With a name like Black Futures, you might expect their debut album – Never Not Nothing – to dive headlong into the rise of identity politics, the climate crisis, and all the current ills of our society. Well, you’d be 100% correct, but there is more going on here. While for some playing the political card is solely an opportunity to vent frustration and fury, these sonic anarchists have crafted a positive spin on nihilism; an explosive antidote to apathy. In their own words, this is ‘’Future Punk’’. An ambitious all-guns-blazing aural assault of Industrial Psych Punk Noise that makes you want to tear down walls, raise flags, and breakdance in hazard suits.
Opening track N.N.N. sets the scene perfectly by adopting familiar motifs from John Carpenter’s iconic synthesiser style to the ominous rumbling of Vangelis’ Blade Runner (1982) score. It comes as no surprise that dystopian Science Fiction is a key inspiration for the band, this opener feeling like you’ve just walked into an alluring neon-drenched cyberpunk hive of scum and villainy.
This reverie is shattered by Love: a frantic onslaught of kaleidoscopic delirium elevated by the venomous flows of Minnesota hip-hop artist P.O.S., and together anchored by pounding drums reminiscent of the grime-laden Dredd (2012) soundtrack. At the core lies a harrowing scream which repeatedly declares ‘‘we’ve got ten minutes ‘til the end of the world’’; implicitly drawing attention to how we tend to behave as if our current status quo is permanent. We can always fix the world tomorrow, we think, and it’s largely someone else’s problem anyway. But what if there were no time left. How might we act differently, and what would you regret?
We’re then encouraged to change our behaviour by ‘’turn(ing) down your Me.TV’’. The message is clear. Get out of your own bubble, stop acting selfishly, and turn up for your community. Black Futures pull no punches in their presentation either, with threatening riffs and a gritty spoken-word monologue from Primal Scream legend Bobby Gillespie.
In the band’s own words:
‘’In these times of division, inequality and turmoil, we want to encourage our fellow privileged earthlings to beat the grip of narcissism and see themselves as something vastly more complex and beautiful.’’
However, coming to terms with this can be a painful, even violent process. Introducing the fifth track and previously released single, which demonstrates how the band’s composition comfortably pushes boundaries while remaining surprisingly accessible. The song conjures the image of some extreme pinball machine building pressure, individual ball bearings ricocheting around an artificial closed system. Rebelling, threatening to burst apart, breaking the shackles of conformity and ‘’hyper-capital zombification’’; uniting Body and Soul.
For the band it represents:
‘’A sonic totem to the obsession of radicals that push the boundaries of politics, rebellion, altruism, conservation, science, design…. pioneers breaking us from stasis, plucking us from our current norm on a quest to a gentler future’’
Black Futures refer to this gentler future as ‘’Newtopia’’, and in avoiding Utopia as a label, combined with the album’s often sinister symbolism, it’s clear they have no illusions about the dark corners where revolution can lead. But this isn’t revolution for revolution’s sake, nor a destructive quick fix. Layered within an antagonistic punk discourse, they instead advocate an ongoing, uphill struggle for something different: gradually building a brighter future through small acts of kindness.
The duality of the album’s message is neatly encapsulated by the small white infinity symbol featured on the cover art. On the one hand, Black Futures acknowledge that we exist in a limitless universe that doesn’t come with a pre-packaged ‘meaning manual’ for confused carbon-based lifeforms. As a mere individual it can be tempting to slip into apathy, taking society along with it. And yet, the band also use this humble horizontal eight to illustrate how interconnected we are as human beings. Every one of our actions rippling through eternity, however small, meeting other vibrations and forming waves in a vast interconnected sea of consciousness. In other words, you are Never Not Nothing.
WORDS: Alasdair Glen