White Russian

Since I bought a decent turntable last year and got back into listening to vinyl, I’ve been powering through a lot of ’80s music. That’s due in part to the fact that I already owned a bunch of music from that period on vinyl, which I picked up in the good ol’ days when everyone was clearing out records for $2 a pop. And it’s due in part to the fact that ’80s music is the best music for listening to on vinyl (given that it was all mastered for the format).

What I have found, in taking this sonic journey back in time 30-35 years, is that the themes of these albums have become jarringly relevant today. British music from the period frequently dealt with the rise of fascism and neo-Naziism in the Thatcher era, whereas music from the Americas fretted more over Cold War fears and the looming specter of nuclear holocaust. Welcome to 2017, courtesy of songs recorded in 1982.

Anyway, here’s a depressing one: “White Russian” from 1987’s Clutching at Straws. Depressing because all of these things could have been written with the past year — everything from the Nazi graffiti to terror attacks in Paris. But maybe a little uplifting, too? The world got past all of this for a while, so maybe we can do it again. And maybe, just maybe, next time around it’ll take a little longer for us to relapse into wretchedness again.

Where do we go from here?

They boarded up the synagogues
Uzis on a street corner
You can’t take a photograph
Of Uzis on a street corner
The DJ resigned today
They wouldn’t let him have his say
Surface scratched where the needles play
Uzis on a street corner

Where do we go from here

Terror in Rue de St. Denis
Murder on the periphery
Someone else in someone else’s pocket
Christ knows I don’t know how to stop it
Poppies at the cenotaph
The cynics can’t afford to laugh
I heard in on the telegraph
There’s Uzis on a street corner

Where do we go from here, where do we go from here

The more I see, the more I hear, the more I find fewer answers
I close my mind, I shout it out but you know it’s getting harder
To calm down, to reason out, to come to terms with what it’s all about
I’m uptight, can’t sleep at night, I can’t pretend everything’s all right
My ideals, my sanity, they seem to be deserting me
But to stand up and fight
I know we have six million reasons

They’re burning down the synagogues
Uzis on a street corner
The heralds of the holocaust
Uzis on a street corner
The silence never louder than now
How quickly we forgot our vows
This resurrection we can’t allow
Uzis on a street corner

Where do we go from here, where do we go from here

We buy fresh bagels from the corner store
Where swastikas are spat from aerosols
I sit in the bar sipping iced white russians
Trying to score but nobody’s pushing
And everyone looks at everyone’s faces
Searching for signs and praying for traces
Of a conscience
In residence
Are we sitting on a barbed wire fence?
Racing the clouds home

We place our faith in human rights
In the paper wars that tie the red tape tight
I know that I would rather be out of this conspiracy
In the gulags and internment camps
Frozen faces in nameless ranks
I know that they would rather be
Standing here besides me
Racing the clouds home

You can shut your eyes, you can hide it away
It’s gonna come back another day
Racing the clouds home, are we racing the clouds home?
Racing the clouds home