Photo: Zan Wimberley
On August 31st the ABC’s beloved Rage is holding its first ever politically themed show.
The three deputy leaders Julie Bishop, Anthony Albanese and Adam Bandt will each guest program on 31 August, proving that while music is often political, politics can also be musical (maybe).
Each has chosen a playlist of 20 songs in this strange pitch at the youth vote. And with only a week before the election, it may be their last chance to drop some inspirational policy bangers for shoegazing swing voters and get them twerking towards the polls.
Having seen the playlists at the Rage studio yesterday, I'd say it's also aunique chance for the electorate to examine the musical unconscious of these election hopefuls.
Although Freud described himself as ‘ganz unmusikalisch’, musicians from Schoenberg to Sibelius have stressed the ability of rhythm and melody to channel forth from the bowels of the soul our hidden selves and uncosted pipe-dreams.
The famous psychoanalyst Theodor Reik believed that music conveyed secret messages about conflict deep beneath the chilly reflective surface of our mind's lake. What would such an eminent mind make of Julie Bishop’s choice of Madonna's epic raunch pop smash hit “Like A Virgin”?
Or of her choice of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the turbo-camp rock opera that, if Waleed Aly (who wrote part of his International Baccalaureate on Queen) is to be believed, includes a positively communitarian 180 voices?! How might the howling, prancing echo of a thousand gay clubs that seems to also metaphorically illustrate the tortured celebrity life of its singer through the Faustian pact brokered by the song’s young murderous protagonist speak to Bishop’s experiences in the 43rd Parliament?
What are we to read into this?
Tyson Barnaby Koh, who helped produce the show, wouldn't give the game away about the rest of Bishop’s playlist, but said the Member for Curtin was ‘great talent’.
‘A lot of young people wouldn’t know that because all they see are replays of the death stare moment,’ he said.
Adam Bandt's list was more ‘diverse’ and ‘hip’ with knowing nods to ‘alternative youth.’ We're talking Talking Heads’ “Girlfriend is Better”, and Bloc Party's “Banquet”. There’s also some powerful rave music in the mix – Bandt apparently admitted in his pre-recorded interviews for the show that he enjoys bopping to French house at home.
Not making this up.
Surprisingly though, no “Rip Rip Woodchip” or “Big Yellow Taxi”.
Frankly though, when it comes to hard core music cred, Anthony Albanese has the jump on his rivals. In April last year news.com.au editor Luke McIlveen claimed to have spotted the Labor hardman attending a Pogues concert at the Hordern Pavillion (wearing a Pixies T-shirt of course). In 2011 Albo was photographed in the clutches of Dolly Parton after he personally intervened as Infrastructure Minister to allow her tour buses to pass customs, cutting through red tape to open the way for her first Australian tour in 20 years.
Albo's playlist includes The Pixies “Here Comes Your Man”. Here’s what frontman Black Francis had to say about the song:
‘It's about winos and hobos traveling on the trains, who die in the California Earthquake. Before earthquakes, everything gets very calm — animals stop talking and birds stop chirping and there's no wind. It's very ominous.’
No pre-election jitters then?
Albo also picked The Triffids wistful 1986 hit “Wide Open Road”, which critics have described as ‘a metaphor for the distance between people and for the sense of loss following a failed relationship.’
Let’s move on.
‘Albo is clearly a real music fan,’ Koh says. ‘He talked about the first gig he went to with Carmel.’
That’s Carmel Tebbutt – the former NSW deputy premier and the other half of a power couple that proves lovers who mosh together stay together.
But is it right to let three deeply muddled politicians fulfill every Australian's childhood dream to program Rage? Is Rage – a sanctuary for music lovers, loners, drunks and mull heads living in pizza box cubby houses– really the platform for one last pitch to the electorate before September 7?
Leaked photos on Facebook of Albo on the show's sacred red couch certainly stirred the pot.
He better play "I sucked a lot of cock to get where I am" by regurgitator!!!! – one commentor quipped.
Rage has always been my favorite ABC program but in the middle of an election campaign you dump this on us? Whats the idea? I've seen enough of these S.O.B's this month on TV and now I have to see them on Rage as well?– argued another.
However, Koh says the vote pleaders haven’t been brought on to talk about asylum seekers or company tax – instead Rage tries to offer an apolitical space.
Even so – the tunes these three have picked are bound to strike many listeners as sending strange, coded signals to voters across the country, even if those signals are unconscious, inscrutable and enigmatic to the politicians themselves.
I’ve seen the playlists, and can happily quote Jimi Hendrix here:
‘Music doesn’t lie.’