Kingmaker, Primary Instinct, S*M*A*S*H, Tim Yen Yen, Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences - Electio Pop: helen llewelyn products nineteen

Helen Llewelyn 20/10/2010

With Government coalition cuts set to hit hard, and the dividing lines being drawn more starkly than they have since Thatcher's 1980s. It's high time that music is utilised as a vehicle again to put across a political message and express our frustrations at the world around us. Helen Llewelyn head of the helen llewelyn product nineteen label has put together a compilation featuring the likes of Kingmaker, S*M*A*S*H, Tim Yen Yen, Extradition Order, and Paul Hawkins and thee Awkward silences. In a piece written especially for GIITTV zine, Helen Llewelyn takes us through the album's gensis sparked by the current political situation in the UK and the artists that he chose for this new compilation disc:

At 'helen llewelyn product nineteen' we decided to put out “Electio Pop”, a Political Protest album, the weekend after the election. We were reading the reaction in blogs, facebook comments and the letters' pages and thought all this anger could bring a new cultural wealth. It might be exactly what Britain needs; we'd become too complacent, even our students weren't political anymore.

When it looked probable that the Tories would form the next government, our anger was suddenly replaced with a rush of excitement. The last time we had a Conservative government, unemployment was so high that there was no choice but to form a band, for an indie record label, this is a great thing. Therefore, we started calling around to see who would be up for recording a song for an album that, we hoped, would soundtrack the certain idiocy of the next 4 years.

We wrote a brief asking the artists to be themselves and not fall into the comfort of a Billy Bragg style protest, and to illustrate the point included examples of political songs from our youth that would be perfect: Armchair Anarchist - Kingmaker, Primary Instinct - Senseless Things, Lady Love - S*M*A*S*H…

We naturally turned to the Anti-Folk crowd first, as writing songs with meaning and humour is intrinsic to that scene and there are some great bands coming out of it right now; Extradition Order, David Cronenberg's Wife and Paul Hawkins for starters. Then we asked some bands that we knew were Political to get involved, including Les Carter (USM) and Ian Button from Thrashing Doves - a band killed by Thatcher being a fan.

Armchair Anarchist was a teenage anthem for us; the chorus is perfect for an angst ridden youth. So we spent a few weeks calling round to find Kingmaker. Out of the blue we got an email from someone running a fansite who put us in touch with John Andrew. With Loz AWOL, we didn't think they'd agree to be involved, but to our great excitement they did, and away we went.

The full line up became:

David Cronenberg's Wife, Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences, Extradition Order, Tim Ten Yen, Ian Button, Kingmaker MMX, Les Carter's Abdoujaparov, Steve White, Bozwood, Fil OK from Nag Nag Nag and Being.

We didn't want the album to be a reflection of just our political views; we wanted it to be a snapshot of what our generation was feeling right now. Which means there are a few sentiments on here that we don't necessarily agree with!

On a personal note, I have been a Liberal Democrat since the mid 90's when I heard Simon Hughes speak at a EU conference. However, Nick Clegg and I have never got on. Ironically, my recent hatred of Clegg has gained some rationality. He's proved himself to be a Tory in a Liberal (organic cotton) jacket, and the fairtrade fibers are starting to make him itch.

As a Liberal, my issues with the coalition are mixed. I childishly wanted the Tories to be left to deal with the mess on their own, however, at other times I see that 'on paper' having Liberals in the cabinet is a good thing. But I'm talking about Liberals like Hughes and Cable. I can't help but think that the coalition is striping the Liberals of their identity. A coalition should be about compromise, not bullies and sheep.

Steve White from the Protest family has stronger views:

“The coalition government is nothing but bad news for working people in this country. Unfortunately, thirteen years of a so-called Labour government did nothing to repeal the restrictive anti-union legislation of Thatcher's government, and the coalition and the courts seem set to make legal strike action almost impossible. The Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Liverpool Dockers, the Poplar Rate Rebels; they didn't let legislation stand in the way of them doing what they knew to be right, just and fair. It's time to break the law.”

helen llewelyn product nineteen agree that right now we need someone to stand up and say we won't be fooled, we won't be treated like idiots and we won't put up with Etonians ruling our country. No politician is going to do this for us. We have to do it. And if we haven't got the energy to, our popstars need to pick up the slack. After all it's their job to stir our bellies.

Paul Hawkins explains why he wrote his song:

“What frustrated me about the election - and inspired the song - is the general lack of choice amongst the mainstream parties and the fact all of them had more ideological similarities than differences. Maybe there's even a vicious circle where everyone appeals to the demographic that's most likely to vote..

There's a real need to get people from a wider range of backgrounds into parliament, but at the same time people are so used to a certain kind of politician I wonder if anyone who doesn't fit the mold will find it near-impossible to get elected. Hence the Perpetual Motion machine...”

We, at HLP19, felt we needed an album to bring together these modern political popstars, but it had to be an album that didn't preach, an album that entertained, but where the listener could identify with the sentiment more than they can with songs about umbrellas (ella, ella).

This is what Electio Pop does, it starts off as miserable as sin, talking about peculiarities in diplomatic stories and ignored facts. But track three shocks the listener into life and sets us up for a middle section of positivity. Tim Ten Yen quietly asks Diana to come back to save us:

“I wanted my track to be about Princess Diana as, if after a fairly fought election the country still ends up with a government it didn't vote for, then who else can I turn to. Who's neutral-ish, compassionate, and has a je ne sais quoi that would upset the new awkward balance of power and fight the workingman's corner. She was the best candidate my tiny brain could up with so I wrote her a song."

Les Carter (Abdoujaparov) takes us through all the things he's done, seen and said, and declares in a poptastic chorus “Politics is Boring”. Then we're straight down to business with Steve White's “Right to Strike” track. Kingmaker rally us to “bomb the idiots”, and The Aches imagine storming the houses of parliament - in their words 'We are on this record to represent everyone who's ever had a little moan over their chips about what they'd do if they were in charge. But mostly you just have to pour on more brown sauce and eat your chips don't you”.

We at helen llewelyn product nineteen are really pleased with the album; it does exactly what we wanted it to; it soundtracks the idiocy and asks for real change, because, as Alastair From Extradition Order says “It's all been downhill since Charles James Fox”.

By Helen Llewelyn
Boss - helen llewelyn product nineteen

Hear Electio Pop for yourself at www.myspace.com/hlp19 Or buy the album, search Electio Pop at
Rough Trade.