Power In The Darkness

9 Jul

TRB Power

As punk erupted onto the British music scene I latched onto the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) early on. Not only were the songs short and sharp, they also had a radical political edge which set them apart from the  pretty vacant nihilism of  The Sex Pistols and The Damned.  In time, of course, the Clash took things on further but in the seventies, TRB were one of the few bands performing songs with pro-feminist and pro-gay lyrics (‘Right On Sister’ and ‘Glad to Be Gay’) and I knew which side of the barricades I was on even though sometimes the lyrics didn’t get too far beyond slogans!

I never actually bought the original vinyl pressing of this album, issued in 1978 because I’d already got many/most of the tracks from singles – so this review is of the 19-track download.

Not every track is good (and I find the faux ‘estuary English’  accent and sentiments of ‘Martin’ a bit rich from a privately educated lad from Saffron Walden) but I can forgive Tom Robinson an awful lot because of his commitment and initiative in helping to found the Rock Against Racism campaign at a time when Bowie and Clapton were making some very stupid statements

While the anthemic ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ is perhaps the TRB’s best known track, my favourite is the opener: ‘Up Against The Wall’ with a great guitar riff and staccato drumming and the hoarse lyrics take me back  to the 1978 Carnival Against the Nazis in Victoria Park, Hackney with TRB topping the bill with The Clash and Steel Pulse…

Darkhaired dangerous schoolkids
Vicious, suspicious sixteen
Jet-black blazers at the bus stop
Sullen, unhealthy and mean
Teenage guerillas on the tarmac
Fighting in the middle of the road
Supercharged FS1Es on the asphalt
The kids are coming in from the cold

Consternation in Brixton
Rioting in Notting Hill Gate
Fascists marching on the high street
Carving up the welfare state
Operator get me the hotline
Father can you hear me at all?
Telephone kiosk out of order
Spraycan writing on the wall


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