A tyre burns. A car smokes. Metal clanks against railings. Three men walk around a set that's meant to look like some vast sandy wasteland. There's barbed wire. A horse rears up, with a riot policeman astride. A voice says, "orders are orders are orders are orders," and then, "that's not my plan...I don't wanna be that man." He's trying to tell us something. The whole thing is trying to tell us something. I just wish it was a bit more obvious about it. What can it all mean? Policemen, barbed wire, prison cells, orders, incredibly basic vocalisations of man's innate fear of being consumed by the vast and unceasing Other, all shot in moody black and white. We're stumped. This, ladies and gentlemen, this piece of strikingly opaque, dangerously experimental art is the video for the new single by dubstep denziens Chase & Status and everyone's favourite punks in expensive jeans, Slaves. And it is called, wait for it..."Control." Nice work lads.
The problem with "Control" isn't so much that the video is sub-A Level posturing that's politics as a hashtag and a twibbon, politics that's not even Russell Brand politics, but Russell Howard politics. Nor is the issue with the song itself, even if it does sound like the kind of thing that a 32 year old Gamestation employee might listen to, with its nu-metal riffage and plasticky synthetics, coming on like the third level in a poorly recieved PS2 first person shooter. It doesn't really matter that this kind of collaboration never really lands, and the talents of whoever involved dissipate into hamfisted, tired punk-funk-and-a-rant aural strew. That's all well and bad, but ultimately ignorable, ultimately just another thing that's happened which isn't very good.
No, the problem with "Control" is that "Control" doesn't do what "Control" thinks it is doing. It thinks that it's saying something deep and meaningful and vocalizing the horrors most of us feel as we go about our day to day lives. It thinks that it's the beating heart of a reactionary rebellion against the social, economic, and political constraints that most of us are living under. It thinks that it means something. It doesn't.
What it does is stymie discourse, by reducing activism to sloganeering and big, flashy visuals. Shouting about COOOOONTROOOOOLLL does nothing of any real value. It turns opression into the whine of a teenager who can't be arsed to go downstairs to eat his tea and instead shouts about his mum being a FACIST. This, to put it bluntly, is something the world can do without.
So while, "Control" is an utterly abysmal thing, visually and sonically, it's also ironically, as nihilistically pointless as the video makes the rest of the world out to be. This is the world you created, Chase & Status, Slaves, this is the world you chose to inhabit. And here's the thing: we need music that is, broadly speaking, like this. Obviously we don't need more crossover attempts that come on like Peanut from Kaiser Chiefs being let loose with a Moog when Moodymann's nipped out to the shops for a bag of Chipsticks and his mate Pissed Dave's popped on the phone to lay down a searing critique of how the upcoming budget's seeing pub-drinkers being penalised AGAIN. Obviously we don't need that. What we do need, though, maybe, are records that take what lies at the heart of "Control", the very basic idea that "hey, maybe it would be good if the world we lived in wasn't so ruthlessly, breathtakingly unequal," and critique it, shine a light on it, make it something a bit more than the sound of a neutered punk rocker bellowing ORDERS ARE ORDERS ARE ORDERS ARE ORDERS like a particularly pissed off Argos worker.
As it stands, what we're left with is a gutless yap, the musical equivalent of putting a tricolour over your profile photo on Facebok: an empty gesture that does no one any good.