“If I wanna fucking rush you, you’ll get rushed” confesses rapper and frontman Bob Vylan on the acidic ‘England’s Ending’. To navigate life with a spotless moral record is a privilege rarely afforded to the disenfranchised and oppressed, moral scruples no currency to those surviving a world of austerity assault and community erosion. For the working class who has no stake in society and marginalised communities cast further aside by the rabid demands of white-centric capital, what reason is there to adhere to the principles dictated by your enemy?
This burning seethe boiling across both sides of the Atlantic has fueled the London duo Bob Vylan. A punk/rap/grime hydra whose politically-charged assault has seen them winning support slots in America and being included in NME’s ‘100 New Essential Artists for 2020‘, have dropped second album We Live Here entirely independently and amid a backdrop of turmoil, protest, and a world teetering on the brink. Switching targets from Dread‘s savagery of gentrification to the death throes of English exceptionalism, the roses, lions and blackletter font which adorns the cover point to an ugly nation mired with imperial hangover, diminishing status and eating itself in its nativist confusion.
We Live Here blasts through its near 18 minutes with ephemeral potency, every riff, beat, and lyric urgent and essential. The title track is an explosive punk blast of rage against the racist rot festering under the St. George’s flag. Opening with the resentful quip of a neighbour nostalgic of the time before “you lot got here”, Bobb13 Vylan’s steady drums pace along with Bobby’s savage revelations of the racial abuse experienced in childhood and dissecting prejudice masquerading as ‘patriotism’. Fever 333‘s Jason Aalon Butler lends his vocal skills to the groove metal fierce of ‘Pulled Pork’, an indignant scream against every greasy, cop intoxicated with their power and excited by their licensed violence. Slyly referencing Body Count’s Cop Killer, Vylan’s correction of Ice-T’s original lyric to “n****r killer killer” is a powerful condemnation of every minority murdered by law enforcement, be it Tottenham or Minnesota. Vylan’s love of MDC rears its head on pummeler ‘Save Yourself’, ferocious percussion and DC style hardcore defiantly imploring you to believe in yourself in a world that perhaps doesn’t believe in you.
A courageous vulnerability characterises this record on a greater level than prior records. The intro track is a naked stream-of-consciousness, an exorcism of trauma, transgressions, and demons that gnaw and haunt. It’s starkly intimate, almost voyeuristic, Vylan dropping names of those that racially abused him and friends tragically lost, you can hear pain bristling underneath his flow. If the title track is arguably the thematic centerpiece of the album, the intro is its tortured soul. ‘Northern Line’ reaches for a more universal study of anguish, the terrible introspective battle one can have with commercial parasites, tabloid hate-mongering and commuter paranoia in a despondent capital city, like ‘Going Underground’ for the Brexit generation. Perhaps the album’s most significant moment is also its simplest, a final track of pure silence which forces you to both reflect on the beating you’ve just taken but also how you may have complacently been part of the problem.
As the world grows coarser and more pitiless, the fight against the stagnant and corrupt system combats with greater resolve and determination. We Live Here articulates with furious insight the daily war against white supremacy many have no choice but to fight and dares to lift the lid on the misguided, blue-collar army who swears allegiance to a flag that has done nothing for them.