Twenty-five years ago, Edwyn Collins scored the biggest hit of his career with “A Girl Like You”. Buried near the end of this international smash was a wistful lament about the times: “Too many protest singers, not enough protest songs.” Considering the current political climate, it’s pretty clear that we could use as many modern day protest songs as possible to help the good folk of Planet Earth come together and kick against the pricks.
Fortunately Ron Hawkins, one of Canada’s sharpest, most politically astute pens, has recognized the need for some new music that can educate and inspire change. The principal songwriter of beloved rock band Lowest of the Low (singer/guitarist Hawkins, drummer David Alexander, multi-instrumentalist Lawrence Nichols, bassist Greg Smith, guitarist Michael McKenzie) has trained his keen observational eye on the state of the world and has created a universal call to action railing against divisiveness and complacency. We’ll let Ron pick up the thread from there:
“It’s been a while since I felt the need to take the small p in the politics of my songwriting and capitalize it. Probably not since the 80s, when Reaganomics rankled and the threat of nuclear annihilation seemed to loom on the horizon. I spent the 90s and onwards embedding my politics in the personal stories of people trying to get through the day. I wrote about the trees instead of the forest. But with fascism on the rise again throughout the world it’s time to hit ‘caps lock’ on that P once again.”
Enter Agitpop (Warner Music Canada), the new Lowest of the Low record about revolution and redistribution… liberation, love and justice. Produced by Grammy-winner David Bottrill (Tool, Muse, Peter Gabriel, Smashing Pumpkins), the album serves as a mobilizing manifesto that examines the dark clouds engulfing society then challenges the listener to make a difference. In case you were worried that all sounds like a joyless screed, rest easy: it’s also hopeful, funny and melodic as fuck.
Most notably, the lyrics are an even greater cause for celebration than fans have grown accustomed to since Shakespeare…My Butt, the Low’s venerable debut. The new album is brimming with ridiculously catchy, impassioned rallying cries for widescreen activism (“Permanent Revolution”, “The Ballad Of Late-Era Capitalism”, “New Wave Action Plan”, “The Night Of A Thousand Guns”), small-scale altruism (“Midnight Maryanne”, “Imogene”, “Seven A”, “When She Falls”) and a mixture of the two (“The Barricade”, “Love N’ Justice”, “F-Noise”, “A Thousand Lights”, “Bottle Rockets”, “Bonnie And Clyde”).
As Agitpop unfolds it reveals a multitude of deftly devised lyrical Easter eggs, alternately playful and poignant, that tip their cap to seminal recordings from the group’s major influences, as well as their own collective mythology. Trainspotters can listen for nods to The Clash, Bob Marley, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and The Smiths, while also encountering allusions to classic Low songs “Bleed A Little While Tonight”, “Salesmen, Cheats And Liars”, “Black Monday” and “Just About ‘The Only’ Blues”.
Back to Ron for the last word: “Songs don’t make a revolution, that’s not their job. They exist to be the oxygen we breathe or the nutrients we need to keep the blood pumping so we can get shit done. Your heart is a muscle and it’s as big as your fist.”