Content Warning: Racial slurs, homophobia
by Chris Jarvis
A few minutes’ walk from the dreaming spires for which the city is famed lies East Oxford’s Cowley Road – the hub where ‘kids of the multiculture’ grow up. An area undergoing rapid gentrification, it still retains its working class heritage, ethnic diversity, and unique character under the strains of the expansionist middle classes settling, with students and university professors increasingly filling the nearby terraces.
Cowley Road is home to the O2 Academy. Previously the Zodiac, the venue is emblematic of other changes in the area – a corporate takeover of a formerly independent music venue. Across the road sit branches of Subway and Costa, but a little further down is the Truck Store – the pivot of the local independent music scene. Here, at Oxford’s O2 Academy, Manchester-born Sonic Boom Six get set to tear up the stage on a Friday evening. Continue Reading
By Chris Jarvis
Yes, yes, we all know that 2016 has been an unmitigated cluster-fuck, with rising fascism, worsening humanitarian crises and intensifying conflict. In moments of darkness, many of us turn to the arts world – especially music – for comfort, for release, for explanation. With David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Erik Petersen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Menza, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, and too many others all having passed away, many have found music to have also fallen on dark times.
That notwithstanding, 2016 has been a year of some undeniably and uniquely brilliant music too, especially music that espouses messages of a better world, of political analysis, of radical alternatives. Here are the 20 best of those radical releases from the past year.
By Chris Jarvis
For most, Norfolk boys Shock ! Hazard will appear as something of an antilogy. Their sound and aesthetics are clearly rooted in and influenced by early heavy metal pioneers like Led Zeppelin and the less flamboyant hair metallers of the 1980s – thumping riffs, extended guitar solos and screeching vocals galore. More than anything, this sound and this scene has been known for its bone-headed hedonism, its sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll attitude, and the carefree and unrestricted antics of its participants; hardly the place you go to find revolutionary calls to action or heavily politicised lyricism. Putting aside the question as to whether participation in a counter-culture is an inherently political act for a minute, unlike other musical movements, from punk to folk to hip-hip, this straight-up, hard hitting, in your face rock and roll, has made its name in part for being almost overtly apolitical.
by Chris Jarvis
For anyone of my generation who group up in the Midlands with a taste for alternative music, Johnny Doom is something of an icon. Tuning into Kerrang Radio (when it was still broadcast on FM), it was the dulcet tones of this Brummie legend that would really excite, much more so than even the anarchic Tim Shaw or the esoteric Nick Margerisson. Unsurprisingly, he has won accolades for his wry radio conversations, being named Brummie of the Year in 2008.
But Johnny has a long history within music outside of his radio work. Becoming active initially in the late 1980s in the influential Crust Punk band Doom, Johnny went on to form the less acclaimed, but equally important Police Bastard, who fuse a raw and brutal aggression with thrash metal riffs and hardcore compositions. Encapsulated within that sound is an anti-authoritarian politics which is evident even from the band’s name. Because of this, we decided to talk to Johnny Doom about his politics and the role it plays in his music as part of our series Music That Matters.