McCarthy’s I Am A Wallet: Marxism melodies

11th February 2016

Title: I Am A Wallet

Label: Optic Nerve

UK based, Barking in Essex to be specific, the band starting making a noise in 1985, via members Malcolm Eden (vocals, guitar and 100% Marxist – listen to his lyrics for proof), former drummer Tim Gane (guitar – who would later leave to co-found Stereolab with his girlfriend Laetita Sadler), John Williamson (bass) and Gary Baker (drums).

Favoured by legendary British DJ John Peel, this album (expanded to 30 tracks, on this edition, including three 7″ single tracks) was released in 1989 after two singles had been issued (i.e. Red Sleeping Beauty and Frans Hals: both of which appear on this CD). Offering a Byrds-like, jangly, bouncy presentation, Eden’s delivery is slightly thin sounding but quintessentially 80s British indie, in form.

Despite the rather fluffy sounding songs full of melodic hooks that seem to tell of, well, ‘nice things’, there are plenty of cutting edges hinted at earlier. For example God Made the Virus is a hit at religion, The Way of the World points at capitalism, the money grabbing nature of the greedy and the selfish and the fact that the good tend to end up holding the short straw, while Margaret Thatcher is a target for In the Dark Times (‘In barbarous times you were hung/If you stole sheep to have something to eat/And while you hung the well-to-do/Said, “A job well done”). Throughout, the band look towards the plight of the poor, those looking for something to eat and those hoping to do nothing but survive. The band’s happy-go-lucky vibes are only skin deep. Beneath is a harder hitting missive.

It’s a great way to get a message across too – when you combine it with pop-infused classic indie like this.