Manics as an influence (many intelligent, angry bands do), but they also include Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis in their list. This jazz background pleasantly surprised me, which probably says something about my expectations of political indie music and genre definition. The jazz/swing end of their spectrum of influences is not apparent on all tracks, but the spitting frustration found in their manifesto permeates. And best of all, The Young Hegelians simply don’t fit.
I currently only have two songs available to me for review, but they hold definite promise. The track God Nor Money begins with a drumbeat reminiscent of the classic Sing, Sing, Sing, and then Jackson launches into a tirade against religion and consumerism. It is an anthem for the skeptical and discerning outsider. The chorus, comprised of the line “I have faith in neither God nor money,” explodes out of the tight control of the quick swing before it, fully using dynamics to make its point. Clocking in at only two and a half minutes, it does have the brevity and slip-shod style of a punk song, but there is also the tribal rhythmic feel you get from the jazzier elements.
Unlike Bono’s overwrought (well, I suppose Bono may as well be a synonym for overwrought) tribute to one of the world’s most famous politician under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi by the Young Hegelians is more forthright and intelligent in its commentary. In fact, it’s the antithesis of the U2 anthem with rolling guitar breaking into jabs and syncopated lyrics: “Like a fairytale princess locked in a tower/Thirteen years have slipped by/Seconds turned to hours/There’s no charming prince/She’s a damsel in distress.” The shambolic groove of the verses bumps up against the bashing of the chorus, making the narrative style seem deceptively light-hearted and the chorus all the more gratingly dissonant. There is no wobbling sentimentality with soaring choruses here; Jackson’s vocals definitely veer into raggedy punk bellows and howls in both songs, keeping the song both grounded and desperate and well out of the realm of pretentiousness.
The Young Hegelians are rough around the edges, but I believe in rough around the edges. I believe in lack of belief. So many “DIY” bands today are polished and quantifiable. Catching and snagging your complacent, comfortable expectations can be a freeing and enlightening experience. They’re bravely out-of-step, and they clearly have something to say with their art. I await a full album for the follow-through. By then, I will have perhaps read more Hegelian philosophy.
The Young Hegelians’ MySpace: