Musical interlude

The DLR’s socio-politico-economic system is modelled on a form of socialist anarchism. That is, everyone has equal amounts of no money and no one is in control of the situation.

Hence, here we devote the blog floor to the DLR’s resident musician who reviews Steve Mason at The Scala on 13 April 2011:

Mason throws a brick
The DLR caught Steve Mason in ebullient mood last night in front of an expectant crowd at the Scala. As ebullient as you can be, that is, while singing desperately sad songs about depression, loss, suicide and broken love.

This very contradiction is apparent throughout his latest release, Boys Outside, the first record to come out under his own name after a career spent recording with The Beta Band, Black Affair and as King Biscuit Time. On the face of it, the record ought to leave you bruised, dark and drained as you delve into the almost embarrassingly open wounds of Mason’s psyche, but somehow this never happens.

Would a smile really hurt, Steve?

The album’s standout track Lost and Found comes early in the set, a poetic look at despair and salvation: ‘I come up for air as the rock gets thicker / she holds me down and my legs get stiffer / the cold, the sun, the dark, the river / the shiver, the mud, the black forever.’ Despite a sinister start, the overwhelming feeling here and throughout the set is one of catharsis, of joining Mason on a cold but cleansing swim through the inky depths towards the promise of warmth and sunshine.

There is hidden violence in some of the tracks, such as Yesterday; an artist revelling in the golden hues of a petrol bomb sunset. ‘Someday I’ll come for you / we’ll make a cocktail or two / we’ll travel down the road / and watch the stonework explode.’

But some of this violence is filtered through idealistic political rabble-rousing, something the DLR appreciates. Mason took some time between songs, for instance, to voice his discontent with The Man (honestly, The Man; is there no one who likes him?). His anarchic calls to the audience to march on Parliament, Molotovs in hand, and ‘fight the power’ may have been lacking direction and somewhat clichéd, but were nevertheless refreshingly rock and roll. The political rhetoric escalated through the night, and you get the feeling that this might be a redirection of anger once reserved for himself. ‘Does it all come down to me?’ he asks over and over again on All Come Down, before the song ends in a euphoric swell, suggesting a welcome unburdening.

Despite the gloomy subject matter, he seems like a man more content with life than he has been for some time, even praising his record label (Domino) on stage for being so supportive – when was the last time you heard someone do that?
Disappointingly, there was an excessive use of electronic backing tracks throughout, but it was nevertheless a heartfelt rendition of one of 2010’s best albums. At one point he tells us a story about someone at the previous night’s show in Manchester who said to him: ‘I use this word far too often, but you’re a fucking genius, mate. You and that other bloke.’ Not the most eloquent endorsement, maybe, but he might just have a point.

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