Arts and Culture

Consumers of the World, Unite!

You've nothing to lose but your chainstores, says Padma

By Thom Wong 5 Aug 2010 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong writes regularly about music for The Tyee. He can also be found ruminating about the state of menswear at The Sunday Best.

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Padma's going back to the garden.

Depending on what estimates you believe, something in the area of two million gallons of oil per day gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Sit with that number for a moment. You can envision milk jugs if you want, but really there's no way to get your head around a number that big when it relates to crap we put into the ocean. How could we have done this? How can we keep doing this?

These sorts of environmental hijinks -- global, massive, irreversible -- make the sentiments of, say, "Big Yellow Taxi" seem a little quaint, and are probably the kind of thing that would drive a young man to live in a yurt in Spain, attempting a sort of Walden-esque existence. But if you're Vancouver-based, U.K.-born singer-songwriter Padma, all of that contemplation will also lead to some angry music.

Angry music occupies an odd position in the current musical landscape, a place populated by pissed-off suburbia or masked, possibly homicidal "clown rappers." Padma's anger is more focused and less completely ridiculous; it's an anger that doesn't need to be shouted, since it's not for effect. You can hear this clearly on "Don't Change the Climate, Change the System", a spoken-word song from In Defence of the Wild one could accurately describe as Radiohead-folk. Normally I find spoken word and music about as appealing as dental surgery and dancing, but "Don't Change..." is riveting -- Padma's soothing voice narrates a harrowing tale over churning guitars and spare piano lines.

The rest of the album is more traditionally folk, but no less effective. "Celebrity's Lament" is a pretty song about an existential crisis; "With My Friends" wonders what we'd do if the world worked the way the world actually works, eating food from trees and drinking water from streams. There's a subtle art to saying something so obvious that it sticks, and Padma understands this. Even "This Land is Your Land," a song every Canadian schoolchild has sung at least 100 times, manages to sound essential. The irony is these angry songs won't enrage you, but instead will leave you wistful and, hopefully, inspired.

In Defence of the Wild came out August 2 on Backstage Vancouver Records in Canada, and Trilithon Records in the U.K. It can streamed in its entirety here.  [Tyee]

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