Saturday, November 5, 2011

Double Negative: Vic Godard and Subway Sect

"Parallel Lines", one of Vic Godard's greatest songs, comes from a similarly 'rigorously apolitical' (Howard Devoto's words) place as "Shot By Both Sides", declaring, 'Class war will never change history...we've got no belief in your truth'. Like Devoto, Godard seemed non-aligned: the outsider as acute, unforgiving observer.

Subway Sect - Parallel Lines 1981

He wasn't scared to tackle weighty subjects: predestination, in the awesomely clangorous "Chain Smoking"; media mind-control and the corruption of language in "Nobody's Scared", which starts with the salvo 'Everyone is a prostitute/Singing the song in prison'.

Subway Sect - Chain Smoking 1977

Subway Sect - Nobody's Scared 1978

"Double Negative" was his passive-aggressive answer, close in spirit to Devoto's concept of 'negative drive'. Then there were the meta-rock anthems, critique with a beat, like "Don't Split It", which famously proclaimed 'Don't want to play rock 'n' roll'.

Subway Sect - Double Negative 1978

Subway Sect - Don't Split It 1978

"A Different Story" was a blistering critique of rock as the opiate of the (young) people. 'We've just been waiting for it to fall/We oppose all rock 'n' roll', sings Godard. Only cowardice, the song argues, prevents us all from stepping of the beaten track of rock's twenty-year-old narrative and entering some kind of new cultural space. Ironically, by the time "A Different Story" was recorded as the flipside of their second single "Ambition", it had become their most traditional rock-sounding song.

Subway Sect - A Different Story 1978

Dissatisfied with the recording of "Ambition", just one of many Subway Sect songs languishing in the can, the band's manager Bernie Rhodes - in the band's absence - sped it up and added a clumsy synth-line, making an already Who-like anthem sound even more like "Baba O'Riley" or "Won't Get Fooled Again".

Subway Sect - Ambition 1978

The Who - Baba O'Riley 1971

The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again 1971

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