Asian Dub Foundation: Community Music

Storming new set of eclectic agit-pop from best live band in Britain

ADF ARE OUT of kilter with the times, Ever since the failure of Red Wedge in the Eighties to push successfully for a radical Leftist government in Britain, coupled with a failure on their part even to muster up any music to get suitably fired up to, politics have quietly slipped away from rock and pop’s agenda. With the Tories having finally been gotten ridden of, most people have just about settled for the half-decent pragmatism of Tony Blair, subdued and sweetened by the benefits of a booming economy. Even the best, most banging Big Beat acts out there offer little in terms of content other than a warm wash of glib hedonism, while mainstream indie (Travis, Stereophonies) is paralysed by a sense of morose, end-of-history, going-through-the-motions resignation.

ADF are having none of this, neither the artificial highs or sulky lows of present-day music. With Community Music, they’re still kicking and carrying the good fight, not at all self-conscious that they’re practically alone in so doing, not at all affected by the stale sense of postmodern ennui, the shyness/arrogance that prevents most bands from this brand of direct lyrical political engagement. If the new Primals album heralded the kicking through of the Millennial door, then this is what is piling through. ADF are driven by disgust but not driven to despair. They’re tearing up the past, acting in the present moment and staking a claim to the future. Futurism is one of their strongest guiding principles. On ‘Real Great Britain’ they castigate middle England thus; “No concern for the future/Just with dead royalty.” On ‘Memory War’, they castigate fake nostalgia —“The battle for the past is the battle for the future,” and, most tellingly on ‘Crash’, “It’s de end of history/We say it’s the beginning.” That’s ADF in a nutshell.

ADF are lyrically bang on, trouncing the mealy-mouthed fudge of present-day political discourse, refuse to “learn” that this is the best of all possible worlds. ‘Real Great Britain’ is a scathing regurgitation of Blairite/Britpop triumphalism — “Blairful of Thatcher/Stuck on the 45/The suits have changed/But the old ties survive.” ‘Officer XX’ does a similar number on the Boys In Blue, who appear to have learnt few, if any lessons from the Lawrence debacle. ‘Crash’ warns almost gleefully of a possible recession to wipe the smile off the Blairite boomers’ faces, while ‘Colour Line’ features the sober words of Ambalavaner Sivanandan: “The IMF, The World Bank, GATT…under the guise of developing the Third World, plunder it.”

Of course, none of this righteousness would count for a jot if ADF didn’t back it up musically, but they do and then some, Community Music is an upgrade on Rafi’s Revenge. It’s even defter, more ingeniously integrated, a joyous caravan of samples, dub, banghra and phat migraine bass atop a choppy sea of drum’n’bass, with Chandrasonic’s combat rocky guitar providing a topping, mighty Dr Marten boot to the conscience.

Unfashionable? It’s everyone else that’s unfashionable. This is ADF’s time. Only they and the Primals truly matter right now.

© David StubbsUncut, April 2000

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