Watching people getting excited about shouty non-musos Rage Against the Machine scoring the UK’s Christmas Number One for one of the most banal “rebellion” songs ever put to disc, I couldn’t help but recall watching RATM playing that “tune” ‘Killing in the Name Of’ at the Big Day Out a few years back. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen: several hundred youngsters jumping up and down and angrily shouting out right on cue: “Fuck You, I Won’t Do What You Tell Me.”
The irony, sadly, seemed to be lost on all of them.
And now they’ve gone out and done what they’ve been told again: obediently buying enough slices of this piece of nihilistic dreck to propel it to the top of the UK’s singles charts just in time for Christmas. Neil Davenport at Spiked reckons “the chart victory . . . suggests today’s yoof might be the uncoolest generation in history.” I reckon he’s on to something.
Although the single is meant to sound like a blast of righteous fury against authority, it actually sounds like a spoilt 14-year-old refusing to tidy up his room. ‘Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!’ yelps the chorus. Play this after Stiff Little Fingers’ volcanic ‘Suspect Device’, with its rather more searing ‘they take away our freedom in the name of liberty,’ and you’ll see what I mean. Likewise, Eddie & The Hotrods’ ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ managed to combine class anger – ‘tired of doing day jobs with no thanks for what I do’ – with a yearning, emotional quest for freedom.”
He’s talking about the songs of my youth now: songs that rang out with much, much more than just conformist whining.
Most of which would probably be lost on today’s generation of compliant young conformists.