The repressive regimes of Thatcher and Reagan in the 1970s were a vital catalyst to Punk and gave the impetus to a new wave of protest music. However, aside from a brief period of panic, the lack of coherent political agenda meant that this 'scene' played out fairly tamely leaving the controlling elite relatively unscathed.
The rage against the machine was fun while it lasted and provide encouragement to the pockets of resistance that still limp on to this day. Nevertheless, when it comes to rebel rock, apathy in the UK is the prevailing trend coupled with a greater preoccupation with social networks than social change.
Stateside, its a similarly depressing story. The specter of Donald Trump in the White House may have shaken the radicals and liberals but, to date, has not stirred anything resembling a forceful musical movement advocating change.
For the moment, non-rednecks have to be content with pockets of resistance where they can find them. Gerry Spehar, a one time investment banker, returning to music making after an hiatus of over three decades is an unlikely figure to man the front line but beggars can't be choosers.
His second album after his 2017 debut, 'I Hold Gravity', was "inspired/horrified by America's political turmoil". All songs are about the state of the divided American nation and four directly reference Trump.
In Thank You Donald, the shock the election victory is enough to convince a suicidal Democrat to delay taking his own life and Bitch Heaven is based on Woody Guthrie’s real-life encounter with Trump’s dad.
The record was co-produced by Spehar and Paul Lacques and features most of Lacques' band, 'I See Hawks In L.A'. Spehar doesn't confine himself to one genre so you find snatches of traditional folk, bluegrass and swampy blues competing with everything from New Orleans mambo to Latin pop.
Two songs - b>Barrier Reef and Son Of An Immigrant - deal with the theme of immigration; the latter poses the topical question: "Why is so hard to love one another?" A Soldier's Spiritual is a country waltz about U.S. veterans growing old without the security of a pension to fall back on.
Alongside these pressing contemporary issues, the singer seeks to explore what we might learn from history lessons relating to Lyndon Johnson's term as president (Carnival) and the WWII Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour which left the " star spangled banner tattered and torn"
Although he manages to communicate feelings of sorrow, outrage and anger, his chief verbal weapons are irony and humor. "Don't tell me I'm angry, that makes me mad", he quips in the title track and in What Would Jesus Do?, he ponders what Jesus' political agenda might be in the improbable event of a second coming: "Would he cut taxes on the rich and leave the poor without healthcare?".
Unfortunately, the reluctance to go full tilt towards fire and fury tirades tends to diminish the force of the messages Spehar wants to hammer home. The worst example of this is Freedom To Grab which risks trivializing Trump's infamous pussy-grabbing boast.
For all its weaknesses, he deserves praise for making his opposition plain and being an example for younger rebels to follow.
Gerry Spehar's website