Our Verdict: 5/5
Release date: Out now
Find it at: Louise Distras’ official store
Find out more at: Louise’s official website
“The living, breathing, screaming embodiment of the best that the punk spirit has to offer. Only with hard work, self-knowledge, passion and singular vision do you record an album that is as powerful, punkish and so thrillingly alive.”
In these days of economic turmoil, where the world’s most wealthy still so often treat it’s most poor and needy with contempt; where the rise in popularity of proto-fascist politicians and their fear-fed, simplified soundbites result only in further civil and social unrest, the questing, protesting spirit of punk is more vital and necessary than ever.
Stand up and be thankful, then, for UK punk siren Louise Distras; the living, breathing, screaming embodiment of the best that the punk spirit has to offer.
In the darkest of days, it’s often the case that our artists become our beacons of hope and agents of change; the brave and bold few who have the guts and the intellect to hold a mirror up to societal ills, and work hard enough and shout loud enough to get people to take note. More so than politicians, business magnates, clerics or celebrities, they become our means of holding on to the little we have left; our representation of what it means to be free. Distras is one such artist.
“The music that brings us together, is the same thing that tears us apart. Stand strong together, with unity in your heart,” she belts out with a raging fire on album opener, ‘Stand Strong Together.’ And the vocal roar that she musters over the top of her frenetic acoustic guitar work let’s you know she means every single word.
It’s little wonder that the likes of Billy Bragg are giving their patronage to Louise, but it’s another artist from across the pond that springs to mind when second song, ‘Bullets’, careers into view. In it’s tackling of the obligations of familial ties, and it’s burning, soulful, uptempo sound, there’s something of Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town about the track. Darkness’… shadowy, emotional scars are there, too: “Mother your demons made me broken and betrayed. Your bitterness feels sick in my stomach. I only love you coz you’ll never go away.” It’s a brutal but honest truth, and a far cry from our stately and sanitised Western view of what it means to be bound by blood.
Everywhere you look on this record, the downtrodden and dispossessed are raised up, championed, supported and urged to keep fighting, as with “Love Me The Way I Am”, Distras’ latest single and the story of a friend who attempted suicide before coming out. Thank goodness the friend survived to tell the tale and now, in interview after interview, Louise describes it as the most important song that she has ever penned or sung. With 82 countries in the world still known to have legislation criminalising same sex relationships, it’s little wonder that it has struck a chord. The fact that it’s a belting, melodic thrash, as well as a statement of solidarity and a call for change, simply makes it all the more powerful.
“Equal rights aren’t special rights. When you let go of who you are, you become who you will be. Open your eyes, what can you see? Closing your heart won’t set you free. Love me the way that I am.” Quite.
Wakefield residents will no doubt connect with the picture that Louise paints of her hometown in “Shades Of Hate”, with it’s references to the city’s infamous Westgate run on a Friday night, where “the girls are in their Friday best” and “the men are wearing anger.” It’s a vivid, poetic, relevant and relatable portrait of a kind not often seen in music these days; at least not in mainstream channels overrun by vacuous sex and an anodyne vocabulary. Here is the story of a thousand disenfranchised young people, laid bare in viperous and vitriolic song.
Later in the album’s running order, Springsteen’s spectre raises it’s head again with impassioned, spoken-word howl of title track, ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’: “You work you work you work, the human machine void of soul. No feeling, no thought, no reason, no rest. You dream of happiness, life without pain. They say that dreams never come true. Well I say that they do.” It’s the contemporary, prose-poem version of The Boss’ own ‘Factory.’
But let’s not get carried away with comparisons. Distras is no Springsteen copyist. She has voice, opinion, musicianship and style all of her own. ‘Love me the way that I am’? Damn right we do. You can’t be this good if you spend your life trying to be someone else. Only with hard work, self-knowledge, passion and singular vision do you record an album that is as powerful, punkish and so thrillingly alive as Dreams From The Factory Floor.
When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing left to lose. It’s something that Dreams… suggests Distras knows all too well. But maybe, just maybe, when you’ve got nothing, you might still have hope; with a little courage and a lot of strength, you might still make a difference. As the albums closing lines implore: “If you should fall from grace and have nothing left to believe, bring exploitation to it’s knees.”
Goddamn it, Louise; with your help, we will.
You can watch the official video for Louise’s latest single, “Love Me The Way I Am”, below.
Photo credits: Malck Beck and Dave Winter, drawn from Louise’s official Facebook page.