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MUSIC RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE WEEK:
DECEMBER 12-18, 2010

This week’s Music of the Week choice came to my attention from a somewhat unlikely source. Let me explain.

"Full Steam" by David Gray featuring Annie Lennox

Our culture’s unsustainable addiction to growth and overconsumption is quite likely the most crucial issue of our time. I have written about it in a variety of contexts, including pointedly in a commentary called “Recognizing The Shameful Ostracism Of Ecological Economics During America's Economic Crisis”. In that piece, I explain that, far from being the unforeseeable surprises that the mainstream media often pretends them to be, many of our recent catastrophic financial events were in fact predictable and predicted. The problem is that those who predicted them, probably precisely because of their ecological orientation, are rarely, if ever, included in mainstream media discussions of economic issues.

One entity hoping to change that is GrowthBusters, a movement run by filmmaker Dave Gardner that focuses on addressing our culture’s addiction to economic and population growth and overconsumption. Currently, Dave’s main project is the creation of a film that spotlights these issues. It’s a project that I’m very excited about both because of the crucial importance of the topics and because of the nature of the person directing it. I’ve gotten to talk with Dave about it and to see some of the early promotional videos he’s made for the project (see this trailer and Dave's introduction to the film ) and both of these experiences have revealed him to be talented, clever and highly competent to take on these issues and make this much-needed film.

So for quite a while I’ve kept up to date on the progress of the project through my subscription to the GrowthBusters email list. The other day I received a new update with a lot of positive news about the fundraising for and other progress of the project. And, this time, the email led me to an extra pleasant musical bonus. Following the email over to the GrowthBusters blog, I was surprised to see that Dave had posted a piece featuring a song by one of my absolute favorite artists, David Gray, which had been introduced to him by Steve Salmony, another ecologically-minded person with whom I am acquainted.


A

I’ve been a fan of David Gray for many years, since I was given his album A Century Ends. That album, especially via songs like the title track and "Let the Truth Sting", opened me up to Gray’s incredible voice and lyrics (I’ve seen Joan Baez quoted as calling Gray “the greatest lyricist since Dylan”), his passion for social justice and his poignant articulation of the painful struggle faced by anyone attempting to maintain integrity in this age of mindless, denial-driven and dehumanizing overconsumption.

Well, the GrowthBusters blog linked me to a new example of Gray’s brilliance and passion for these timely issues. This post embeds this video of Gray’s song "Full Steam", from his album Draw the Line, which I had never heard before and which he wrote himself and sings along with Annie Lennox.



The post also features the song’s lyrics and embeds this other short video in which Lennox and Gray talk about the song and its meaning, including its intriguing manner of commenting on the dire state and prognosis of mankind.


I listened to the song and, exactly as Gray describes in the video discussing it, it has a curious effect. Both the song and video are captivating, theatrical and powerful. Upon finishing my first listen, I wasn’t sure what to make of it and simply had to listen again later. Then I had to listen yet again and found this live performance of it from Later... with Jools Holland.


I was especially struck by the chorus which states:
Now you saw it coming
And I saw it coming
We all saw it coming
But we still bought it


Full

Its message is that, if we’re honest, it is not really a surprise that industrialized man's choices have left us, as a species, headed toward a cliff. The string of massive problems our society and culture have recently faced - and are likely to continue to face - are ones that, on some level, most of us should have seen coming. We may try to claim that nobody could have foreseen them or even arrange things to attempt to allow ourselves plausible deniability, but these excuses and avoidance measures are becoming increasingly transparent and futile. This is the same message made so well in a piece called "Will The Madoff Debacle Finally End The 'Who Could Have Known?' Era?", which I referenced in “Recognizing The Shameful Ostracism Of Ecological Economics During America's Economic Crisis”.

"Full Steam" is a great song by one of my favorite artists, one who has a long history of beautiful social commentary, sung with yet another great artist, about possibly the most important issue of our time and brought to my attention through a project I heavily support that is spearheaded by a man I admire greatly for doing it and with which I hope to connect many other people. It is an intriguing song that truly makes you think and captures the frustration of being part of a system that, despite all warning signs of its foolishness, continues to chug along leaving few healthy options. Leave it to David Gray to make a song relevant to something as inherently unsexy as Ecological Economics powerful and poetic.

Such a combination of factors surely qualifies it as a worthy choice for Music of the Week.

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