Ste McCabe/Stella Zine - Accessorise/Sex Workers Union - Singles - Reviews - Soundblab

Ste McCabe/Stella Zine - Accessorise/Sex Workers Union

by Rich Morris Rating:4 Release Date:2011-11-01

Queer punk Ste McCabe is back with this limited edition split download on Bubblegum Records. He's sharing space with riot grrrl lady Stella Zine, and we'll turn to her contribution in a minute. First, ' Accessorise', Ste's track. If you're familiar with McCabe's stuff than there's not going to be anything here that'll shock you. Musically, it's tres basic electro-punk, very moody and minimalist. Lyrically, it's a satirical swipe at (deep breath) consumer culture, lazy anti-immigration views, fat-phobia, hollow relationships which sustain emotional neediness, the property ladder, class snobbery, Daily Mail opinions, Steve Jobs fetishism... The list just rattles on and on.

Y'know, I've written on this site before about the lack of protest music bubbling to the surface in an era of great protest, so I should be totally on board with McCabe's slash and burn rhetoric. But I just can't get into it because, firstly, it's so musically lazy and I don't believe a viewpoint and a tune are mutually exclusive when one is writing a song. Secondly, 'Accessorise' just lacks any humanity. McCabe laying out a smorgasbord of idiot opinions in a sneery, self-satisfied way for an audience who already agree with his views doesn't challenge anything. His broad brush-stroke portrait of the people he's satirising are as reactionary and one-dimensional as any Richard Littlejohn article taking a swipe at the 'PC brigade'.

Back in the 80s, Morrissey and Billy Bragg wrote aching, lacerating protest songs which cut to the heart of any listener, casual or devoted, not just because of their biting wit or political zeal, but because, on songs like 'Jean' and 'A New England' they looked at the lives of 'ordinary' people who weren't full of feminist theory or class insurrection, whose only crime was that they weren't clued up enough to make sense of their situation. They knew they were trapped but they didn't grasp why or how to escape. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound a million miles from how I feel day-to-day. On 'Accessorise', McCabe mocks such people and, frankly, it leaves a nasty taste. In fact, he sounds like the kind of person who would use the word 'sheeple' without a trace of irony.

So, on to 'Sex Workers Union', which is - yes! - an old fashioned union protest song, just like the ones that inspired Woody Guthrie. Is it any good? Well, it completely achieves its objectives and, unlike 'Accessorise', is quite warm, fun and likeable, something which helps no end to make a persuasive argument. Will I play it often? No, I will not. That's the trouble with protest songs: very occasionally one will achieve immortality, but most of the time they're actually more forgettable than a good pop song. Still, that doesn't mean one shouldn't try, just that one should succeed.

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars
  • An interesting review, it's worth pointing out however that the Ste McCabe you've painted here is not quite the same as the real person - he certainly doesn't mean to attack people, just question their attitudes. He's not any kind of snob. In fact, he owns an iphone. Just wanted to put that out there. This song is a bit more subtle than it might seem. For one thing, it's a song about people losing their humanity and sleepwalking through life, so surely the fact that the song 'lacks humanity' just mirrors the subject matter? And his music in general isn't so much about preaching to the converted as unifying the converted and letting them know they're not alone. Sometimes, if you're feeling marginalised, that can mean the world. And I don't think at any point he is claiming to have all the answers, he's just holding a mirror up and saying, 'hey, are we OK with this'? in the same way protest singers always have. Some people are going to protest in an aching, vulnerable way, and some are going to come out fighting.

  • Hi Emma, thank you for a very thought-provoking and considered comment. I can see where you're coming from. I have to say, I've seen Ste live a couple of times and been very impressed by his passion and energy but I don't feel that really translates into interesting music on record. Also, in my experience he was very much preaching to the converted, but then what do you expect when you go out on the Leeds/Manchester queer scene?

    I guess for me the lack of humanity in the song is the issue. I understand what you're saying about the subject matter being reflected in the lyrics but I think I may just disagree with his take on this subject. Are people losing their humanity or are they being dehumanised and having their humanity taken away by a political and economic system that just wants to squeeze as much out of them as possible? To me, the lyrics and in particular the sneering vocal (which I know is very much Ste's singing style) seem to put the blame on ordinary people. Basically, I don't hear any compassion in this song and for me, especially in the current climate, that's a big turn off.

  • This is Richard who wrote the review, by the way. Just realised I'm logged in as someone else!

  • Preaching *for* the converted, not to. Strength in numbers. But yeah, I'm not saying you have to like the record, I just felt the review slipped into the personal and I wanted to redress that a bit. Plus I really can't stand Billy Bragg.

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