Originally posted? January 23, 2006
It was November, in the first days after the 2004 elections when all seemed lost and revolution the only option, that I first encountered The Playwrights. Perhaps it was meant to be. The Playwrights latest ep, entitled ‘Guy Debord Is Really Dead,’ is dedicated to the founder of the late 60s political phenomenon the Situationists. The Revolution of Everyday Life, referred to in the song, is the bible of that movement. It was the right tune at the right time.
Although I heard the song as a downloaded mp3, it turns out it was released in Britain as a three song ep, backed with two other tunes — Bridge Burning Cooperative and Knock Yourself Out. And it turns out further that the single wasn’t a fluke. On the strength of this ep (and a couple CD’s worth of earlier work), I would expect The Playwrights to garner some serious critical attention in the coming year.
While they don’t sound anything like them, I feel The Playwrights have a spiritual connection to early Wire, with the ability to write political pop songs that don’t sound political. ‘Guy Debord’ could be a cryptic love song as easily as a paean to the revolution of everyday life. Other songs in their oeuvre have a similar polarity, with poetic lyrics that could be interpreted broadly or narrowly as the listener chooses.
Angular is an overused work in pop critique, but it applies here. There are unusual rhythms and unexpected jolts in The Playwrights’ music that make second and third listenings ever more rewarding. From inventive arrangements to brilliant song-writing, The Playwrights seem altogether too accomplished to be so obscure.