I’m very, very proud of these records. I think they include some of the best songs we’ve ever written, and some of the best lyrics I’ve ever scrawled, so I’m going to post about them over the next wee while.
I want to start with one of the simpler songs, 72.
This is from our overtly political EP, Bring The Good Times Back. I wrote it in anger and sadness a few months after the Grenfell Tower disaster, which killed 72 people; the story that emerged is one of residents’ fears being ignored for more than a decade – in one of many lows, the council threatened one blogger with legal action for suggesting that the tower was a fire risk – and of lives sacrificed to cost-cutting and the removal of so-called “red tape”.
Grenfell was the result of multiple political decisions. Choosing flammable cladding because it was £2 cheaper per square metre. Choosing not to spend money on sprinkler systems. Choosing to cut fire stations and firefighting staff. Choosing to ignore the fact that the building did not comply with building regulations. Choosing to ignore twelve years of warnings from residents.
I wrote the song before the official inquiry began, singing that “soon you’ll conclude no-one’s to blame / no-one’s ever to blame”. I think I was too optimistic. The inquiry’s early findings have been deliberately leaked and spun to try and pin blame on the fire service, and Tory MPs have suggested that the people who died did so because they weren’t clever enough. Even at my most cynical I never expected anyone to try and blame the dead.
I write songs like this when I can’t find any other outlet for my anger and sadness about terrible tragedies. I’m under no illusions that the people I’m writing about will ever hear it, let alone be haunted by it like I think they should be. But I think that if you have a voice it’s important to speak out, no matter how small your audience may be. Grenfell wasn’t a natural disaster, a tragedy nobody could have predicted, a one-off event from which no lessons can ever be learnt.
The survivors and bereaved families of the Grenfell Tower fire have a website, Grenfell United, where you can find out more and help support their battle for justice.