Six Of The Best: Novyi Lef | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Newcastle’s electronic music duo NOVYI LEF drop their politically charged new single, Value. Inspired by the likes of The Normal, New Order, Le Tigre and LCD Soundsystem the track is about our relationship with work and it shapes our identity.

Here, the pair tell us about the political sounds that have influenced them…

When we first started NOVYI LEF, we were determined it was going to be a project with its politics to the fore. With Value, we’ve created our most directly and personally political track yet, so we thought it might be interesting to look at some other political music that’s inspired us. Here’s Euan’s top 6 selection, in no order:

1. Billy Bragg – To Have And To Have Not

When I think of “political music”, my thoughts immediately turn to Billy Bragg. He’s made his living producing insightful, sensitive songs either on love, politics or both, and To Have And Have Not from his debut album Life’s A Riot With Spy vs Spy is a song I continually come back to. Somehow, almost 40 years since it was first released, the razor sharp lyrics are as relevant as the day they were written, and it truly encapsulates some of the issues we were trying to talk about with Value, around how we view our self-worth through the prism of our jobs. As Billy says – “the system has failed you – don’t fail yourself”

2. Parquet Courts – Total Football

Total Football, from the album of the same name, manages that rare trick – talking clearly through metaphors. With some of the keenest political lyrics I’ve personally ever come across – “Collectivism and autonomy are not mutually exclusive!” – the song frames its political ideology around the 1970’s Dutch football system with which it shares its name. And somehow it all makes perfect sense. What a tune.

3. Stereolab – Ping Pong

Synths, Laeticia Sadier’s dreamy vocals, and Marxism. What more needs to be said? It’s like an economics lecture that you can dance to, which is definitely what we aimed for with Value. Plus it’s just a class song too. Now sing along everybody: “Bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery

Huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery”

4. Pulp – I Spy 

Possibly the Pulp-iest Pulp song possible – here Jarvis Cocker manages to be absolutely filthy whilst spinning a yarn about sexual revenge across the class divide. In Owen Hatherley’s excellent book on Pulp, Uncommon, he says that while Common People is Pulp’s most well-known song, it’s this track which immediately follows it on Different Class which is where their kitchen sink politics truly finds its home, bringing class war into the bedroom.

5. Le Tigre – My My Metrocard (giving new meaning to the phrase party politics)

Kathleen Hanna’s entire musical career has been political – from the raw riot grrrl of Bikini Kill through to her most recent indie punk with The Julie Ruin – and sandwiched in the middle is my personal favourite and a huge inspiration to NOVYI LEF, Le Tigre. Whereas Bikini Kill brought the anger, Le Tigre truly gave a new meaning to the phrase party politics. This song from their debut album is a perfect case in point – catchy, shouty, and contains some brilliant lines. “Oh fuck Giuliani/He’s such a fucking jerk” has recently gained a new relevance, as the former Mayor of New York reappeared as Donald Trump’s attorney, attempting to overturn the 2020 election and losing his license to practice law. Le Tigre knew what they were talking about.

6. The Specials – Rat Race

In their early teens, it seems like everyone has a “phase” – whether that’s their metal phase, their emo phase etc. Personally, I had a ska phase, which would seem to be a less common option. After American third-wave ska punk was my entry point, I delved into full-on Specials worship. It was sunny music with gritted teeth, intentionally grim and sarcastic lyrics backed with danceable ska rhythms and a punk edge. Their marriage of pop and politics was a huge influence on both my musical and political development. A personal favourite of mine is the non-album single Rat Race, a cutting criticism of a university toff lording it over the protagonist with “one art O level”, backed with plucked piano strings and some excellent twang-y guitar.

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