Let Them Eat Chaos Kate Tempest Fiction/Caroline Australia “Most people ignore most poetry / because most poetry ignores most people,” English poet Adrian Mitchell declared more than 50 years ago.
The latter charge could not possibly be levelled against the poetry of Kate Tempest, a striking new voice on the British literary and musical scene, who snagged the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry three years ago with the mesmerising Brand New Ancients, an extended poem that yielded a brilliant album.
No British performance poet has made a comparable impression in the more than 30 years since Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Cooper Clarke burst on to the scene.
Tempest’s Let Them Eat Chaos builds on that tradition, echoing the concerns she expressed in her opening address at the Sydney Writers Festival last May.
It is another extended poem, with an appropriately techno/hip-hop backdrop, delivered in 11 tracks that mostly make perfect sense as individual poems, even if the bigger picture is what really counts.
Tempest offers us keenly observed glimpses wallow in the belly of the beast.” An insistent dampened acoustic guitar riff, later reinforced by drums and a cello solo, underscores the potency and poignancy of the master songsmith’s First the Children. Another heartrending work, Once Upon a Time, refers to the refugee calamity and the “legions of lost” that “trudged on by”. Contrary to the title, When I’m Dead is in an altogether lighter vein, with the master songwriter gleefully putting down the divas Madonna, Rihanna and Beyonce: “They all sound just the same those superstars with just one name.”
Elsewhere on Voices, Bogle makes space for tracks that showcase the talents of long-time accompanist John Munro and other local songwriters, Pete Titchener and Simon Wilkins. Indeed, the album starts with Bogle singing the praises of his partner-in-rhyme ( A Fork in the Road), with Munro lending instrumental and vocal support. It ends with his Scottish sidekick taking high-register lead vocals on his selfcomposed title track. instrumentation. Strange sounds, including bassoon, screams, harps, flutes and synths, weave in and out throughout the undulating musical tapestry. Perry’s voice is a standout and sounds in equal parts like Lior, Sting and Gotye: sharing Lior’s smooth timbre, Gotye’s piercing pitch and Sting’s unwavering cries. Walrus is a punchy opener, complete with a funky guitar melody and effervescent staccato backing vocals. Satan resonates with percussive grooves, includes a pulsing spiral of guitar loops, and is adorned with sprinklings of harp. Delicate tunes, including In the Water, Alihukwe and Toxic City, demonstrate the beautiful resonance of Perry’s vocals and his talent for making the complex seem simple. King Franco Picasso ends with wonderful clarinet interplay and Cortisol is a vortex of deep throbs, warped vocals and strident drums. Oyster is a sweet yet dull end to an otherwise explosive album. Overall this is an ambitious, sprawling and psychedelic debut that satisfies the appetite yet leaves the tastebuds tingling. into seven disparate — and varyingly desperate — lives in a south London neighbourhood; the protagonists, united by the fact of being wide awake at 4.18am, are otherwise unconnected until a monstrous storm breaks and they all step out of their homes for a common drenching experience.
In the process, Tempest delivers a thoughtprovoking state-of-the-world report, perhaps most obviously on the outstanding track Europe is Lost.
Railing against wars, consumerism, capitalism and narcissism, she concludes with Tunnel Vision: “I’m out in the rain / It’s a cold night in London / And I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more …”