Peter Hicks & the Born Again Pagans
CD or Cassette $20/$15
Recorded & mixed at Rising Damp Studios
Reviewed by Paul Boundy
Peter Hicks and the Born Again Pagans launched their new CD at the Sydney Cultural Dissent evening on October 17. A captivated audience packed the Sydney Resistance Centre in Abercrombie Street to see the Pagans and guest performers Judy Pinder & Co, John Dengate and Alistair Hulett play a diverse mix of originals and some traditional folk music.
A highlight of the evening was the song "Bougainville" by the Pagans and an address by Moses Havini, a representative of the Bougainville Interim Government. The song tells the story of Australian military support of the PNG "Defence" Forces which are murdering the Bougainville people in an attempt to re-open the Panguna copper mine: "Killing's only wrong it seems / When it's distant overseas, / But when it's in our own back yard, / Go in fast and go in hard."
The first track on the disk, "The Blue Shadows at Night" tells of Rodney King's bashing for the crime of "wrong-coloured skin" and the four LA police who were then acquitted by an all-white jury. We are reminded that nothing has changed in the system that breeds and justifies racism.
"Filipino Woman" is a moving song about hazardous working conditions in the Philippines and how the "US New World Order" disregards human life when starvation or prostitution are the only alternative to prison-like factories.
But the album is not depressing. The Pagans also provide antidotes, such as the Jamaican reggae beat of "Driving the Yankee from Their Door", followed by "Seems to Me There Ain't No Heaven" and the Ledbetter cover of "Bourgeois Blues".
"Yankee" is one of the most memorable songs from the CD; the chorus is compulsively sung by those who hear it. "Ain't No Heaven" is a rollicking, rock-a-billy, knee slapping, harmonica jamming crowd pleaser. People to got to their feet and danced through to the end of the evening.
Both "The Stench of the Swastika" and "He Who Pays the Piper" have an energetic, thrashy, Irish folk sound. The latter is based on a historical event during the 1930s depression in which a worker, Norman Brown, was shot and killed as thousands were protesting the sackings and cuts in wages at the Rothbury mines. "The Stench of the Swastika" warns of the re-emergence of fascism.
"Stonewall '69" describes an important turning point for the gay community, the uprising against police harassment in New York City which launched the modern homosexual liberation struggle.
The band is markedly more up tempo than Hicks' previous acoustic work. He has developed a folk-rock style and made his music accessible to a much broader audience. The topics he writes about are important current and historical events;, his music is a contribution to the creation of cultural and social change.
Fighting Back is a must for all political music lovers. It might be a good idea to buy two copies, with Chrissy just around the corner.