Lockdown-inspired polemic from London singer-songwriter Sean Taylor.
Release Date: Available for pre-order now
Label: Sean Taylor Songs
Formats: CD / DL
The year 2020 was frustrating and inspiring in equal parts for London’s Sean Taylor. Frustrating, because the periods of lockdown and unavailability of live venues meant that he’s had to spend the longest period away from live performance of his career. Inspiring, because the enforced solitude of lockdown ignited the dangerous spark of creativity that always visits Sean during periods of darkness. That creativity has resulted in Lockdown: an amazing collection of polemic and vitriol (aimed, I have to agree, at the right targets…), interspersed with some delightful, thoughtful, instrumental interludes. All recorded at Sean’s home in London, with overdubs from producer and long-time collaborator Mark Hallman applied at Mark’s studio in Austin, Texas.
Sean explains the rationale for and the theme of the album as follows:
“Because we are fighting for our lives, now is the time to take sides. No more scapegoats. We are all complicit in our staged democracy. More people have died from coronavirus in the UK than any other country in Europe. The UK and America have been at the forefront of this failure of capitalism. The impact of Black Lives matter, and climate justice campaigns, and Free Palestine movements challenge the establishment, offering hope and resistance. In this time of economic and political unrest, minorities become the common enemy and are used as scapegoats.”
And that’s the album in a nutshell. Of the ten tracks, seven are essentially raps that deal with the causes listed in Sean’s statement, with the polemic broken up by piano solo versions of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Für Elise and the funky instrumental title track. The latter an intriguing concoction of percussion, glissando piano and dreamy guitar licks that allows Sean to demonstrate his virtuoso instrumental prowess. And the music that provides the background to Sean’s raps isn’t bad either, particularly his piano on No Borders; the simmering, swampy band sounds on Black Lives Matter and Palestine and the sax embellishments to Herd Immunity Part 2. But, it has to be said, that despite the unquestionable musicianship, this is NOT background music. These tunes are intended to be listened to and to stimulate thought.
Sean is, of course, no stranger to At The Barrier. This new album comes hot on the heels of his Live! in London collection that came out in March 2020 (read the Live! In London review here.) He’s a hugely talented singer/songwriter who has spent his life touring the world for the past 20 years, a highly adept guitarist and is blessed with a vocal style that captures the nuances of Tom Waits, John Martyn and Van Morrison. Lockdown is his 11th album.
So – what about the political messaging? Well, opening track, Herd Immunity Part 1 is a humdinger. It’s a virulent swipe at the Johnson government’s inept handling of the COVID pandemic and includes lines like “You chose Brexit over breathing,” compares the incompetency of “Killer Clown” Johnson to the calmly scientifically driven approach of Angela Merkel, quotes Dominic Cummings saying “Let old people die,” accuses Johnson of stealing racist thunder from Farage and Tommy Johnson and repeats the refrain “Stay Alert – Die Quietly – Don’t Complain.” This is powerful stuff, and there’s almost a case to suggest that it should be broadcast on every media channel, every night, to ensure that the message gets across.
Elsewhere, The March Is On deals with the climate crisis and slams the disregard for law, denial of climate change and withdrawal from international agreements that have been the stock-in-trade of the world’s more authoritarian leaders (our own included…); No Borders espouses the concepts of One Nation and a United Nation of Cultures, observes the beauty of lingual and cultural diversity and gives encouragement to not fear difference. Black Lives Matter expresses the sentiment that the song’s title suggests and looks back to the early years of the 20th century to demonstrate how slow change and enlightenment have been to arrive. Palestine explores the divisions and persecutions that blight the state of Israel; this time the refrain is “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Herd Immunity Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off and hits out at the decisions that allowed COVID- infected patients to return to Care Homes (described as “an act of genocide”) and the cronyism that made such a mess of the procurement of anti-COVID PPE for the health sector and the spectacular failure of the track and trace facility. And in the refrain of Keep Walking, Captain Tom, Sean is under no illusion that things will be getting better any time soon.
Social media or, more accurately, its misuse is tackled in closing track Free To Do. In particular, the lyrics target social media’s exploitation by the like of Cambridge Analytica and the “contamination of society” by trolling and unchallenged lies that can be used by those with sinister intent to impact lives.
If you’ve got this far, you’ll have gathered that Lockdown is not an album for the faint of heart. If you agree with Sean’s messages, you’ll love the album. If you don’t, then perhaps you should listen a little more closely…
Lockdown is available solely from Sean’s website (see below) and is not on Spotify or any other digital platforms.
Watch the official video for Herd Immunity Part 1 from the album here: