Renewing a musical tradition

Wednesday, April 24, 1991

Peter Hicks — Debut Album
Lyrics by Peter Hicks and Geoff Francis
Featuring National Labour Day Song Award winner "One More Day Than Them"
Stonewall ST066, $15
Reviewed by Bruce Marlowe

In Australia songs of solidarity and protest have found notable exponents over the years, with Jeannie Lewis and Margaret Roadknight coming immediately to mind. Now a new talent is emerging to carry onand renew the tradition.

The tradition certainly stands in need of renewal. The older protest song movement in this country was sustained by a milieu that is now vanishing from Australian society. That militant generation that worked the waterfront, the building sites, the railways and the big manufacturing centres, and which provided the protest and solidarity song with its mass audience, is vanishing.

(And the "white collar revolution" certainly hasn't produced any obvious themes. "Sixteen Tons" hasn't been followed by powerful songs called "Sixteen Megahertz"!)

Peter Hicks' debut album marks that singer's increasingly successful effort to keep the protest song from falling into a quaint exercise in nostalgia. It's not just that the themes are contemporary (the British miners' strike, the jailing of Tim Anderson, David Gundy's killing); Hicks' musical idiom is becoming more complex, more expressive than the plink-plonk singalong style that English-speaking protest degenerates into at its worst.

It points the way towards a vibrant role for the protest and solidarity song in 1990s.

The album reveals a musician with an increasing command of emotional timbre. From the powerfully declamatory "Tim Anderson's an Innocent Man" to the outraged "Blood in the Boardrooms", Hicks' album keeps hitting the spot. There's no doubting that "One More Day Than Them", with its incisive lyrics and urgent rhythm, was a worthy winner of this year's National Labour Day Song Award.

Shortcomings? For this reviewer a couple. The Bob Dylan influence is still a bit too strong and maybe Hicks needs to do more work at the quieter, more reflective end of his range.

Notwithstanding, Peter Hicks' debut album should be in every leftie's tape deck.
[Sydney launch of the album: see page 23.]

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