The release of the People Who Run the Country’s self-titled debut, full of noisy provocative punk pop protest, is timely given the new wave of British bands who use droll spoken word as part of their act (Yard Act, Dry Cleaning, Wet Leg, et al), and its title always likely to spark interest due to our omnipresent disgraced and disgraceful Westminster celebrity politicians.
Putting words to music is a fine art, but one half of The People Who Run The Country could be said to have a head start on this; Luke Wright is an acclaimed British poet and performer whose last collection The Feel-Good Movie of the Year (2021) took readers on a tour of a bruised and battered post-Brexit Britain.
Although poetry and song lyrics do not always intersect on the great Venn diagram of life, putting poetry to music has been done before (see Jeremy Reed’s the Ginger Light, Allen Ginsberg, etc), and we submit that Wright may be well suited for a career in rock music; he has an innate restless edge, here translated into dark but catchy tracks like “Black As Alexanders” – “ranting from the hedgerows reaping through the wastelands”.
As for technique, Wright’s poems have not been directly transposed into songs – these are new or adapted lyrics. Readers of Wright’s poetry may spot some recognisable turns of phrase from his poetry. There’s some artful recycling in the red-eye flight of “Screensavers” (featuring Harry Mold) from Wright’s poem “Clouds”; the references to Julia Hartley-Brewer and Kit Harington in “Back At The End Again” immediately takes us to poem “We’re back at the End Again”, and “Leave Me” refers back to poem “Will everybody leave me? Do I want them to?”.
The hint of familiarity through the re-modelling of some of Wright’s lines should enhance the experience for those keeping track of Wright’s creative demi-monde, and there’s lots of clever tricks to appreciate. “Screensavers” closes with the request – “Hey Google, play me/The People Who Run The Country/Nice”. The first track of the album has the same name as the album and the same name as the band, and the closing track, “Back At The End Again”, finishes with a reference to the first track – “we’re the People Who Run The Country so come blame it all on us, a blend of thug and gentry, but no sir, we’re not out of touch”.
Helpfully Wright is musical, as one would hope from a poet; his sometimes half-spoken half-sung delivery is often perfectly pitched for the engaging music, mostly dirty rock and roll riffs and beats created with the other half of the band – the elusive Jim, aka “Cobbler” (also with guitars by Art Brut’s Ian Catskilkin on “Back At The End Again”) The musical and lyrical loop of “Weekend People” is well suited to evoke a tiring whirl of middle-class Aga aspiration and second home ownership –“ how exhausting it must be to have to have two of everything!”, Wright snarls in glorious contempt.
It’s easy to get swept up and away by the dizzying torrent of energy unleashed on the album through its full-on musical assault, the immediacy of the sound, and the flood of words to match the subjects – the incessant push of modern life, Celebrity Gogglebox, Bombay Badboy down my top, on “Are Murmurations Worth It?”, the hedonistic chase of “the sunset west” of “Hawaii 89”, the male aggression of conquering worlds in “Keep My Wife’s Name” (inspired by Will Smith’s Oscar “incident”). The grand storytelling is at times reminiscent of The Hold Steady – memorable characters (“Lale Hasn’t Turned Up For Work”), problems with addiction and anxiety (“Leave Me“). The address to Millennials in “Beachhead” is a modern War speech of “Insta Insights”, a powerful sermon taking on stupid skinny jeans, hufflepuff humble brags, “bitching over pronouns as the structures of the state were duct-taped, cable tied and bundled in the boot”, Generation X – “their Ottolenghi salads, their Grand Designs, and their noughties land grab of all the decent rundown seaside towns”.
The title track lays blame for the state of the world with politicians, but indirectly asks the listener to question whether it’s reasonable to blame them for absolutely everything. It’s this willingness to go beyond rabble-rousing – of which there’s much, to great effect – that makes this such an engaging album. The character in “Making Up The Numbers” concedes that he’s now “alright with bungalows and new builds/pop music and Richard Curtis/I’ve tuned out my aesthetic snob in my head I just like being moderately warm and well fed”. It’s a compelling statement, but The People Who Run The Country are undoubtedly pranksters who don’t always mean what they say; what is certain though is that this debut is a delight.
Release Date: 26 OCT 22