Album #366: Asian Dub Foundation – Access Denied

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: London, England
  • Label: X-Ray Production
  • Best Track: Comin’ Over Here

I’ve been struggling to decide what album to finish this project with. I felt after this pretty awful year, it should be something that looks towards the future. Inspiration came in the end from the campaign to make the Asian Dub Foundation/Stewart Lee’s song ‘Comin’ Over Here’ number one on the first official Brexit day.

Given it only appeared at number 89 on the midweek charts, the campaign seems unlikely to enjoy the same level of success as The Kunts’ Christmas top 5 success. Incidentally, the way they calculate the charts these days seems a mystery to everyone but the Official Charts Company. How on Earth can a song at number 1 on the iTunes and Amazon downloads chart only be number 89 overall? From what I gather, it’s primarily decided by streaming, and while an individual stream is worth very little, the sheer volume at which the biggest artists are streamed is what puts them at the top of the charts.

The Kunts perhaps benefited from a brutally clear and direct message with their song ‘Boris Johnson is a Fucking Cunt’. ‘Comin’ Over Here’, meanwhile is a lot more subtle and satirical, and could be taken at face value if not listened to carefully – yes, the listener would have to be very ignorant, but in a year when Trump supporters were videoed dancing to Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ while waving a pro-police flag, blissfully unaware of the irony, who knows?

The song is awesome, with Stewart Lee’s stand-up routine of sarcastic moaning about Poles (“fixing all the stuff we’ve broken”), Indians (“inventing us a national cuisine”) and eventually Anglo Saxons (“laying down the basis of our entire future language and culture”), delivered over the top of the ADF’s heady mixture of dub, ragga and rock.

Released in September, the band’s tenth album Access Denied also gives a similar makeover to a Greta Thunberg speech on ‘Youthquake Part 1’. Put to music, it adds chaos and urgency to the words.

Those two tracks are the high points of this record for me though. If you have more wide-ranging tastes than I do, you might get a little more from the fusion of drum and bass, trip-hop, reggae, rap, and traditional Asian music that all comes together to create something resembling rock and punk. I find it kind of dilutes it all, even if I appreciate the musicianship. It’s also one of those albums that’s been a little left behind by the pace of 2020. While such themes as climate change, Brexit and asylum remain relevant, titles like ‘Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’ and ‘Access Denied’ remind you of how much has happened in the time between the writing, recording and release of this album. Political albums released in late 2020, through no fault of their own, have often sounded like they’re a bit behind the time and are avoiding the elephant in the room.

I’ve said all along this blog more a personal journal than a music review site second. It’s about me coming to appreciate bands and genres I didn’t previously, and realising that there are some I never will. This is an album I liked in parts and less so in others, and in that way I suppose it’s as good an album as any to finish on.

I’m not 100% sure what to do with my blog next. I’m certainly not going to review another 365 albums in 2021, but I will keep it going. Music has preserved my sanity this year, and next year looks likely to be an equally if not more tough one, so anything that can keep me happy and occupied is worthwhile.

That only leaves me to say Happy New Year, and download Comin’ Over Here today!

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