Saturday, 5 March 2011

Arbeit Macht Frei with Fleet Foxes

This new Fleet Foxes track is really very beautiful and it's even getting some mainstream radio play. I think I prefer Local Natives in terms of earnest, flannel-shirted, West Coast adult-pop, but I'll give props to FF for sheer skill, musicianship and whatnot. Sometimes there are bands who you can't love, but you can easily admire. On this side of the pond I might place Elbow in that niche.

But hear this: I have some serious grievances with those lyrics, poetic as they are. The sentiment of 'Helplessness Blues' - unless I have massively misconstrued this - comes from the mind of a person so blindly privileged, so steeped in lazy, developed world luxuries and Oxfam-donating platitudes that it would be offensive even to a working class American, let alone one of the world's billion people living on less than a dollar a day.

The idea that anyone would want to escape a life of writing smart arse love songs and touring the world in order to spend their days doing manual fucking labour in an apple orchard while their girlfriend waits tables is so embarrassingly facetious, so idiotically sexist, so creepily Soviet, in fact so positively fucking Stalinist that I can barely believe they recorded it.

No matter how insignificant and meaningless you feel your life is, as you wander round downtown Seattle/Montreal/Brooklyn/Hackney drinking Americanos and sighing as you open your MacBook Pro for yet another grinding 5-hour day of checking Twitter and pissing around on Final Cut, let's GET A GRIP HERE PEOPLE. You are not picking rubbish off a poisonous dump. You are not mining koltan in the Congo. You are not pulling turnips out of a frozen field in East Anglia, you are not even working in a bloody supermarket or driving a bus or anything that might be considered a PROPER NORMAL JOB with sick pay and benefits - and if you really, really want to work on an orchard you can fly off to have a HOLIDAY on a FARM!

Life isn't always easy, but let's not glamorise fruit-picking, waitressing or arthritis in old age as though it's somehow the more noble and honest choice. That way lies the labour camp, my friend. Wow, I sound like a fucking neocon technocrat here. Ah well, I'll risk it.

Please, have I missed the point? Is there a whole level of irony that has passed me by? I'm more than willing to step off my soapbox if presented with the evidence. Take a listen.

"If I had an orchard
I'd work til I'm raw
If I had an orchard
I'd work til I'm sore
And you would wait tables and soon run the store"

1 comment:

ash said...

I dunno, Chal, I've definitely spent days at work in my warm offices with their exclusive postcodes and enviably views over Georgian masterpieces wishing for a life much simpler, where I can tend trees, grow vegetables and occasionally submit smug lifestyle-cum-recipe pieces to the Observer.

I suppose the difference is that I'm paid such a piss-poor amount that I genuinely can't sell up and buy River Cottage...