The events of 2016 saw much scrutiny placed on the relationship between politics and celebrities. Against the tumultuous backdrop of the EU Referendum and the US Election, musicians such as YG and Lady Gaga weighed in with their opinions, while in their recent BRITS acceptance speech for Best British Group the 1975’s Matty Healy urged pop stars not to “stay in your lane,” but to “use your platform.” This has not been an entirely popular trend, with many attempting to denigrate the wealthy, liberal celebrities who dare comment on the lives of the ‘common man.’ Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg even went as far as to say that celebrities are too far out of touch with the real world to comment on politics. It seemed that in 2017, the age of the political protest song might be over. Thank god, then, that VANT didn’t get the memo. Mattie Vant and co are a politically-charged rock band from London, and their music is all about straying from your lane and having something to say about the condition of the world.
Debut album DUMB BLOOD is brash, punchy, and very political. Its subject is not limited to the condition of the Western world; world politics and issues are dissected, rarely culminating in a positive outlook. The themes on offer span from the bombing of Aleppo, to sexual assault, to the materialistic futility of capitalism. Every song on the album is presented in all-caps lock, which for the sake of sanity I won’t be repeating here. The anger this gesture represents however says something about the band’s genetic make-up. As do song titles like ARE WE FREE?
The album kicks off with a rumbling ominous bass riff on THE ANSWER. The single was released prior to the release of the album, along with five other songs featured on the standard version of the album. Mattie Vant’s voice is a punk singer’s dream, seemingly a descendent of The Clash’s Joe Strummer. As a result it’s easy to miss a lot of the political ruminations in this song. After a few more listens, it becomes apparent that he’s talking about the situation in Syria, which sets the tone for the whole album. If the political spin sounds tiresome, it’s not; the guitars and drums are furious and create a jamming sound that allows the vocals to come and go. This ends with the show-stopping line: “Keep sucking my dick while my friend fucks your mother.” This is the moment where the band’s tone becomes apparent; they are not messing about, trying to score a few points by appealing to liberal Millennials. They are deadly serious, and angry, in this case directing their ire at American and British involvement in Syria. Occupation doesn’t work, nor does a more laissez-faire policy. “What’s the answer?” shouts Vant in frustration.
The next song has a more focused solution: PEACE AND LOVE is fairly self-explanatory, longing for the simple kindnesses of the hippy movement to come back and replace the current apathy, which, according to the next song, Lampoon, shows that “everything is dumb with this generation.” It is a whirlwind opening to an album, keeping up a fast pace, thrashing guitars and pounding drums. Vant’s voice rises to a punk-worthy scream, countering the general lack of variety in his vocal range. There is a general pattern emerging by this point: guitar-heavy, prone to long wandering solos, dominate proceedings. Each song continues on this political rampage. I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD and FLY-BY ALIEN are frustrated railings against society’s vacuous condition, while PARKING LOT is about a sexual assault in a car park which goes unnoticed, or rather uncared-about. It’s relentless- even when it slows down, the same song will end up as fast and angry as its predecessor. The moral of the album appears in I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD – “I don’t trust mankind.” It’s not a positive outlook, but it’s not supposed to be- VANT have something to say about world politics. In an interview with DIY magazine, Mattie Vant shares hopes that this album will kick-start a similar trend in other bands. I want a lot of bands to come out and have something to say, rather than going on about popping pills and dancing in a fucking club. That would be amazing,” he says. In the face of criticism directed towards politically aware musicians and celebrities, VANT hope they’ve found The Answer.
My only issue with this album is the way it’s been shared before release. There are 13 songs on the standard edition, of which only seven are new. Granted, there are another eight on the deluxe edition- but why spread it out that way? The album may have pointed out a lot of problems in society, but this annoying pursuit of more of my money marks it down a notch. Nevertheless, it is angry punk music of the highest order.