From the late ’80s onwards, electronic pioneers Orbital have consistently used their music to pose political questions and examine the status quo. From being outspoken about environmental issues and the man-made destruction of our planet, their impactful history has also seen brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll tackling topics like genetic engineering and, more recently, Brexit.
The visuals for last year’s single, ‘P.H.U.K.’, interspersed footage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding with images of poverty and protests, but the single itself – using a two-fold structure – was designed to mirror the split of the UK as a result of the referendum, according to the techno giants. The name of their last album, ‘Monsters Exist’, was aimed directly at the politicians at the forefront of the recent shifts in global politics.
Having recently dropped a stellar remix of Plaid‘s ‘Maru’, Orbital are set to make an appearance at a host of festivals this year. In anticipation of this, the brothers go 50:50 and name their favourite tracks from history that have been driven by some form of political agenda.
1. Sex Pistols – ‘God Save The Queen’
“I was pogo-ing all over the place when I heard this track. I was thirteen and it summed up everything I was thinking about the current state of the UK at that time. I latched onto the punk ideology and was totally blown away the following year when I joined the ‘Rock against Racism’ march to Victoria Park which culminated in a free concert with bands playing such as The Clash, Steel Pulse, XRay specs, Tom Robinson Band. Doesn’t get much better than that for 14-year-old Phil!”
2. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – ‘Two Tribes’
“Fantastic track for me, I had progressed into the world of synthesisers – the only place really at the time to hear dancefloor electronic music was in places like Heaven in London. FGTH took the disco electronic sound and pumped it full of messages and taboo subjects at that time. This is my favourite – mocking the two great superpowers – fighting in a wrestling ring. Brilliant message and equally brilliant video.”
3. Manic Street Preachers – ‘If You Tolerate This’
“My all-time favourite MSP song. I had three young children at this time, so I think this song really hit home. The song says it all.”
4. Pixies – ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’
“Song about the hole in the ozone and how we are all going to die – boom.”
5. The Specials – ‘Ghost Town’
“Brilliant track that I identified with and knew exactly what they were singing about. The desperate times – the first things to go are the clubs, then the people move on to find work and this is what we are left with, not good if you are still living there as a teenager.”
6. Crass – ‘Bata Motel’
“From the ‘Penis Envy’ album – a concept album about feminism. This song/album opened my eyes to feminism and sexism in a way I hadn’t seen or imagined growing up in the small industrial Kentish village of Dunton Green.”
7. Flux of Pink Indians – ‘Sick Butchers’
“Another favourite anarcho-punk record, this one is about the meat industry and the way we thoughtlessly consume animals. Now, I’m not saying humans shouldn’t eat flesh but we should at least have some respect for it, like having the guts to kill and prepare it for ourselves. I listened to this again last night after years of not hearing it and it still brings a tear to my eye. The last line was the real deal-breaker for me at the time when I was 15: ‘You try to stroke me in a field then go home and eat me as your meal.’ I’m still a vegetarian 35 years later…”
8. Tim Minchin – ‘Come Home (Cardinal Pell)’
“I heard this recently while I was in Australia while the Cardinal Pell business was going on, I love the way Tim intelligently confronts the church in this personal message to George Pell, to come home and face the music.”
9. Autechre – ‘Flutter’
“As far as I know, the most politically-charged protest song with absolutely no lyrics at all! This was Autechre’s response to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act [of 1994], which included the banning of repetitive beats in a public place (Google it, it’s unbelievable). No two bars are the same and it would have technically been possible to play in public despite the new law.”
10. Mark Stewart – ‘As the Veneer of Democracy Starts To Fade’
“1985: the Thatcher era is in full swing, the surveillance era is beginning, we were standing on the frontier of the digital age. This is the soundtrack to the times and a signpost to the future. A warning and a brutalist anthem to a dystopian future.”
Orbital headline the main stage at Kendal Calling on Thursday 25th July 2019. Final tickets are on sale here: https://kendalcalling.ticketline.co.uk/