Album Review: ‘Our Favourite Shop’ (The Style Council)

Capitalism on vinyl

Our Favourite Shop by The Style Council

The latest long player from the Style Council is of interest because of its political lyrics and poignant social comment. Themes on the album include the break-up of pit communities, the rise of new towns, the coercive force of the state, and youth training schemes. It is Paul Weller, the chief lyricist, who is responsible for placing some of the tragedies of capitalism on vinyl.

The political stance of the album is foreshadowed in the opening track Homebreakers, which describes the power of capital to break up human relationships. It tells the story of a family whose father is made redundant and whose sons are forced to move away to look for work. The next song, All Gone Away, tells of the situation in many mining communities after the strike. Businesses shut down and move out, leaving unemployment in their wake. For the owning class, however, the situation is different:

 

But somewhere the party never ends,

And greedy hands rub together again,

Shipping out the profits they’ve stolen.

 

In Come to Milton Keynes Weller attacks the idea of creating a rootless new town in the countryside and then trying to sell it to businessmen and employers. In the next track Internationalists, Weller puts down nationalism, racism, and the so called need for leaders, ending with a powerful verse:

 

If you see the mistake in having bosses at all,

You will also see how they all must fall,

For under this system there is no such thing

As democracy, our leaders would have us sing,

No time for lies now as only truth must persist,

Rise up now and declare yourself – an internationalist!

 

My personal favourite on the album is The Lodgers which is a resounding attack on the idea that the top can be reached by hard graft:

 

There’s only room for those the same,

Those who play the leeches’ game

It’s all thrown on end, the lies come free,

And you can be all that they want you to be

There’s room on top – if you dig in low,

And the idea is what they reap you sow.

 

Appropriately, Weller ends the album with a call to working class unity:

 

When are you going to get to realise,

The class war’s real and not mythologised?

 

The misguidedness of Weller’s personal political activity should not be overlooked however. Instead of working for the abolition of capitalism he in practice campaigns for the Labour Party and its programme of reforming capitalism. The Style Council have appeared at concerts with other singers, such as Billy Bragg, to raise money for reformist causes and to try to popularise the Labour Party among young people. Labour governments have always failed to solve problems such as unemployment, war, poor housing, racialism and pollution. Time after time their promises at elections have been shown to be hollow slogans to get their politicians into power. By supporting the Labour Party Weller actually damages the socialist cause. It is not the people at the top of the structure that need to be get rid of, but rather the structure itself.