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THE IMPOSTERS

 

A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

The Church of Stop Shopping


Reverend Billy

and

The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir with the Not Buying It Band

 

The Shopocalypse

 


CD - Stopshopping Music 2008

Available from: www.revbilly.com

 

Why am I reviewing an album released in 2008? Because it’s a one off, with no major distributor, and a more than major message. And, in the wake of Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir’s recent UK appearances and their pointedly irreverent and brave protest against BP’s sponsorship of Tate Modern in that eponymous institution’s vast Turbine Hall on Mon. July 18th, (see Features) it seems not only timely to do so, but very fitting as well as, necessary, as any funds collected by this intelligent, witty and observant group of free thinking citizens of the world go to towards their continuing activities (since 1994 in Billy’s case) and the causes they ceaselessly fight to raise awareness of, and subsequently, encourage resistance against. Wake up and smell the over-heated compost heap! Those of you who feel proactive can buy (excuse language) a copy of the CD via Reverend Billy’s website, as listed above. Amen.

‘All right now…Amen children,’ so speaks Rev. Billy on the opening ‘Singing Welcome’ to all ‘you consuming, can’t stop shopping sinners,’ who’re going to go out there, ‘and ‘forgive yourselves’ – ‘changeallujah!’ Listen, laugh and learn. After all, the best way to remember things is to form a ridiculous picture of them in your mind – I’m happy to say that ‘I’m from the Church of Stop Shopping – Peaceallujah! ‘

‘Pushback’ is about ‘the Shopocalypse’ being here, namely the gentrification/obliteration of neighbourhoods and the homeginisation of society (this music’s crying out for Broadway production), what Billy rightly terms the ‘malling of America.’ Though that goes for the UK and London in particular too – after all, ‘this town ain’t no super mall.’ Resistance to power and money though generally seen as mad, can be soul and, in terms of neighbourhoods – character and community saving. A sultry, jazzy way to drive home a solid, long over-due point…Move over Hair – real social awareness is growing!

‘I have the right to free speech’ or do I? ‘The First Amendment’ has never been as deeply soulful as it is here, as sung in full throttle harmony, lead by a singer and a half who kicks her words into your ears with a resonance rarely known to man. As if that wasn’t more than we usually encounter in this corporate created age, the ever soulful choir, filled with the distinctive voices of several extremely talented singers offers highly textured backup that any formal church might envy. FREE PRESS – FREE PEOPLE!!! Amen 2.

‘Beatitudes of ‘Buylessness’ – ‘Blessed is the ordinary American citizen who holds onto a public patch of commons…the artist who is not corporate sponsored…blessed are you who confuse consumerism with freedom – if you’re delighted to discover the difference – blessed are you. ‘ As preach-sung by the Rev., this is powerful stuff -  protest set to music with a soaring gospel choir adding emphasis. ‘Blessed are the young women in the sweatshops…making the things to fly you, like evening gowns’…Pause…THINK.

Do you wonder about the poverty in far-away places, like Africa? ‘When our voices start to rise, do we have to advertise? And if I’m not of the upper class, can I ever save your ass?’ These are just some of the questions ‘Can I Shop Enough for Africa?’ asks. This song emphasizes the fact that these songs and some of the group’s more recent ones could and should be assembled into a consciousness raising musical which could and should travel around the world ASAP…Are you listening Billy? Our artist co-editor John who’s also a film-maker saw documentaries running as part of that Musical’s staging…

‘How Can I Raise a Child?’ asks ‘What are you buying?’ What are we buying? As in what are we buying into? Nothing I hope, as we should have wiped the slate clean yesterday. Another song with a potent, timeless message and some of the most fantastic singing you’ll ever hear, musical or no. There are some mighty powerful singers in The Stop Shopping Choir! With unhindered climate change, rampant consumerism and disregard for the disadvantaged, ‘how can you raise a child?’ What will they buy? Procrastination is not an option…’Baby what cha buyin’?’

‘Lover Logo’ features the supreme voice of I believe the same sublimely soulful singer (from Texas) who brought the house down at Conway Hall on Sun. July 17th, with the choir providing authentically thrilling backup. If you like soul, you’ll love this track. If you have a hankering for justice in your soul, you’ll like it even more. The expertly executed green-washing of Starbucks is a fitting focal point...’Yeahhh, Yeah.’
Some of Billy’s tragic-comic socially aware lyrics open ‘Sidane’ in which he describes a manager - ‘you could smell the logos on his breath.’ Amen Rev. Amen! What follows is pure unadulterated celebrity speak, ‘my new tattoo,’ etc. shot into mainstream ether by a sublime voice that’s right up there with the likes of Stevie and Chaka (Khan this is) ‘Do I have a lover? What a question, in a dump like this.’ ‘Ahhh, Ahhh’ a group of ardent males sing, providing a wall against which the diva capably navigates, warbling question after question, ‘Are you my lover? Are you my friend? I wanna know.’ So do we…

‘Shopocalypse’ opens with striding gospel piano and flattening brass, seemingly squishing the pleasing aesthetics away. The cacophony is joined by voices, a sure and soulful male singing lead on ‘Will we survive the Shopocalypse?’ with a bit of jazzy skat following. Who can be sure? Ringing church bells and mellow brass conclude the song.

In the Church of Stop Shopping says Rev. Billy, we have our practices, ‘we back away,’ from products…’Mother, father…’will you come teach me’? ‘Back way, back away, back away’…softly strummed guitar, plaintive singer, ‘will you come here, and come with me, ‘Memories of the late Minnie Ripperton abound. ‘Working people and working families, whether they’re half way around the world or they’re standing right here next to me, Wallmart says you’re losing money, well there ain’t no Wallmart in New York City…Back away from the Wallmart, back away, back away from the big bucks, back away.’

I didn’t know what to expect from this album, even this far in…Some more soul, sounding like New York, meaning it has dregs of disco, soul, funk and the flavourful melting-potted rhythms of NYC, flashing its urbanity in music from Gershwin onwards. Sweeping horns, ‘What to Say’ – harmonic male voices with a high flying female taking the lead. Now I wondered it Billy would be manning the concluding tracks…

‘justice ghost/dance mix’ ‘There’s only one authentic preacher now…the planet is pounding the pulpit…pounding our way into the Shopocalypse…Stop shopping and start loving, stop shopping and start living…Changeallujah! says Rev. Billy when he opens this superbly orchestrated, (in terms of voices and soul) track. Hollowed out, gritty grooves, as though we’re dancing our way through a NYC tunnel, dripping with male voices singing, ‘It’s not for sale – I’m telling you democracy is NOT for sale!’ Politics with an unrelentingly just beat – ‘I’m telling you my neighbourhood is not for sale! ‘ Feel it in my hands, feel it in my heart, feel it in my mind…Feel it all over me!’ This is one mighty track, one to remember for those socially aware dance nights…You do have them don’t you? If not, get on the right track honey!

Rhythmic singing on ‘back away/dance mix’ spreads the icing on the funky cake…percussive beats lend credence to this rocking rap, as do gospel inflected backup from what sounds like a trio, of great singers…As the original song stated, ‘All we’ve got to do is back away…’

There are enough issues in this collection of songs to stir the dustiest of justice seeking souls, and whip the cobwebs off their under-activated, anti-logo mojos in the process, or should I say ‘protest?

If we all get together, we can support cottage industries and keep out corporate monopolies! Start by buying Rev. Billy’s CDs below…It helps support their continual FREE activism, wherever they are! AMEN!

 

 

www.revbilly.com

Order your CDs, DVD of the acclaimed documentary about Rev. Billy’s non-consumerist anarchy – What Would Jesus Buy? and other priceless, cheap at the price, instant priority re-arrangers by Rev. Billy

http://www.revbilly.com/merch/order-page

 

MP3 version of the First CD – In the Beginning 

http://www.revbilly.com/work/music/albums/reverend-billy-and-the-church-of-stop-shopping

 

 

Editor’s Note:
If you don’t know who Reverend Billy (of NYC) is, you best educate yourself. Here’s a video of the Rev and his choir’s latest protest – against BP’s long term sponsorship of Tate Modern in the turbine hall – Mon. July 18, 2011

http://www.revbilly.com/press/2011/07/reverend-billy-dramatizes-the-tate-modern-s-oily-mess

If you’ll be going to NYC anytime soon, you can check Rev. Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir out here:

http://revbilly.com/events/earthalujah-show

and/or
Check out Rev. Billy’s weekly 2 minute podcasts here:

http://revbilly.com/podcast
 
 

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