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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Plunkett – “Folk Songs” (2008)
Review by Vito Volpe - poet and songwriter
versione originale in italiano

And so the ‘Plunkett’ strategy moves on...

The internal monologue that occupied ‘14 Days’ has widened out, taking on an ecumenical dimension: if before the solitary considerations of a private conversation took wing only to turn back on itself again after a short dalliance between the ‘various’ and above all ‘contingent’ sensibilities of the listeners, in ‘Folk Songs’ this has been left behind in an attempt, a desire, to open up that area of awareness so dear to the counter culture – in particular Allen Ginsberg – which might now be redefined and updated with the term ‘conscious awareness’.
If ‘14 Days’ could be described as a conversation between a ‘me’ and a ‘me’, then undoubtedly Folk Songs introduces a dialogue between a ‘me’ and a ‘you’. And this is the first, even perhaps if only apparent, consideration that we are faced with, as soon as we realise how much in this second work from Plunkett the more incisive use of the instruments - the guitars, of course, above all – enhances this sense of a widening of ‘availability’. I say “perhaps” it deals only with appearance because in the end the themes are the same as always. And the two Plunketts, while they nourish their music with that all that energy inherent in the term ‘pop’, at the same time transform themselves into the elf-like couple portrayed on the cover of the album: two ‘shadows of blue collar workers of life on the edge of nothingness’ playing their part in the game, but with their eyes turned away from us, addressing themselves to the people, but with their backs turned – as if suspecting that the ‘communication’ they are trying, perhaps longing, for, will in the end remain absolutely ‘incommunicable’.

Will it really be silence that speaks, rather than men, when their hopes seem to be lost in the reverent abandonment of that homologation imposed upon them by the same authority that controls their thoughts (Thought Police)? Who knows if and when this silence will replace the fury hidden in these songs – songs that at times sound like ballads performed in the soft light of a summer evening, but which, with careful listening, turn out to bear within them all the meditative darkness of a winter night spent drinking and discoursing in the purple flickerings of a slowly-dying fire (Intro).

In front of that fire, perhaps especially during the nights that the world beyond seems less than hospitable, Plunkett still love to recount – to the few innocent hearts remaining – the tale of their ‘ugly duckling’, or rather ‘black sheep’ complicity, (A Sheep Tale): that intermeshing alchemy between arrogant Anglo-Saxon ‘being’ and efficient Italian ‘non-being’ which forms the basis of their equilibrium: smiling rage, relaxed participation.
And this is even more true for the other motif that recurs here and there, both in this and the preceding work, as if secretly woven into the Plunkett philosophy, like a shadow that bodies forth nightmares which at the same time stands as a source of pride: the ‘21st Century’. Being witness to it can seem a double edged sword: the awareness of existing in a time where modernity is a profound stimulation is balanced by a sense of loss in the face of its primitive irrationality and the archaic mystery of its contrasts which, in the end, produce more injustice than any other time.
Yet it is precisely this time that reinvents the folk song, making it possible to narrate itself, to compare itself with the past, seeking to exorcise that ‘forgetfulness’ which perhaps, after all, deep down, it might suspect is actually deserved.

Fortunately, these songs are also the medium for the elves to speak to the sons and daughters of their tribe (Folk Songs Song), to tell of ancient injustice and modern-day struggle, of places where they have dwelt, of wine consumed in the warmth of the fire: attempting, in the end, through the same method as their fathers and their fathers’ fathers, to last in time, to leave ‘signs’, to be remembered.
And what will we, the children of that tribe, discover in those signs? Perhaps a way to overcome indifference? Or merely a way to face up to that truth which, of all truths, is the most bitter: that indifference appears to be invincible precisely because it feeds on the rampant omnipresence of stupidity? There’s nothing left to do but arm ourselves with courage and patiently explore – the result will surely be worth the effort – the poetic bastions that, in Folk Songs, Plunkett have so carefully constructed, and hope that the age of eventual ‘consequences’ which ensues will not, in the end, be too ‘dark’ for us.

Review by Vito Volpe - poet and songwriter

versione originale in italiano

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