We live in dark times globally. White supremacy is on the rise in ways not seen since the 1930s. The environment is dying. Democratic Turkey is looking increasingly dictatorial. Before Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France, we feared the rise of the Marine Le Pen there. The far right is on the rise in Germany. The American president is cozying up to murderous dictators and picking fights with erstwhile allies. There are days where Handmaid’s Tale looks like non-fiction. And Brexit. Not surprisingly, a lot of the music I find myself listening to speaks to these darks and troubled times. The messages vary from Mudhoney’s loud fuck you! to all of this to messages of keeping on keeping on to self-care.
At an academic conference last year, I had a long talk with a friend about how we survive this, where it seems everyday the news brings another outrage. We talked about the need to drop out of it all now and then, to recuperate, to recalibrate. But I have found that’s not enough. I need more to maintain my equilibrium from day-to-day.
Last week, I was driving home from work, listening to two of the albums in heavy rotation in my world, Idles’ Joy As An Act of Resistance and Dilly Dally’s Heaven. About the only think these two bands have in common is they like loud guitars. But in the loud squall of guitars, Joe Talbot (Idles) and Katie Monks (Dilly Dally) pick up on these themes.
In the dreamy ‘Believe,’ Monks reminds us to celebrate ourselves and the power of love:
Believe in yourself
Believe in yourself
Believe in yourself, cause that’s all that matters
Love is an ocean, don’t hide in the shadows
And frankly, it’s easy to forget that. We get bombarded on a daily basis, a constant stream of messages from pop culture, and all around us that we’re not good enough, we’re not measuring up. In my field, it’s usually Imposter Syndrome that plagues us, a constant reminder that it’s not just that we’re not good enough, it’s that we’re frauds and fakes. And the messages we constantly hear in academia reinforce this on a daily basis, no matter our success of failures or anything else.
Meanwhile, Idles’ song, ‘Television,’ written for Talbot’s daughter to celebrate the subversiveness of embracing oneself, he sings:
If someone talked to you
The way you do to you
I’d put their teeth through
And that’s what they do
The bastards made you
Not want to look like you
Both Monks and Talbot have spoken how they wrote their respective albums in response to our times, as have many other artists. Generally, most of this music is about the fight, so to hear songs that talk of self-care is kind of surprising. And as far as I’m concerned, welcome.