New Middle Class,
New Middle Class
(2nd Mortgage, 1999)

This is a difficult record to classify. The songs are very much in the folk tradition; they are story songs that tell us the real-life tales of everyday people.

It opens with "I Was Born," which chronicles a new life and how it affects the world. "And things will never be the same since I was born."

The consumer society gets a careful examination in the song whose title it provides -- "Buy One, Get One Free." This song so aptly describes life in the western world. Here are the products "specially designed by creative minds for seducing me" while "shopping malls seemed to call my name and the lights invited me in." Can you say that the theme here has never affected you?

"Cradle" is haunting, but it is also a great song. It reflects on the happenings of our modern world. It is a sad commentary on how life seems to be changing for the worse.

"I watched a troubled world on black and white TV
When they shot them down in Dallas and in Memphis
Now I have grown and the world has changed
The gunmen live next door
And cameras watch convenience stores."

"Television Sky" is another satirical take on our modern world. It tells of how so many people live lives influenced by the make-believe world with reality breaking in as "they fought over the remote control as the credits rolled against the television sky." Very sad but sadly very true. Real life and genuine tragedy is recounted in the later track "Red River Flood," which helps us relive the reality of a natural disaster. Sadly again, TV makes a mark -- "when the president flies home the cameras go with him and we're still standing in the rain."

We eavesdrop once more on real life with the song "I'm Talking to You." I defy any part of a long-term couple to listen to this song and not realise that the writer has captured life in five verses. Have you ever felt "I can't stand thinking what you might be thinking, lips and hearts should go hand in hand"? Have you ever had times when, "you sit in your chair and carefully chew your vegetables"? That is a song with real observational insight.

There is what I can only describe as a short story set to music in the aptly titled track "Misery Loves Company." This tells the tale of a person who feels miserable and goes out to a bar and "I order a double at a singles bar and I watch TV while some creeps watch me." There is a beautiful but sad line that clarifies loneliness -- "It's not the alcohol that calls us all it just lubricates our emptiness."

This is a CD that will reward careful listening. Here is the story of modern urban living in all its starkness. The album is well titled as the New Middle Class.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 11 May 2002

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