FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: COP OUT
Today marks the close of the COP26 climate summit; a COP being a Conference of the Parties and the parties being all nation states that are parties to the convention. I got that from the UN website. A quick history lesson: the first COP was Kyoto (1997) – oddly not number one but instead labelled COP3. After COPs 4 & 5, there was a COP6 (The Hague) followed by a COP6-2 (Bonn) and one every year up to this year’s COP26 (Glasgow). I guess, in recent memory, most of us will recall Paris (2015) where at the time some progress seemed to have been made. But then came Trump followed by Bolsonaro and the embedded contrary influence of nationalist opportunists elsewhere; Orbán, Erdoğan, Boris Johnson.
Will COP26 achieve anything? I always have great doubts about macro solutions but at least the world is talking about the problem and the surprise announcement that the US and China have pledged to ‘recall their firm commitment to work together to achieve the 1.5C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement’ is better than nowt. It strikes me that amid all the noise we need clarity around climate change; what are those micro interventions we can all make that will collectively make some difference. We need to understand what happens to our waste. We need to make do and mend much more while teaching our children how to value and repair things, not just shrug and order a new one from Amazon.
Individuals have greater power than commonly accepted. We can choose not to consume, not to buy a green-washed brand, to support local producers and contest the illogicality of seeking to trade with far flung nations more than with those on our doorstep. I just wish someone would say that on Question Time. You have to believe that small steps can matter and hope for an implant of some kind of wisdom among those who lead. Or change the leaders.
I have deleted and then rewritten the above homily several times as it has no direct relationship with this week’s choice of music, other than it would be nice to survive as a species so we can continue to enjoy and be inspired by great music. I just felt I needed to say something as we idle at the climate crossroads.
Here is a young singer-songwriter with much to say in a manner most eloquent. Daniel Etherton grew up in Kingston, Surrey where, coincidentally, I have lived for the past 36 years. He began his musical journey collaborating with local musicians and cutting his teeth by going to gigs at The Fighting Cocks, a legendary rock pub where the bar staff look like they might murder you on an off-night but are actually as nice as pie. Dan is fast perfecting his craft which as you will hear is hardly akin to the punk-metal fare frequently served up at the Cocks. He says he is excited by the ability of music to connect people and from the sound of this recent double A-side single, he’s not doing a bad job of it himself.
The first track on the single, “Good in Goodbye”, was written in the wake of the passing of Dan Etherton’s Grandad at a time when restrictions made it hard to properly celebrate his life. The songwriter poses the question ‘how do you find the good in goodbye’ and answers it with direct, emotive simplicity. Vocally he balances pop strains with a genuinely soulful note and a contemporary feel which is perfect for his subject matter and certain to resonate with the many. The second song, “Sand”, initially seems a lighter reflection but again follows the realisation of loss within the family and the inevitability of death. We are unable to hold back time but can live life with love lost, yet never forgotten.
Over the past year or so we’ve followed the fortunes of LA singer-songwriter Emily Zuzik both as a solo artiste and in her guise as a member of synthwave project, Woves. The trio, which comprises producer/composer Josh Ricchio and drummer Kolby Wade alongside her, has shared a further single, “1am”, ahead of Woves' forthcoming album, Chaos Mesa, due out on 10 December. I feel that Woves’ music works particularly well because of both the grounded lyricism of Emily Zuzik and expressive musicianship her bandmates bring to a genre that can be a little more esoteric.
“1am” recounts how a crazy ex-partner calls in the early hours while the recipient has finally learned not to pick up. The call though rakes up all the good and bad in the relationship, the thoughts that things might turn out different but of course won’t. Not answering affirms the beginning of a new direction for the narrator. Emily Zuzik’s dusky tones weave seductively through the pulsing analogue synths and drum patterns of her compardres, all working towards a unifying feel to the music.
Back in October 2020, I enjoyed the eccentric fun of “La Danse” from Brighton five-piece Slant and waxed somewhat lyrically about it in this column. Eschewing the practise of many acts who release rapid fire singles, Slant has been keeping its powder dry only to burst back on to the scene with a new single and promise of an EP to follow in 2022. The new song, “Eat The Moon”, promises to take you, via a helicopter ride, to a place where you are dancing in space, eating chunks of the moon with a gigantic metal spoon; madly intriguing stuff, and a song that has quickly grown on me.
There’s a fine sense of escapism about this band; one which trades the discontent of youth and mundanity of life for flights of fancy. Fronted by Katy Smith and Frankie Stanley’s acid vocals, driven by a busy rhythm section and punctuated by the odd burst of weird guitar, “Eat The Moon” fizzes along a pop-punk flight path dissing fake friends along the way. Naturally theatrical and entertaining, Slant comes across as a band you would really want to see live. Helicopter or not, if you are in landing distance of Brighton, you can do so at the Green Door Store on 24 November.
Bristol-based Silty and Mo, aka The Actions, describe themselves as an Electronic/Alt/Rock duo with a Dark/Psych edge. Active for well over a decade, The Actions released its latest album, Flourish, earlier this year to great acclaim. The band trade in highly atmospheric soundscapes, finely tuned and honed to frequently stunning heights. It was indeed a combination of powerfully compelling imagery set against a beautifully haunting soundtrack that drew me to the band and its latest, as yet unreleased track, “Displaced”.
“Displaced” will form part of an album The Actions are currently working on to be released next year. The reason for previewing it now was to support the Legacy Of War Foundation and its No More War campaign. This initiative calls for contributions through any form of art via direct downloads. The striking images in The Actions’ video accompanying “Displaced” were all taken by photographer and writer Giles Duley at Kabul Surgical Centre run by EMERGENCY. The song, originally written about war refugees, has a sparse hymnal quality to it which truly elevates the emotive subject material. It is impossible not to be moved by the simple power of its message.
Photo of Let’s Eat Grandma by El Hardwick
Let’s end now with something contemplative, yet of a different nature. Formed by in 2013 by schoolfriends Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth aka Let's Eat Grandma began making music aged 13 and already have two albums under their belt. A third is due to hit in April 2022 and the duo this week shared its title track, “Two Ribbons”, which will be the final song on the album. Beautifully reflective and finely woven, the song is Jenny Hollingworth’s poignant ode to two of the closest people in her life and how her relationships with them shifted over time through loss and life changes: “Like two ribbons, still woven although we are fraying.” I can’t think of a better way to close today’s column.