Sam Lewis continues his look back across the year that kept him down, betrayed him, and forced my sorry self into his life. Part One – A Glass Half Full – was published yesterday. So where the hell were you?
Of course, 2010 wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. For all the fantastic music and film that seemed to arrive all at once, it certainly had its fair share of downsides that will dominate any historical narrative to come.
For those who know me, I can’t stop banging on about Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here. It’s a deeply personal portrait of a man who was heralded as a voice of a generation, but disappeared off the musical radar for 16 years due to frequent jail sentences. Although the album clocks in at just under half an hour, it still manages to get more emotions (both positive and negative) into it than some artists do in their entire careers. The scope of feeling expressed and the atmospheres created by Richard Russell’s excellent production makes this a really satisfying listen.
If Empire State of Mind paints New York as a picture of bright lights and inspiration, New York is Killing Me sketches the city as a hole of excess and dirty living. Mr. Scott-Heron voices the experiences of an altogether different class in New York compared to Mr. Carter and Ms. Keys. Its a reality defined by the drug and crime culture of New York, something that cannot be empirically diagnosed (“Bunch of doctors come around/don’t know that New York is killing me”) yet is very real for those living it. The distorted hand claps and gospel chantings echo the archetypal sounds of the New York streets, but Russell’s production strips it down to something less positive, more run down.
The term “underdog” has never had so much meaning to me as it has in 2010. Tuition fees are increased as education continues to be considered in economic terms rather than its personal and cultural value. Haiti is left on the brink of civil war after the international media circus up and left once it had sucked the newsworthiness out of the situation. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, sparked a worldwide manhunt based on accusations of sexual assault, despite thousands of people still out there waltzing around wanted for worse crimes. It all seems so one-sided, so unjust.
I’ll be the first to admit these are starry-eyed and cliché judgements. Many of these reflections are because of the stage I’m at in life. This year the responsibility has become mine to actually make something of what I’ve got. Entering the big bad world, everything seems huge in scale. I grew up thinking that everyone older knows what’s going on, what problems there are and how to solve them. I’ve only been out of education for six months and it turns out that, somewhat obviously, no-one actually has a clue. Its a free-for-all with predecided winners and losers.
But whatever ends up happening, 2010 has been a time that will define the rest of my life. Thankfully, I’ve got a great soundtrack and collection of films to accompany it. People don’t seem to know how good they’ve got something until its gone. Well, let’s break the mould and celebrate 2010 for how good it’s been. Choose one of the great records or films that came out this year and let’s make the most of it, yeah?
About the author:
Sam Lewis is an angry, angry man who,
if the prophecies prove true, will watch the
world burn. His constant rages against the
corporate machine cannot currently be found
anywhere else online but you can see him
frolicking in the snow with his bandmates
over at the July Days website.