Faithless In Every Way.
I love the band Faithless, and my big regret is that I love them more now than I did when I saw them live. Truth be told, I listen to bootlegs of their live shows more than I have ever listened to their studio albums, and it is a source of sadness that I did not truly appreciate those gigs when I was at them. On the plus side, one of the half dozen bootlegs I have was recorded while I was in the audience. I listen to that show, and a Brussels one from the final tour, all the time.
I saw them as a band twice, and also caught the pared-down version that was Faithless Soundsystem – that night, I was close enough to the barrier, in a small enough club, that I managed to clasp Maxi Jazz’s hand while he was high-fiving and shaking hands with audience members mid-set. I remember the moment vividly, as that fifty-something black man and proponent of peace looked into the eyes of this six-foot-two white Scot, who (at the time) sported a seven-inch-tall mohawk and otherwise-shaved head. Their music and their message truly spanned cultures, and what a poet he is! It was an amazing moment, and a fantastic gig in an intimate setting.
My problem with Faithless arose with the release of their final album, which they released exclusively through the global corporations iTunes and Tesco. I cannot begin to express just how much I truly despise Tesco and all they stand for – I have been a one-man boycott of their shops for at least six years now, well aware that they have no need for my money. I’m not saying any other supermarket is particularly moral or ethical, but to my mind Tesco and the Walmart-owned ASDA are worth avoiding. I try my hardest to never shop in either, and largely succeed.
It didn’t bother me that Faithless entered into this exclusive release deal – I’m not about to brand an internationally-renowned dance band with longstanding commercial success “sell-outs” – but what irked me was the blatant and unashamedly patronising way that it was presented. “In a bold new move to reach fans old and new,” they said, “The new album will be released exclusively by [these two retailers].”
Faithless’s entire mantra throughout their career has been about promoting peace and unity, love and respect, understanding and acceptance. Tesco’s mantra? Undercut the competition, don’t pay fair prices, use unpaid jobseekers in lieu of paid staff, and through a process of exploitation and whatever other underhanded or immoral techniques, become the fourth largest corporation on the planet. This doesn’t sit right at all with me. And so, inspired and saddened, frustrated and angry, I penned my own protest in the same lyrical style that Maxi Jazz has often employed. Here it is:
“Lost My Faith In Faithless.”
Everything I said before, you should ignore,
Buy our new CD from your nearest store.
They the biggest chain in the land,
New shops planned but we make no stand –
Take you by the hand, lead you up the garden path,
Hell hath no wrath like a farmer scorned, not warned,
You all were wronged, do the math.
Three-point-four billion in profits,
But that didn’t stop us
Granting exclusive distribution rights,
We put up no fight, that huge cheque too pretty a sight.
Sold our principles, and so
To hear our new album you gotta go
Down the street to your local Tesco.
All these years I been preachin’,
You followed my teachin’,
Sending out love to each an’ every one –
Love, peace, hope and respect,
At you I direct, this message of togetherness.
Every Little Helps, to make us stronger,
Keep our brand prominent for longer.
Trample small business and smallholders –
Forgot all that we told yous
About peace and love and harmony and hope,
Don’t make a sound, we finally been doped by the pound,
Our words come around, all we stood for lies betrayed on the ground.
How can you have respect for us? Every word suspect,
Whether or not it’s correct, what can we expect –
The goals we sought, before our souls were bought,
Tarnished by the power of the supermarket’s suction –
Consumerism is a weapon of mass destruction,
Globalisation is a weapon of mass destruction,
Greed is a weapon of mass destruction,
Claim it’s a “bold move, to reach fans old and new”,
Misinformation is a weapon of mass destruction.
Inaction is a weapon of mass destruction.
I kind of wish I had changed the last few lines, which are taken directly from their lyrics, but the rest stands. I had a ticket to what was to be their final live show, but it was cancelled due to the excessive snow in December 2010. The gig was rescheduled, but I didn’t go. I do lament that sometimes, but at least I have the memories and the bootlegs from that tour to remind me of how great a spectacle they really were, what an absolute force to be reckoned with. I hope that one day they will tour again, and perhaps show the fans a little more respect when it comes to dressing up their corporate sponsorship. After all, that’s what they asked of all their fans. Mutual respect.