Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stiff Little Fingers - Silver Lining

Well it appears that the elected representatives of America WILL be able to work each other just enough to pass a mostly symbolic measure that will keep our economy being detonated like a careless appendage on the 4th of July. Throughout the debt debate, I was consistently amazed at just how far to the right political discourse has moved in recent years. I don't think that most Americans really want to punish the poor and ask nothing of the rich, but goddamn does the other side do a better job getting heard.

So where do I go at times like these? Ironically enough, to the UK of the late 1970s. The Stiff Little Fingers have often been called "the Irish version of the Clash." I, for one, consider that a compliment. SLF could rock just as hard as their British idols on any given night and they even pulled off a nifty reggae cover when needed, so the comparisons are not unfounded. Writing in 1981 the boys from Belfast penned a perfect soundtrack our status quo.

"Silver Lining" is a bouncy, horns-inflected punk classic; it mixes working class simplicity with righteous anger and a cynicism that can't quite hide the idealism underneath. This is wake up call to the poor not to be mollified into allowing injustics. Lead singer Jake Burns sarcastically spits out the opening lines "they tell you not to worry / they say their terribly sorry", before spending  the next three minutes angrily exposing the truth behind such pleasantries. He knows that when people argue that "all of us cannot come first", what is really being said to the poor is that "your reward is after you die" because their ain't no succor here on earth, kid.

But like all great punk, "Silver Lining" takes that that anger, adds flinty hope to it, turns it around and sends it back out to its audience. "Do you care that it's not fair?" Burns demands. Then he asks us to go all-in by leading the way - "I know I care / and I want an equal share / even if it means I have to give!" Even when it seems like a long time since we could find enough people to make that idea felt, there's a line at the end of the last verse . I never fail to be impressed by the hope contained in Burns' angrily naive insistence.

"The world has got money enough / for us to make it go around." Seems simple enough, right?

Silver Lining - Stiff Little Fingers
From Go For It.
They're also currently touring the US - go see some punk legends live!


  1. Great song...from a group I'd heard of but never heard. I hope they resemble what they were some 30 years on as they tour ( I can say pretty confidently that I don't).
    Although the substance of their song may nail the US status quo, their class consciousness is virtually non-existent here, don't you think?

  2. A very fair point. American's optimism makes it difficult for most people to organize for reality. Social mobility is a far cry from what it once was, yet few want to acknowledge the fact whereas in the UK class identity is as inescapable as the words coming out of your mouth.