Pop Grenade

Pop Grenade Review

Matthew Collin’s forthcoming book Pop Grenade, available from Zero Books May 29, posits that music is still a vital form of resistance in these latter days of Capitalism. Broken into six chapters, the book moves in a more or less West to East direction, traveling, as well, down the last forty years – we start with the raw political force of Public Enemy at their height, moving next to the ultimately tragic arc of the Love Parade in Berlin. From there, we accompany a group of techno renegades as they travel central Europe, visiting the war-torn Balkans to inject some humanity into a hell-scape. Next stop is the slightly surreal era of Saakashvili’s Georgia as he enlists the help of Boney M to regain the rebellious states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Skipping back West, we find ourselves in the tear-gas clouded Gezi Park, as the Turks push back against Erdoğan and a swelling religio-neoliberalism. Finally, we head to Moscow, to get a feel for Putin’s Russia after more than a decade of control, and the nascent push-back by the likes of Pussy Riot and others.

What sets this book apart from most other cultural retrospectives is that Collin is able to speak from experience – in a material way, this book follows the course of his life as a journalist and as a human being. He is able to call upon his own feelings as an English teen, hearing the American intensity of Public Enemy for the first time; to recount the drug-fuelled, loved-up abandon of the rave scene on both sides of the Channel; can speak to the searing juxtaposition of a bucolic Bosnian countryside shelled to mud and rubble. But it’s not just his own point of view he brings to bear – the text is peppered with anecdotes and snippets of interviews he has conducted himself with the key players – Chuck D, Westbam, Yekaterina Samutsevich.

The mixture of the personal and the journalistic, interspersed with historical allusions and slices of local flavour, paint a rich scene in each of the chapters, a uniquely situated view. Of course, ours is still a broken world. The resistance documented here, the spiritual sustenance offered by music in earnest – it has yet to carry the day. The politicised stance held by Public Enemy has been co-opted, “gangster rap” wholly commercialised. The dream of a better Tomorrow offered up by the rubble of the Berlin Wall has soured into the austerity-ridden Today. Putin and his Orthodox thugs still reign uncontested in Russia. Islamism continues to rise in Turkey. What Collin does in casting a light on these people, these groups of dissidents and self-imposed exiles, is not offer up some celebration, some self-satisfied recollection. No – he points to the way people, organically, naturally, use music to sustain each other when pushed up against the wall. And in so doing, offers us an old tool, better understood, for the coming struggles.

Where have all the protest songs gone? Clearly you haven’t been listening to the right stuff.


Posted on April 14, 2015, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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